We’ve always prided ourselves on making our media training courses as close to the real thing as possible.
So, when Covid-19 shifted the media landscape, our training had to evolve with it and face-to-face courses moved online, just as media interviews did across the country and the rest of the world.
Some of the restrictions that changed the media landscape almost overnight have now eased, but online interviews are here to stay.
They enable news teams to get spokespeople on air quicker than ever before and at a time where they are being asked to do more with less – the BBC alone has announced plans to cut 500 roles from its news divisions – they offer a convenient and efficient way to carry out broadcast interviews.
When we speak to our clients, our role is to put together the most realistic training for their spokespeople.
Five years ago, if someone had said they wanted to media train their teams online, we would have tried to persuade them to reconsider and opt for face-to-face training. Apart from a few Skype interviews here and there, you rarely saw broadcasters use that format.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t offer online training then. It was often used for message development and leadership communication courses, as well as media training where delegates were based in different countries and time zones or when a spokesperson needed a last-minute refresher ahead of a high-profile interview.
But things have changed, the world has become more socially distant, and now we are in a position where, in the majority of cases, we will be recommending online training, because that is the format spokespeople are most likely to face.
And it is a format that presents its own challenges. You’ve still got to do your normal preparation, know your message and try to control the interview, but you’re also now in charge of the lighting and the camera and making sure the technology is working well.
What we haven’t done with our training, however, is simply shift what we provide face-to-face on to Zoom or Teams.
Instead, we’ve developed a blended approach, which can include self-guided online elements, video conferencing sessions with one of our current working journalists, telephone interviews, and face-to-face sessions in a studio.
And this can be spread over a few days or a week or more, rather than all into one session, if your delegates prefer.
So, is this the beginning of the end of face-to-face training?
No, it still has a key role to play. If you know you are going to be in interviewed in a TV or radio studio, then there is no substitute for getting some studio experience under your belt and getting a feel for that unique environment.
Similarly, if you think you – or the people you are looking to train – would be more focused and committed to the learning away from computer screens, then face-to-face training could be the better option. It all comes down to us understanding your needs, aims and challenges and putting options together that meet them.
Sometimes, particularly in the early stages of the big shift to online, we have been asked about the effectiveness of remote media training. Does it deliver the same results?
The best people to answer that question are our delegates.
We always ask those on our training a few simple questions at the end of their course: How useful was the training? Were your objectives achieved? How effective were the tutors? What was your confidence level before the training? What is your confidence level after the training?
The delegates are asked to score each question out of six.
The interesting thing we found is that whether training has been held on videoconferencing software or face-to-face, the responses are almost identical.
And in some areas, the results for remote training are more positive.
We looked at 96 responses from both our face-to-face and remote courses. Face-to-face training scored an average of 5.55 for usefulness with remote training recording an average of 5.36. For objectives being achieved, the scores were 5.54 and 5.32 respectively.
The effectiveness of tutors was marked at 5.78 for face-to-face training and 5.68 remotely. And confidence levels, which started at 2.9 on both formats were raised to 4.86 on the face-to-face courses and 5 on our remote training.
As you can see, there is little between the different ways of delivering training.
Just as before COVID-19 dramatically shifted the media landscape, the key to effective media training is to best prepare spokespeople for the interviews they will face outside the classroom.
And right now, and for the foreseeable future, that is online.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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