Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Institute for Media Relations

Recently I conducted an e-mail interview with Susie Storey, director of communications at Give Kids The World (GKTW) about IAAPA’s Institute for Media Relations, which is taught by attractions industry veteran Courtney Simmons. Susie attended last year’s program and has already signed up to attend again in 2008.

Here’s a little excerpt from our digital conversation:

Heidi: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you come to GKTW? What do you for the Village?
Susie: I am the director of communications for GKTW. I have been in this role for a little more than a year and love it. I oversee all areas of our branding and communications efforts, including the website, newsletter production, collateral production, and special events. Media relations is an important aspect of my role, as well.

I have been involved with GKTW since 1993, when I first came to the Village as a volunteer. I also worked here for two years fresh out of college, and have remained a part of the Village no matter where my career in the amusement industry took me. In my various roles, I was often my park’s contact for GKTW families with the World Passport for Kids program, providing in-kind donations for the gift-giving program and as a volunteer. My husband and I even got engaged here after a night of volunteering. Returning to GKTW in this professional capacity last year was a career dream come true.

Heidi: Did you learn anything in particular at last year’s Institute for Media Relations that changed the way you, or your colleagues, deal with the media?
Susie: I think a key lesson for me was to remember that even if the message I have to deliver is not something that I want to share, it is still OK to be “me.” That may sound simple, but it clicked. When we were doing a mock interview with Courtney for a “puff” fun story, she challenged each member of the class with our answers, asking, “Do you really talk that way?” and, “Is that what you say, or is that how you have heard your boss answer that question?”

The point was, if you are not comfortable with your delivery of simple, positive messages, your job is only harder—and your delivery of your messages much weaker—in a crisis situation. We all have talking points that we have to stick to, but if we also remain true to our personal style, then the delivery of our message will truly be genuine, honest, and transparent. We’ll feel more comfortable in the situation and come across as such to reporters, leaving us less vulnerable to the tough questions.

I have kept this in mind with various interviews I have participated in. I have a leader who is a master at media interviews, and while I strive to be as good as she is, I must also remember that I am not her, so mimicking her word choice or her style makes me sound less genuine. I can tell the GKTW story in my personal way that reflects who I am and still deliver the special message that we have—in good times and in bad.

Heidi: Who would you recommend attend the 2008 Institute?
Susie: I would recommend Courtney’s class not only to the media/public relations managers of various parks and attractions, but also senior members of leadership who may take part in an interview. I have been working in public relations/marketing for more than 10 years and know I can always benefit from media and crisis training. For leaders in any industry who may only speak to the media once or twice a year—or only in times of crisis—Courtney’s class is truly that much more important. She helps attendees think about an interview in its entirety—message delivery, context, personal style, and reputation management, as well as reminding you that you are in charge of the interview, not the reporter.

I believe sometimes senior members of management think speaking to the media is “easy” and therefore they do not need training. The reality is, it truly is a skill that must be practiced and perfected. Courtney has a teaching style that speaks to professionals who are new their roles as well as seasoned professionals who may need a “refresher.” She is the right speaker for this program during the Expo, and will have members of my team taking her program that week!

About the Institute for Media Relations: Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pro, the strategies, secrets, and techniques you’ll learn in this course will help you drive your business and safeguard your image. Twenty-year industry media veteran Courtney Simmons will outline ways to work with the press to generate positive coverage for your attraction and understand the secrets for effectively managing bad news coverage during a crisis.

P.S.—A Special Offer for
IAAPA Institutes taking place at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008. Companies paying for three registrations for any IAAPA one-day Institute will receive a fourth Institute registration for free! Choose from:

Institute for Marketing
Institute for Media Relations
· Institute for Safety
· Institute for Operations

Whether you attend all four Institutes or send a team to one, this opportunity will help attendees get the most out of the Expo education experience. For more information or to take advantage of this offer, contact

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