When I left the so-called mainstream media I did what many ex-reporters did, I became a media trainer. For my colleagues still in the business it was only half-jokingly seen as a betrayal. You’ve crossed over to the “dark side” they would say, you’re selling secrets to the enemy.
Of course after a few years of newsroom layoffs and budget cuts, I heard less criticism and more requests for information about how to go about becoming a media trainer. To many mortgage-bearing journalists, the “dark side” is looking a lot brighter these days.
But the interesting thing is that I don’t do as much media training as I used to. I do a lot more public speaking coaching and presentation training and I do something known as message training which helps clients focus in on the key attributes of their business.
When there were fewer media outlets, the media represented one of the “black arts”. People who wanted to sell a story had no idea how to approach reporters and people caught up in a crisis had no understanding of why they were being hit by a tsunami of media coverage. That’s all changed.
A substantial increase in the number of media outlets in the last 20 years has made it easier than ever to find the specific audience needed to advance your company or your cause. And the internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to reach an audience. You might get a million hits on YouTube before your local newspaper (with its couple hundred thousand readers) even knows who you are.
On the other hand, more than ever, bad news goes around the world before good news has a chance to get its shoes on. The immediacy of social media has turned a 24-hour news cycle into a 24-second news cycle. That has made it more important to have messages in place and a communication plan ready before a crisis happens.
One reason that reporters are not as scary as they used to be is that everyone is a reporter now. Video from cell phones and citizen reports from the field are common practice in the media. And, of course, anyone with an internet connection is a blogger.
That’s why I don’t bother my clients with the mechanics of modern journalism. The basics of message training go beyond whatever medium will be reporting the issue.
To survive a 24-second news cycle, you’d better be able to tell your whole story in that amount of time or less.