Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What the outside trainer can say and do that the in-house communicator can't

From a very funny client of mine: A wine called "The Consultant"
I hear it all the time when communications directors are hiring me to do media training, social media consulting or speaker training: "Besides, you can say the things I can't, and they'll listen to you." I'm sure I said the same when I was a director hiring consultants. At the same time, many of you also thinking (and some of you say it right out), "This isn't anything we couldn't do ourselves."

Is that really true? After time on both sides of the fence, here's what I think an outside communications consultant and trainer can say and do that's often tougher for you to pull off:
  • The room to observe, rather than run, the session: This might be the most valuable benefit I can give a communications director. If you can step away from the controls, you get the chance to collect data by observing--something that's hard to do when you're focusing on conducting the CEO's media training session or trying to facilitate the staff retreat. You'll always get my observations, but this way, you can add your own for a richer understanding.
  • Neutral territory that encourages frankness: I can't tell you how many communications directors have sworn to me that their expert just doesn't have time for interviews--only for me to find, on questioning in the training, that she's an introvert and has been pleading schedule conflicts to avoid interviews. Or some similar confession. My outsider status in these cases is like Switzerland, a neutral territory where my trainees can be frank. I also work hard to make sure my trainees feel comfortable enough to tell me what we both need to know. You may learn a lot that you wouldn't otherwise, because of that phenomenon.
  • The chance to look smarter: Smart communications directors often bring me in to find out how their operations compare to others. Sometimes, that takes the form of a briefing, such as the ones I include in social-media planning sessions where we review what the rest of your sector's up to, and where it's falling behind. But smart directors also ask me "How do we compare?" after I've trained a group of their scientists, or prepped the president for media interviews. And when it comes to those high-level trainees, they, too, want to know how others do it. Unless you're out working with as many operations as I am, that kind of understanding can be hard to come by. 
  • A sense of what's next: When you're in the weeds, you may not be poking your head up to look at the horizon. I can bring you data on what to look for next in social media so you don't waste time when making future plans. And in my public speaking trainings, that means the ability to share the latest trends in a world where TED-style talks are the new normal. 
  • Ammo to back up or get rid of those ideas: You may feel good about that gesture you want the CEO to use in her speech or your decision to post on Saturdays on the company Facebook page. But if you want data to underscore that decision--or talk you out of it--that's what I can bring to the party.
  • Speaking truth to power: From providing uncomfortable feedback during a speaking coaching session on everything from wardrobe to odd mannerisms, to explaining why his prized retort to reporters just won't cut it, I can provide tactful but direct feedback your leader needs to hear...from someone other than the person with whom he'll be working every day. Trust me, you want this kind of shelter. You'll get to repeat and remind later, but leaving the first salvo to me will make your life easier.
I'm a Washington, DC-based communications and social media consultant, and a trainer who specializes in public speaking and media training. If you want that outside perspective for training executives, experts or scientists, or to create a communications retreat or strategy for your team, board or volunteers, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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