SAE provides highly tailored training targeted at public agency executives and staff. Our two principals have decades of experience teaching how to communicate effectively, whether in a media interview, before a city council or board of supervisors, or in a community presentation. We’ve spoken to groups of half a dozen to audiences of 2,000.

Key Message Development and Delivery

This training consists of a 3.5-hour classroom-style group session with staff that focuses on overall communications principles, especially when dealing with the media; key message development and delivery; media coverage trends; public engagement trends; and media or public interview techniques. The session illustrates the need to emphasize the “big picture” in all settings to enable residents to be fully informed about major agency initiatives and issues. Each session can include as many staff members as deemed appropriate based on your needs.

Prior to the session, SAE Communications will consult with key staff to ensure we meet your specific needs and cover topics which have occurred in the recent past and are anticipated to arise in the coming months.

The training session will consist of a complete discussion about the role of the key message, how to deliver them, how to take control of an interview, rights and responsibilities during an interview, how to deliver messages in a variety of settings – including presentations at Council or Board meetings and in community gatherings, use of empathy, and other issues as requested. This training is highly interactive, and attendees will be encouraged to ask questions and relate their experiences.

Training agenda:

  • Media Trends, Coverage Issues

  • Key Message Creation and Definition
  • Role as a Spokesperson
  • Preparing for the Interview or Public Presentation
  • Interview Rights and Responsibilities
  • Knowing Your Audience
  • Message Delivery Techniques
  • Expressing Empathy
  • Role of Weeklies and Blogs
  • Role of Social Media
Two trainers conduct the group session, and the instruction is supported by presentation materials, articles, tip lists, and other information for later reference. We also use a tailored PowerPoint presentation which includes video clips illustrating how to effectively deliver messages.

Media Fracture and Media Pitching

Media pitching requires a thoughtful, disciplined process that takes a tremendous amount of focus and diligence on the part of agency leadership – along with a great deal of patience. The process starts with the agency’s goals and objectives, and telling the story of the agency’s long term efforts as well as efforts under way in the current budget year through feature stories in media outlets is one of the most effective ways to generate confidence.

SAE’s media pitch training starts with a proprietary process we have refined for use among public agencies called a “Media Fracture.” This involves a facilitated brainstorming session where a team of key staff develop a comprehensive list of possible story ideas about the agency. We then create a list of news media outlets and match up the ideas to the outlets, thus creating a Pitch Calendar. The Fracture is followed by a training session on how to prepare for and actually make the pitch to the media, highlighted by staff making simulated pitch calls.

Presentation Training: City Council, Board of Supervisors, Community

Group Training

This training consists of a three-hour classroom-style group session with agency staff that addresses numerous facets of the public presentation process, including preparation for a presentation, development of support materials such as handouts and PowerPoint decks, making the presentation itself, and Q&A management.

Prior to the session, SAE Communications consults with staff to ensure we meet specific needs and address issues of concern. This training is highly interactive, and attendees will be encouraged to ask questions and relate their experiences.

Training agenda:

  • Discussion of presentation challenges

  • Why messaging is necessary
  • Key message overview and creation
  • Where messages are delivered
  • Knowing your audience
  • Speaking/appearance/body language
  • Logistical issues
  • Addressing complicated technical issues
  • PowerPoint issues
  • Q&A management

Individualized Training

Following the group training, participants are given the assignment of developing a 3-4 slide PowerPoint presentation that encompasses the covered concepts, including message delivery, language level, clarity, and simplicity. Each participant is encouraged to select an issue that is likely to require development of a presentation in the near future; this will provide a solid foundation for the participant’s future presentation responsibilities and ensures that the assignment is relevant to each staff member. Participants will email their presentations to the SAE trainers no later than one week following the group training, and SAE will provide supportive feedback and critique within ten days after receipt. This approach allows for incorporation of the material presented in the group training, provides a hands-on follow-up exercise, and serves as a foundation for future training that may include full simulated presentations that are recorded and reviewed.

PIO in the EOC: Exercises and Drills

SAE’s services include the conducting of a mock “incident” which will test the emergency public information team’s capability to respond to an actual emergency. The goal of the exercise is to ensure the readiness of staff to communicate with targeted audiences using a variety of vehicles, including residents, businesses, visitors, employees, local/regional/state/federal officials, etc.

Training objectives:

  • Test and refine position check lists

  • Identify gaps and overlaps in roles
  • Test equipment and supplies
  • Practice emergency communication tasks
  • Test emergency PIO team call back function
  • Identify possible role for CERT team members in the PIO team structure


SAE will discuss the goals and implementation needs of the exercise with key staff from the Communications Office and Emergency Service Office to ensure as realistic an exercise as possible. In addition, we develop all materials needed to conduct the exercise, including scenario, media questions, roles and responsibility for non-communications staff who will participate, briefing materials, needed supplies, all logistics, etc.


SAE will conduct a half-day exercise with debrief; the exercise begins with a media call to the Communications Office and continues as we inject various mock media, public, official calls/incident details to test and stress the emergency public information team.


We then will lead a formal debrief of the team immediately following the exercise to ascertain strengths and weaknesses of the emergency public information team and plan. In addition, SAE will conduct a conference call with the communications manager following the exercise to finalize the recommendations, review performances of staff, and define next steps.

See a few case studies here.

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