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Media Training: Change Everywhere, But the Basics Are the Same

By Glynn Young, APR, Fellow PRSA
Communications Director, PRSA St. Louis 

It’s difficult to remember a time when the news media were more “the news” themselves than today. There’s the ongoing fight between the media and the Trump Administration, the ongoing transformation and change from print to digital, and the structural upheavals in the newspaper industry across the United States – to mention only a few of the ways the media has become part of the news it reports. 

Those changes present new and ongoing challenges for public relations professionals and our clients and organizations. News media are vitally important to what we do and what we hope to accomplish. Understanding the media and being trained to deal with it are critical components of the PR profession. 

Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Doc Joe Trahan, APR, Fellow, PRSA, about an array of subjects related to the news media – what’s happening with it, the impact of social media, and related areas like risk and crisis communications. Joe is one of the country’s leading media and communications trainers, and he’ll be leading a PRSA St. Louis professional development session in August. 

Joe, how did you come to be involved in media training? 

Through the U.S. Army. They saw I could read and write, and I loved history and especially military history. So I served as an Army public affairs officers for 23 years, and that meant a lot of involvement with Army command, the community, and the news media. Over my Army career, I had to coach and train a considerable of military people for interviews with print and broadcast media. I liked training, and after I left the Army I continued it. 

From the time you first started training programs, how has media training changed? 

What’s more surprising is how much has stayed the same. Technology has changed profoundly, but the basics, the principles, are still the same. You still need to be comfortable communicating, a d communicating effectively, in any medium. What’s true for communicating with The New York Times is true for communicating on Twitter. For interviews, how you speak, how you make eye contact, and what your body language says are all still important. Recently, The Wall Street Journal talked about how companies and other organizations are increasingly looking to hire “camera ready” employees, and the only way to become camera ready is training. I’d argue that training is even more essential than it ever has been. 

Have you seen changes in the news media that companies and organizations need to be aware of and plan for? 

One thing that has clearly changed is “alternative facts” and “fake news.” I was always taught that both were what we called “lies.” The advent of alternative facts and fake news has made PR critically important. Facts can’t be taken for granted anymore; they have to be checked. A lot of reporters aren’t checking their facts and sources. We as professional communicators have to be more intelligent and informed with what we say and how we say. 

Next week: Doc Joe talks about the fundamentals of media training, how to prepare if your organization wades into social and political issues (voluntarily or involuntarily), and how he came to be involved in related areas like risk and crisis communications and information center training. 

Save the Date! 

Join us Aug. 16 at Ces & Judy’s in Frontenac for a professional development workshop on media training. Doc Joe Trahan, APR, Fellow PRSA, will lead the session. More information on the meeting can be found here

More about Doc Joe Trahan: 

Web site: http://www.doctrahanmedia.com 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/doctrahanmedia 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drjoetrahanaprfellowprsa 

Joe on the value of accreditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghg5SjlWE6s

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