Between social media posts, 24-hour cable news, and mobile phones equipped with cameras, executives will find themselves or their company in the media spotlight at some point.
If you're an executive it may feel like your every move is being monitored by the public. It could be a customer who has videotaped an unpleasant interaction with one of your employees. The next thing you know the videotape is blowing up on social media. You need to respond but what's the best way? If you've been media trained and are media savvy, you have more choices. For example:
- Shoot an in-house video statement and release it on social media.
- Choose a friendly journalist and do a one-on-one interview.
- Release a written statement to traditional media and post a version on your social media platforms. Measure the response and if the story just isn't going away, hold a news conference. You need to be able to stand your ground before a group of aggressive reporters.
Some executives are reluctant to spend their time or their company's money on professional media training. I would argue that media skills are as important as business acumen. In fact, possessing these skills makes you a more valuable executive.
So, what can you learn in a media training session?
- Learn about camera presence before you agree to a TV interview. For example, if the format is a “side-by-side” interview, look at your interviewer and not into the camera. Take note of how wide the camera shot is, so you can size out your gesturing. Avoid wearing clothing with very fine lines that may appear wavy on camera.
- Learn to speak in “sound bites” if you plan to do broadcast interviews. Anyone can answer questions if there is an inordinate amount of time for responses. When you are limited to a three minute live interview, it is obvious you need to respond concisely.You do not want to get cut off in mid-sentence because your response is too long for the medium.
- Learn how to work your voice. If you speak too rapidly, some of your messaging will be lost. Audiences are multi-tasking and if they have to struggle to catch what you are trying to say, they may not bother. You want to be enthusiastic about the topic but that doesn't mean you have to speak overly loud to get your point across. There are interview shows where guests are shouting and talking over one another. Do you really want to be a part of this type of program?
- Learn effective stalling techniques so you do not end up saying, “um” throughout the interview. If you need a couple seconds to come up with a cogent response you could begin by saying, “I’m glad you asked that question.”
- Learn social media best practices so you don't inadvertently embarrass your company. Some employees don't even know what their company's policy is regarding social media.
- Learn your media rights so you know how to respond if the media disparages you in its reporting.
- Learn to be a good story-teller. Readers, listeners and viewers respond to stories they can relate to, and often tune out if you include too many stats.