Written by Naomi Woodford • Published 15th December 2015
Why is media training important for those in the charity sector ?
Large charity organisations are increasingly attracting media attention and, with a higher profile, comes increasing scrutiny – with all the accompanying risks.
Whether it’s for financial discrepancies, aggressive fundraising tactics or excessive staff salaries, we often see charities in the public eye. At the core of these concerns lies the importance of reputation and public image. Professionalism, transparency and integrity are expected of charity organisations at all times and, communication is key given the importance of public trust and awareness to raise vital funds.
The media plays a huge role in shaping our perceptions but knowing how best to speak to journalists can be more of a challenge than it may appear. Outlined below are four areas of media training which are particularly important to anyone in the charity sector.
Area one: Understanding the medium
There are important differences between the print and broadcast media:
However persuasive a spokesperson might be, when faced with the technicalities of a TV interview or a tricky presenter, their performance may be affected. To prevent this, they need to have a clear understanding of the medium they will be using. Here are two key questions to consider:
-Is the interview going to be in a studio, ‘down the line’ (when the interviewer is in a studio and you are at a different location) or on Skype?
-Will it be a live interview or pre-recorded?
It is vital that the speakers are prepared for these different types of interview, so that they don’t appear shaky or incoherent.
‘On the record’ vs ‘off the record’
Talking to a journalist off-the-record can be a useful way of communicating information that you don’t want attributed to you or your organisation. However, many people mistakenly believe when speaking ‘off the record’ that the information won’t be published at all, which is not the case.
Media training can not only help you to understand the key differences between talking “on the record” or “off the record”, it can also teach you how to build a mutually beneficial relationship with journalists and lessen the chance of your words being taken out of context or distorted.
Area two: Key Messages
The charity sector is becoming increasingly competitive and raising revenue to continue your organisation’s good work is growing more and more challenging. To succeed in this crowded market, charities need to have a high public profile that makes them stand out above competitors. Getting key messages across at relevant and opportune interview times is therefore essential; but that can be a challenge in itself. Follow these simple steps:
Area Three: Choosing your spokespeople
It is crucial that designated spokespeople are media savvy and well trained, however it is not always obvious who the best-placed spokesperson in your organisation might be. Whether it’s the CEO, Head of Communications or someone on the ‘front line’, think carefully about whom you put forward, as this individual will essentially become the face of your brand. Spokespeople need to perform well under pressure, be responsible and have a sympathetic personality.
Not only does your spokesperson need to be articulate and convincing, they need to know your charity brand inside out and make people want to listen. It may also be worth having different spokespeople for different situations – the best person to handle every day media interviews may not be the best person to speak out in a crisis.
Area Four: Crisis Management
A fundamental extension of everyday media training is knowing how to prepare for a crisis; your charity needs a well-understood plan and system in place. Media teams should be fully prepared for such an event, as planning after the crisis has hit will be too late. However safe you may think you are, recent events have shown c harities can be dragged into scandals at any time – just like any corporate entity. Without a sufficient response, stories can escalate very quickly.
Tim Jotischky, Senior Consultant and Media Trainer at The PHA Group comments: