We have all heard the story before – an expert providing commentary to media that is taken out of context, used as click bait, chopped and changed, only to be morphed into something entirely different. What was meant to be a productive media opportunity can become a PR disaster in next to no time.
At P4 Group, we believe media training should be a prerequisite when inducting C-Suite Executive into a company or organisation. Frequent updates should also always be conducted with staff and internal teams to prepare them for future media interviews, whether they be proactive or reactive.
While media training is incredibly important for any crisis, it also offers a unique opportunity for the company’s leader to showcase themselves as an expert in their field.
In Brisbane alone, more than 400,000 people watch the commercial news every night. There is no denying online media consumption is continuing to increase, however this figure demonstrates just how important broadcast media and evening news are as a source of truth for many audiences.
Here we offer our insights on why media training should be mandatory for every organisation.
Establishing themes for your key messages are crucial. Journalists are not there for a chat and neither are you… you are there to deliver your key messages, whether they are around safety, care or anything in between.
Thanks to the speed of 24/7 social and online media news cycle, executing key messages successfully can be what makes or breaks a company’s reputation. These messages need to be clear and concise and all employees of your organisation – not just the C-Suite – need to be aware and knowledgeable of these.
Ever wonder why you always see the same faces providing commentary on the same topics? This trusted relationship with the media and their audiences doesn’t happen by attending interviews under prepared, they are well-respected spokespeople who have built an important, reliable rapport over time.
By creating a reputation for yourself as a reliable media spokesperson, you will build momentum as the go-to media representative for the relevant area of expertise. Becoming that preferred spokesperson means you must balance authenticity with control. Those who are too rehearsed end up coming across too slick and inauthentic… much like a politician.
Even though you will be asked questions by the journalist, media training allows you to be in control of the interview. Media training can show you how to maintain your composure throughout an interview and create the outcome you set out to achieve. After all, proactive or reactive media coverage should always be an opportunity for Executives to put the company’s best foot forward. This is an opportunity for your story and messaging to be heard.
By participating in interviews without having clarity around your key messages or feeling under-prepared for difficult questions, there is a much higher likelihood of being misquoted or saying the wrong thing. Clear and concise messaging cannot be undervalued.
It’s the old saying that once a crisis hits, it’s too late. Once your organisation is knee deep in a risk or crisis situation, there is no time to effectively start media training from scratch, this is when your media training should be focused on refining and finessing your skills.
C-Suite Executives need to be prepared to talk with media at any given moment, especially if journalists come knocking on their door or stop them outside the office. By already having the basics from media training in place – everything from structuring your sentences so they don’t get taken out of context to using the correct body language – it’s going to be a lot easier to adapt those skills during a crisis and focus on upskilling other members of the organisation on how best to react.
We’ve all seen the situation where a company has sent out a PR representative in the middle of a crisis and unfortunately, that is when the organisation starts to lose the trust of the public. While PR representatives understand what to say to media, increasingly savvy audiences can see right through it. Leaders should be the ones demonstrating their skills and to navigating their community out of a crisis, which in turn builds trust with internal and external audiences.
There’s a famous quote by Dr Henry Kissinger, who was then former Secretary of State in the United States of America:
“Do any of you ladies and gentlemen of the media have any questions for the answers I have prepared?”
You can never be too prepared and while your key messaging is important, you must be considered in your approach. Think about limiting the level of ‘fluff’ in your response to mitigate the risk of your response being misconstrued.
When approaching the media, you always need to play the Devil’s Advocate. Think about the absolute worst question that you can be asked and then develop an appropriate response accordingly. Expect the unexpected and if that question is never asked – well, that’s just a bonus!