Lights, camera, action…. there’s nothing like media interviews to test even the most experienced CEO. There are many who will relish the opportunity to pit their wits against journalists. Some will dread what they deem an ordeal.
Either way, CEOs ranging from the ultra-confident to the ultra-anxious will benefit from support in the shape of media training. Whether it’s to stop them from saying something that could damage them or it’s to put pre-interview minds at rest, media training will make sure they thrive.
Take control of a media interview
There is a classic example of saying something you’ll live to regret in then BP CEO Tony Hayward being vilified after saying ‘I want my life back’ in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.
CEOs are used to being in control but when it comes to being under the media spotlight, the interviewer is the one leading the conservation.
Learn to effectively communicate your key messages
On an almost daily basis, senior executives at the very top of our companies, public sector organisations and charities will often have to make the most difficult of decisions. They will have to weigh up all sorts of evidence to make the right decisions at the right time to ensure long-term prosperity. Those judgements will be guided by a series of short-term goals and long-term strategic objectives.
But the one area where many CEOs are said to become anxious is when it comes to dealing with journalists. That’s quite understandable because that’s when their ability to control will be tested to the limit and in the full glare of the public audience. And that is a serious consideration.
The face of the business
Being the external media-facing voice of a business, charity, or publicly funded organisation is a hugely significant part of the CEO role. There is much to be gained from dealing with the media and the CEO must lead by example by interacting effectively with the media.
They need to be prepared for press interviews with a variety of people ranging from broadcast interviews presenters and producers to reporters and interviewers brandishing smartphones for social media.
In relation to other areas of the job, it might not seem like a big deal but it’s worth the investment of resources because it pays to be ready for any eventuality by having the skills and strategies in place to cope with the most trying of in interview situations. A good media trainer will help senior executives make the most of any interview opportunity.
Interviews in broadcast media
Rightly or wrongly, CEOs are there to be challenged by the press. They’re expected to know everything about their particular expertise and if they don’t then they could be in trouble. And journalists across traditional print, broadcast media digital platforms are so good at disarming the most experienced of CEOs, that the execs might only realise they’ve lost control when it’s too late.
The best in the business is surely Louis Theroux, as per the way he eased Joe Exotic to open up during his famous documentary on the Tiger King. The bottom line is that no journalist worth his or her salt will dodge asking those difficult questions. If they do then the interview will have lacked substance and therefore lacked real value.
Highly-respected BBC journalist Amol Rajan found himself under fire in the Guardian over questioning failed to get behind the defences of Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s ‘nice guy’ media image. A few words out of place or a bumbling incoherent interview can have untold repercussions on personal, collective, and corporate levels.
Protect your brand’s reputation
When it goes wrong, media interaction can damage the personal credibility of the CEO, undermine morale among staff and adversely affect public – and shareholder – confidence in his or her organisation as a whole.
That is why a media training session by experienced PR professionals is vital for even the most competent, visionary CEO.
It is also vital that media training is right up to date. It must reflect every media interview opportunity that a CEO could face, right from getting those down-the-line interviews from the home or office to heading to a television or radio station studio for a face-to-face interview.
Preparation with CEO media training
With the right preparation, CEOs should be able to take every media opportunity in their stride. That is why rigorous and robust media training should be a priority. As well as taking the strain out of interviews, media training is also a good way to make sure CEOs don’t put their foot in it.
An extreme example is Tesla CEO Elon Musk who claimed a futuristic pick-up truck was “bulletproof” against a 9mm handgun before the chief designer threw a metal ball at one of its armoured windows only for the glass to smash. This is where media training for tough questions comes in handy so that you feel prepared for whatever the journalist or interviewer has to say.
It just shows that you never can be too safe but robust preparation will enable CEOs to adopt a series of simple strategies to present themselves effectively whatever the situation.
The key headlines of media training should include:
How the media work
How journalists operate
How to handle a crisis
How to overcome the most challenging situations
How to get your key messages across
Practice sessions and peer review
CEO media training should also include how to look the part when you’re being interviewed for broadcast media by a TV journalist via Zoom or Teams or what to wear and what not to if you’re invited into the TV studio. And while appearances are important, good training will help CEOs make sure they get what they want out of any given interview. Even if it’s just a case of damage limitation, media training can help you feel prepared.
Executive media training enables you to roll with the punches by making sure CEOs identify a few key messages to deliver and provide guidance on how to make sure you’re not denied the chance to share them with the public. And there’s the development of those personal anecdotes that can bring to life products, innovations or initiatives in a way that leaves a lasting impression, and a positive one as well.
That old saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is truer than ever when it comes to engaging with the media. As both the reputation of the CEO and the organisation or enterprise that leader is representing is on the line with any media activity, it is difficult to overstate the merits of sound executive media training with a professional media trainer.