Most senior executives have at least a baseline of sophistication when it comes to media relations. At the same time, every last one of us must realize that we are always in learning mode.
You would be wise to avoid the hole into which a Fortune 100 CEO stepped. His company faced a crisis in its manufacturing process, leading to a product recall. The CEO waffled about participating in a preparatory media training workshop that I was asked to lead, even though his communications team and PR agency realized he was far from a stellar communicator.
At the last moment and at the CEO’s behest, they scrubbed the workshop. Sure enough, two days later when he held his news conference, he was quoted in The Wall Street Journal slamming his own products. It was not intentional, rather, a series of off-the-cuff, ham-handed quotes.
Had he taken the time and effort and swallowed his pride, he would have stepped before the assembled reporters with a greater awareness of the tricks and traps they can set. This learning would likely have helped him acknowledge the problem and outline the proposed solutions while avoiding his harmful words.
Let’s take a look at some of the advanced techniques that savvy executives employ to steer clear of a similar situation:
- Make use of stories, survey results, case histories, analogies, and other techniques that breathe life into your message.
- Practice before every interview, insisting that your advisors lob hardball questions at you.
- Use your nonverbal tools for maximum effect.
- Build a bridge from reporters’ challenging questions to your message.
Finally, insist that your communications team organize media training workshops for you. Before joining the consultant ranks nearly 18 years ago, I often opted for consultant-led workshops for my officers, senior staff, and other key leaders who faced the press. This helped ensure they took matters seriously.