Communications Training: Better than a Gym Membership

Around New Year’s Day, many of us made resolutions to eat right and exercise more often. (Too much champagne and cake can do that to you.) But experts say 20 percent of most resolutions are broken in by the second week of February, which means the odds are good you’ve already stopped heading to the gym.

I propose a two-part solution that’s bound to provide a greater return. First, to take a cue from journalist Craig Melvin, give yourself a reset and set a new resolution now, in February. Second, as communications practitioners, let’s take our focus on getting more energetic and physically fit and transfer it to the stories we tell. How? Through maintaining a discipline of communications training. Trust me, it’s a resolution that is easy to keep and could deliver better benefits than yet another gym membership.

Excuses, Excuses
There are lots of familiar excuses for avoiding exercise: I’m too tired. I don’t have time. Exercise is boring.

Excuses designed to avoid a communications training workshop are also painfully familiar. I know how to speak in public. I don’t have time. I’ve been trained before. These all conveniently ignore the reality that communications training is not a one-time event but a discipline—dare I say, an exercise regime—that keeps storytelling in top form. It’s wellness for your media campaign. Executives and spokespeople who constantly rehearse and refresh their communications skills build strength, endurance, motivation and confidence. A powerful delivery beats a flabby story every time.

Work Out Tip: When an executive or spokesperson claims they don’t have the time, ask them to take just one minute to express their ideal headline. That question can open the door to explore additional aspects of the planned story.

A Small Investment of Time with Big Payoff
Health experts say it doesn’t take much to see the benefits of exercise. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical daily exercise will make you healthier. In the same way, just a small investment in communications training will fuel your spokesperson and story for optimal achievement and high performance. You can choose an immersive half-day workout in a media studio or a quick “aerobic” session by phone or webcam just before an interview. No matter the regimen, experience shows that spokespeople who practice in advance think quicker in an interview, are nimbler in dealing with tough questions, and are better prepared to flex their most powerful verbiage.

Work Out Tip: If time is an issue, focus on helping the spokesperson to briefly articulate the story out loud. The very act of speaking the story engages the speaker in further refining the words and phrases.

Personal Trainers and High-Performance Storytelling
Personal trainers aren’t confined to the top gym franchises: Communications training is also best customized for different styles, preferences and goals. Perhaps you’re launching a snack or beverage, or you’re introducing a new financial product. Maybe you’ve got a team of executives who need to better articulate a company vision to employees, or a new CEO who’s looking to meet the media for the first time. Each option requires a different approach, so don’t forget to allocate some “sweat time” in advance of your campaign. Designate funding for communications training in your annual plan, or ask for incremental budget whenever a client or spokesperson speaks to the public.

Work Out Tip: The best exercise programs are never off the shelf but are personalized to the health goals of individuals. Give your spokesperson a health assessment and consider the specific “muscles” your executive needs to flex to tell a truly dynamic and ownable story.

February is the perfect time for a new resolution. Consider resolving to leverage communications training to help deliver powerful, energetic stories that compete and win.

 

Tom Barritt is Partner and Managing Director of Ketchum’s Communications Training Network, a team of executive media coaches. He has helped executives shape stories that get noticed for nearly three decades.