Media training – whether conducted by an internal communications team or an external PR agency like Teak – can have a quick return on investment for your company. A positive, error free story can lead to new clients, investors and donors. A negative story or one filled with misinformation can have a dramatic, negative impact on your organization’s bottom line.

Determining how and when your employees talk about your organization can create a more unified message and better prepare everyone for success.

Here are three effective media training exercises that can help prepare your organization for whatever media minefields lay ahead.

POLISH YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH

If someone asked the members of your staff what your organization does, would they all give the same answer? Chances are your team consists of veteran employees and junior-level staff members who may talk about the company in different ways. This could be due to age, prior experience, or job role.

While different viewpoints can lead to more fruitful brainstorming sessions and a healthier office dynamic, it can create confusion about how your organization is portrayed in the media.

For this exercise, have each team member write down their “elevator pitch”: a one-sentence spiel on what your company does and – this part is essential – why it matters. Then, have everyone read his or her pitch aloud. Acknowledge the differences and work together to create one pitch everyone agrees on and uses during interviews.

PLAN FOR THE WORST

Your HR department has evacuation routes in case of a fire – why shouldn’t you have the same level of planning for crisis communications?

Determine what situations constitute a PR crisis for your organization, and then create a standard operating procedure for how to handle each situation. Essentially, make a game plan: who does what, and when during a PR crisis. Creating a detailed plan can help keep your crisis contained.

Questions to include: Who speaks to the media? How soon after the incident? What is the designated spokesperson allowed to say / how much information are they allowed to share? What is protocol for employees who are not designated spokespeople? Make sure to include social media in this conversation.

Writing this down gives everyone a clear direction and a cool head during an understandably stressful situation. It protects you, so no one panics and makes a rash decision that could have long term consequences for your organization. A standard operating procedure for crisis communications helps ensure the right people say the right thing at the right time.

TOUGHEN UP – ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS

Another situation no one likes to face is an unexpected, difficult question from a reporter. Make a list of tough questions reporters could ask and formulate effective answers to them that properly reflect your core messaging.

This is the exercise that capitalizes on the progress you’ve already made. If done correctly, it can be the most impactful portion of your media training workshop.

After your workshop, document everything and put the information in a place that is easy to find. Continue the conversation through follow-up meetings, webinars, or discussion boards.

Interviews are nerve-wracking. Media training will better equip your employees to publicly speak about the good work they do, anticipate tough questions from reporters, and create worthwhile answers that hit at the heart of your organization’s mission.