Although most institutions have very capable communications teams who can handle the day-in, day-out media requests—both traditional and social—there will be occasions when it is critical to have individual members of your leadership team step up to represent the organization directly. It is these infrequent but high-stakes encounters—when a new strategic initiative is being launched or the institution is facing a significant issue or crisis—that can present the greatest risk. They are also the situations in which the reputation of the institution and its relationship with its critical stakeholders can either be strengthened or severely damaged.

While it is possible they may take the form of a media interview or press conference, it is far more likely that these encounters will take the form of a challenging, unpredictable, and contentious meeting with key stakeholders—the students, faculty, staff, parents, donors, legislators, and neighbors that are most directly impacted by the school’s actions and decisions. Failing to listen to, connect with and effectively communicate to these key groups may actually create the kind of news and social media attention you were hoping to avoid.

More Than Just Media Training

Traditional media training builds confidence through public speaking skills, body language, appearance, and consistent messaging—all tools that can be useful in contentious meetings. But at BMCG, we go beyond media training, teaching leaders to connect with myriad stakeholders in meaningful ways under the most difficult of circumstances. Our approach is built upon vital psychological principles (e.g., understanding the role and impact of stress in a difficult situation) and interpersonal relationship skills essential to authentic leadership and effectively connecting with your campus community.

In developing our tailored, contentious meeting and media training sessions, we leverage the real-world expertise of the BMCG team which includes:

  • a psychiatrist specializing in crisis response and intervention, violence prevention and recovery, and humanitarian assistance on behalf of schools, veterans, law enforcement, prisons, health care, and some of the country’s largest corporations
  • a global communications strategist who served in the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Information Service, and as a CNN correspondent
  • the spokesperson for FDNY during the 9/11 attack, and former head of communications for the FAA and the country’s most prestigious public university system
  • an Emmy award-winning journalist with extensive experience in television news, including at CNN and Headline News

We will help prepare your leadership team to confidently manage the media and contentious meetings not only through highly effective communication tools but with the essential interpersonal skills that enable your team to reach stakeholders with credibility and compassion on even the most difficult subjects.

Course Description:

Our Contentious Meeting and Media Training is made up of two components—a Team Session and 1:1 Tailored Sessions designed to:

  1. Increase senior leaders’ awareness and understanding of:
    • how the media works, how to handle tough questions, and the art of media relations;
    • the expectations and information needs of the range of stakeholders who are critical to the institution’s long-term success.
    • approaches and tools that build connections and de-escalate heated situations.
  2. “Stress-test” leaders’ ability in one-on-one simulated interviews.
  3. Identify opportunities for improvement both regarding senior leader’s performance as well as clarity and effectiveness of key messaging.

Team Session Format:

  • 2-hour onsite group training session for up to 15 participants
  • Learn key interview/meeting skills including:
    • Adhering to core messaging
    • Using bridging techniques
    • Controlling voice and body language
    • Avoiding risks and pitfalls
  • Learn psychological/interpersonal skills including:
    • The importance of and approaches to demonstrate active listening
    • Understanding deeper and, perhaps, unstated stakeholder needs and perspectives
    • Reflecting compassion and empathy in your speech and demeanor
    • Reading the room and adapting your approach in the moment
    • Identifying appropriate “venting” versus indicators of possible violence

1:1 Session Format (Five Total):

  • 1-hour, 1:1 sessions with select leaders and BMCG team simulating meetings, interviews, and/or town hall-style questioning,
    • Personalized for each participant by job function and prospective audience
    • Providing real-time feedback, recommended modifications, and practice of new approaches
    • Session recording provided to each participant
  • Tailored to focus on preparing for a single, contentious topic or issue facing the institution such as:
    • Campus Protests/Activism
    • Financial distress, including RIFs, furloughs, program/college elimination, etc.
    • Freedom of Speech/Expression, Academic Freedom
    • Cultural issues– Racism, Sexual Assault, Title IX, Safety & Security
  • Using communications materials developed in advance by BMCG team in partnership with institution including:
    • Key talking points
    • Hard Q&A reference guide

Target Audience Team Session:

  • Cross-functional leadership team
  • Student, donors, parents or employee-facing leaders

Target Audience 1:1 Sessions:

  • Subsection of above team
  • Those representing the institution in a media interview or during a public meeting, town hall, etc.
  • Leaders under scrutiny


  • Full-day, onsite session including:
    • Team session for up to 15 participants
    • 5 one-hour 1:1 sessions with select leaders
  • In-person facilitation of session by two senior members of the BMCG team
  • Tailored talking points and hard Q&A document on specific issue selected by institution
  • Debrief memo with recommendations to organizer
  • Video files for 1:1 session participants

Our approach is built upon vital psychological principles and interpersonal relationship skills essential to authentic leadership and effectively connecting with your campus community.