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Media Relations Training: Think Of It As Another Form of Business Communication

In the business communication training I’ve conducted over the years, I’ve found that communication skills don’t have to be limited to the obvious focus on writing training and presentation skills (public speaking) training. There’s more to getting your message out there, and it involves reporters, editors and producers and their never-ending quest for “the story.”

When I run media relations training seminars, whether for groups -- like senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials (Department of Homeland Security) or a Maine boatbuilders alliance – or one-on-one with nonprofit and private-sector executives, we talk a lot about AIM, which stands for audience, intent and message. For the Homeland Security types, that means role-playing in situations that evolve from a press release about a new initiative to a “crisis” over, say, a riot in an immigration holding facility.

That’s the way many of us think about the news media – a bunch of reporters asking questions about a potentially explosive situation. But there’s more, as I saw with the boatbuilders. Preparing for a big show in New York, they wanted to know what questions they might encounter from the press. I put them through a series of one-on-one interviews and press conferences. Out of that exercise they shaped some new marketing messages, points that I told them would appeal to a journalist looking for a “news hook” or fresh ideas that would make a story or broadcast something more than routine coverage of a boat show.

The same goes for a media relations training session with a nurse who had come up with a combination of aromatic oils that eased the nausea of chemotherapy and pregnancy. Her marketing pitch was straightforward – or so she thought until I started asking questions that any reporter, whose professional toolkit always includes skepticism, would ask. The result: She walked away from the media relations training with a more focused picture of sales-oriented business communication.

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