I took an interesting meeting with a CEO recently. Within five minutes, it became clear to me that I walked in with the wrong assumption i.e. that he understood the value of executive media training. He didn’t.
In fairness to me, media training is such a given in most company’s executive development programs that it didn’t occur to me that this CEO wouldn’t appreciate its worth.
ROI of Executive Media Training
The CEO wanted to be able to measure his return on investment. I explained that executive media training is not like SEO— an easily measured metric. I can’t promise you that it will deliver you x number of customers or this many impressions.
What I can tell you is that the ability to communicate your message in the media—across all platforms—is invaluable. And the inability to do so is at worst—catastrophic– and at best– a missed opportunity.
For example, if you’ve gone through an executive media training program– and you do well during a three minute interview on a top morning network news program— you can communicate your message to five million viewers for free. If you wanted to buy three minutes of advertising during that show—it would cost you at least $300,000.00
If you have NOT been media trained–and you don’t do well during that interview—you’ve not only missed an opportunity to connect with millions of people in one fell swoop, but your performance might cause some people to think negatively about you, your company and/ or your brand. (Example: BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, “I want my life back.”)
How do you measure confidence? You can’t. But you know it when you see it. And you know when you feel it. Nothing will build your self-esteem more regarding interviews than being media trained. There’s something powerful in knowing that you can handle anything that comes your way. The best executive media trainers make sure that you are prepared for every scenario.
Lastly, the CEO asked why he should work with me. I shared my favorite compliment from a client.
“While other media trainers I’ve worked with have left their students with a list of “do’s and don’ts” to worry about, Noeleen left them with the two things they really need: new skills and the confidence to use them.”
And that is what makes my executive media training services… priceless.
I interviewed thousands of people during my 12-year career in television news. Because of that experience, I am often asked to moderate panel discussions. In fact, I am paid quite well to host these discussions. Additionally, my moderating and speaking engagements often lead to business opportunities for McGrath Comm.
Speaking as Marketing
Many people have figured out quite correctly that speaking at events is a good way to build up their list of contacts and develop business for their companies. Unfortunately, some people aren’t very good panelists and speakers. As a result, they wind up hurting themselves.
I recently moderated a discussion with two people who probably shouldn’t have been asked to be part of the panel. It was clear to me that their level of experience or expertise was not a good fit for the topics at hand.
One person was out of touch with the latest trends, so much so that a member of the audience used the word “irrelevant” in relation to that person.
The second panelist asked me (before the discussion) not to ask him a question about very basic strategy that any college student could have answered. I knew he was nervous, so I killed the question. But imagine my surprise when I saw him half-dozing through the first part of the panel discussion with his head in his hand. I actually had to tap him on the shoulder to wake him up before I asked him a question.
Another audience member commented on this person’s behavior and said, “Wow. He couldn’t stay awake, huh?”
I am guessing that more than two people noticed that these panelists were lacking in expertise and professionalism. As such, I can’t imagine that anyone would ever hire them.
(To be fair, these panelists may have strengths in other areas that were not relevant to the panel discussion. And the person who was dozing may have taken medication that causes drowsiness. Whatever the case, it is clear that participating in this panel didn’t win either of them any business.)
Play to your strengths. If you’re a good writer– promote your services on twitter. If you love taking pictures and/or shooting videos — promote your company on Facebook or YouTube.
Whatever you do– do not do engage in an activity or practice that highlights your weaknesses, at least not if you’re trying to encourage people to do business with you.
My friend called me up and said, “Great quotes in that article, but where did the writer get the idea that you’ve only worked with “several” professional athletes. You’ve worked with dozens. You should ask for a correction!”
“Not on your life,” I said.
“Why aren’t you asking for a correction?” he persisted. “That writer got it wrong.”
“Yes, that national sports columnist got it wrong. (He actually never asked me the question.) But he also gave me half a dozen great quotes. And I have never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
So when should you demand a correction and when should you let sleeping dogs lie?
Little details: I know it may hurt your pride, but if someone misspells your name—you need to let it go. If you want, you can write to the reporter and say, “Thanks so much for the mention. I really appreciate it. No big deal, but my name was misspelled. I only point it out so that you’ll know for the next time you interview me.”
Factual Errors: If a reporter got the facts wrong, especially if you were the person he attributed, you need to call him immediately. Calmly explain his error and ask that he correct it. If he doesn’t—and your reputation really is on the line—then you’ll need to find out who his boss is and have a conversation with her.
Out of Context Errors: This is the trickiest of all corrections. Chances are good that you said what you were quoted as saying BUT the quote was taken out of context. Start by calling up the reporter. Give her the benefit of the doubt and calmly say, “Perhaps our wires got crossed. I didn’t say that in reference to that. I was speaking about this when I said that.” If you’re lucky, she’ll say, I apologize if I misunderstood you and I’ll see about printing a correction. But most likely she’ll be afraid of getting in trouble and she won’t change it.
