Big media interview coming up? Maybe a critical keynote address at an industry event? How do you know when your CEO or other spokesperson needs media or presentation training?
As a veteran media trainer, here are a few questions I would ask:
- Has your executive been media trained before?
- Based on their recent media interviews, did key messages make it into stories that were published or broadcast?
- If you asked attendees who heard your CEO’s latest keynote address to name the main points, could they do it?
- Would you trust your spokesperson to handle tough questions from a reporter or analyst?
- What are the consequences of a poor interview or presentation?
- If your CEO nailed the interview or keynote address, how would that affect product launches, brand reputation and/or employee morale?
To address the issue raised in question No. 1, media interviews are not normal conversations, and the way an interviewee gets his or her point across isn’t intuitive. Nobody does it naturally; everyone needs training.
For question No. 2, check your spokesperson’s past media clips. Run them by a trusted friend without offering the context and ask what they take way from the story. If their summary doesn’t include your key messages, then your spokesperson is falling short.
Question No. 3 references a keynote at a recent conference, but the same principle applies to a recent townhall, employee meeting, board presentation, etc. Check with trusted sources who heard the presentation and get their feedback.
If your spokesperson received some ugly and unanticipated questions like those referenced in question No. 4, how would it go? If you hesitate answering this question, then your spokesperson and your brand could be in trouble.
Question No. 5 is about trust. A poor interview or presentation could lead your audience to doubt the brand promise you convey in your company’s marketing campaigns. It could also lead the media and your audience to look elsewhere for credibility.
As you consider question No. 6, think about dynamic communicators like Elon Musk of Tesla, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, or the late Steve Jobs of Apple. How has the organizational reputation of each company benefitted from the media interviews and/or presentations of these leaders?
In summary, if you have an executive who hasn’t been media trained, doesn’t consistently deliver key message in news stories or presentations and can’t be trusted to handle tough questions, then you need to make changes. They aren’t going to improve on their own, so instead of enduring their struggles, and then lying to them when they ask how it went, get them the help they need. The following scenarios are all great triggers to schedule a media training:
- Important media interview
- Media tours (multiple interviews)
- Keynote addresses
- Panel discussions
- Town hall events
- Live Q&A situations at trade conferences or with employees
As you think about what kind of training to organize, please review a previous post of mine, “What Makes a Good Media Training,” where I describe what it should include.
To build on that post, I would add a highly effective media trainer as another key element of a good media training. Many will tell you a media trainer needs to be a former TV news reporter. Others will say hire a salty old PR pro who has worked on lots of crises and political campaigns. Both backgrounds can be helpful, but neither will guarantee that a trainer has the most important skill: the ability to teach others.
Before hiring a trainer, ask to speak with past clients. Did the trainer help their spokesperson to improve? Was the trainer able to model good interview techniques? Did the trainer have the gravitas to convince senior executives to accept his or her coaching? Be sure to get satisfying answers before moving forward.
When a good trainer and the essential training elements combine, you can expect your spokesperson’s ability to deliver brand messages to improve. This, in turn, will increase their skill at influencing the intended audience. However, one of the best results, and often the least expected, is the spokesperson and supporting communications leaders will learn to trust each other and work as a team. So, quit putting it off. A better performance and partnership await for those willing to make the time for media training!
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