Obviously, I’m positive to media training.
But as the Finnish finance minister’s resignation shows, getting media training as a public official isn’t without its concerns. Katri Kulmini stepped down after having received media training at 1,500 EUR an hour for a total of 50,000 EUR (57,000 USD).
I understand the taxpayer outrage; 1,500 EUR an hour is 10x my typical hourly fee — and I’m no spring chicken in the PR industry. And still, even at 1,500 EUR per hour, 50,000 EUR amounts to almost a full week of media training. For a busy public official, this can’t be something that just flickers by in the calendar along with everything else.
From a personal perspective, I think it’s sad that a talented politician should have to step away from her appointed role over this type of mistake. As long as the money’s paid back in full with a sincere public apology, I personally think that that should be enough. But with respect to the Finnish democracy, that’s not for me to judge.
Still, the main problem here’s the use of taxpayer money to further an individual’s political career and to give her an edge over other elected politicians. The party should have paid for her training, not the taxpayers, plain and simple.
For us working in the communications industry, the resignation from the Finnish minister highlights an important topic for further discussion:
When training public officials in the Nordics, how far does our responsibility as media trainers stretch when it comes to clarifying exactly what specific budget our payments comes from?
Even though we’re under no legal obligation to say no to tax-funded media trainings, maybe we must take it upon ourselves to inform the client about the possible ramifications? After all, we’re the experts on public perception.
A fee of 50,000 EUR to media train a single individual is notable, but for a minister with a long career ahead, the value could easily be 10x that. However, the media training just isn’t worth much at all if the client must resign.