As a local and network news reporter, I conducted thousands of interviews over nearly two decades. Yet it was only after I made the leap into strategic and crisis communications that I fully appreciated the complex dynamic at play.
Going off script with journalists, in front of a live audience or on social media works just fine if, say, you’re a celebrity or politician (or both) who is expected to go off script and wing it, and you routinely benefit from making outrageous and provocative statements. How many senior executives, midlevel employees and new hires at brands fall into that category? One or two people, maybe, in the whole country. Everybody else needs media training in the workplace.
It’s important for communicators to remain calm and collect the facts. In a situation where the CEO is the focus of media scrutiny, one way to do that is for communicators to play journalist and literally interview the CEO. Senior communicators should have the kind of relationship with the CEO where he or she can discuss things with communicators and confide in them.
Even those PR pros who are experts at researching a particular journalist’s beat and outlet and successfully land an interview for their company’s lead spokesperson—say, a CEO—can aggravate time-strapped journalists if that spokesperson is ill-prepared or has a defensive attitude.
“What your body says is as important as what your mouth says.”
Savvy communication professionals invest time thinking about the toughest business challenges their CEOs face, from outmaneuvering competitors to addressing operational vulnerabilities.
With diversity becoming a major topic of conversation, brands are advised to keep abreast of the issue and perhaps join the conversation.
The media needs voices to opine on the news, and the coming election is practically begging for you to put your clients into the mix. Do not do it.