If I’ve said this to clients once, I’ve said it a million times: Record every single interview that you do. That way if there’s ever an issue—you’ve got a recording to play back to the reporter and/or his editors. Without it, it’s your word against the reporter’s word. (And fair warning: Even if you have a recording—it may not get you a correction. Some publications refuse to print them, especially more informal online organizations/ bloggers.)
Think it doesn’t matter who delivers your company or brand’s message during a crisis? Think again.
Do you recall BP’s spokesperson saying that he’d like his life back, while the people of New Orleans continued to suffer?
How about a Toyota executive, reading a statement off a piece of paper, during their massive Prius recall? (I believe that he was also speaking Japanese. The clip that I saw on the news was translated by a newscaster.)
Or maybe you caught Tiger Woods’ robotic, over-rehearsed “news conference”?
All of these “performances” hurt the company and/ or brand involved. And much of the damage could have been avoided if they’d been smart about choosing a good spokesperson, who had received executive media training.
Process of Choosing a Spokesperson
1. Identify someone NOW within your company, who performs well under pressure and thinks well on her feet. Don’t wait for a crisis. Be proactive.
2. Get executive media training/ crisis communications training for that person. In fact, train a few people. In my experience, there’s usually at least one person within a company who is unexpectedly good.
3. Watch the video of everyone who receives media training. Who delivered the messages the best? Who looked most comfortable on-camera? Was there someone that people would relate to and like? Who was unflappable? Who ad libbed well? Who always looked calm and in control?
4. If your brand is popular around the world, make sure that you have spokespeople that can speak every language in your major international markets. I’d recommend that the person also be from that country/ region if possible. People instinctively place greater trust in those that they believe understand them and their culture and by extension their crisis.
Lastly, work on a crisis communications plan. Involve your spokespeople. Make sure that they understand their role during a crisis.
Whenever a pitch has hung up in my strike zone, I’ve crushed it.
When I was a reporter, if I saw a way to walk around the yellow-taped perimeter of a crime scene to talk to a cop about a murder, I did.
When I was recently upgraded to first class on a flight — and a very successful R&B singer asked me what I did for a living– I told him all about my business. (He asked me for a card.)
My point: I’ve always known how to capitalize on opportunities when they’ve been presented to me.
The saddest thing a client I was media training ever said to me was: “I had a great soundbite all worked out, but the reporter never asked me the right question!”
“Never, ever wait for a reporter to ask you the right question,” I said. “Take control of the interview.”
If you pay attention, there are always openings and opportunities to work in your messages. But you have to be able to recognize them and think quickly on your feet to capitalize on them.
Being able to see and seize these opportunities requires a certain mindset.
Recently, one of my twitter followers (@ShannonPaul) shared a blog post Erik Calonius wrote about lucky people. He discussed a study in which people were given a newspaper. They were then asked to count the number of photographs in the paper.
Some “lucky” people finished in a few seconds while other “unlucky” people took two minutes. What was the difference? The “lucky” people read the answer on page 2 of the newspaper, “’Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.’”
How did the “unlucky” people miss that?
Calonius quotes the author of the study.
“’Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else… Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.’”
The same holds true for media interviews. If you’re so worried about what the reporter is going to ask you and how you’re going to respond, you’re never going to be able to capitalize on opportunities within an interview.
Instead, try to relax. Focus on what the reporter is asking and quickly assess how you can work in messages that you want to express. If you see this interview as an opportunity, not an ordeal, your chances of success are greatly improved!
I spent 12 years in the network and local television news trenches, so I know firsthand the mistakes people make when they’re being interviewed.
1. The person talks non-stop. In the newsroom, we referred to it as the “diarrhea of the mouth” interview. The interviewee never comes up for air. They just go on and on and on. And most of what he’s saying isn’t relevant. As a result, the interviewer will have to work really hard to find a soundbite. These are the interviews that most often wind up on the proverbial “cutting room floor.”
2. The person doesn’t speak in complete thoughts/ soundbites. Example: What’s your favorite color? Most people will just say, “Blue.” People who have gone through an executive media training program will give a better response: “My favorite color is blue.” That’s a complete soundbite that can stand on its own without any further explanation or set-up from the interviewee.
3. The person doesn’t listen to/ doesn’t understand the interviewer’s question. Before you respond, listen carefully to make sure you understand the question. If you don’t understand it, ask for clarification THEN answer the question.
If you have made these mistakes in the past, you might want to consider contacting someone who specializes in executive media training. They can help you improve your messaging and your on-camera performance.