3 PR Tips for Bracing Your CEO for a Tough Interview

Coca-Cola launched a two-pronged "anti-obesity" campaign this morning with a full-page ad in The New York Times and making CEO Muhtar Kent available for an interview with "CBS This Morning." The former, which featured a silhouetted bottle of Coca-Cola over a four-part mission statement, fared much better than Kent, who dodged several questions and, at one point, became so shifty-eyed that he appeared to be channeling a cartoon villain. 

Kent's appearance is a black eye for Coca-Cola's new endeavor, especially for the communications team, because he should have been better prepared. While the company seems to be striving for transparency and authenticity, it’s no surprise that soda marketers have been getting heaps of scrutiny from Mayor Bloomberg (among others). So why wasn't Kent prepped with answers to the inevitable hardball questions? Or trained not to shift his eyes so much, or use the same hand gestures throughout the Q&A?

Check out these tips, compliments of our Media Training Guidebook, Vol. 5, to ensure your C-level executives are ready to face the media:

  1. Think about what the media wants to know: In selling a story idea to the media, you and your client probably already prepared an outline of the key points that he or she wants to address. You’ll want to tweak messages depending on the type of media (i.e., broadcast, radio or print), but you’ll first want to think about what else the media might want to know. Media reps often consider themselves advocates for the community, so the interviewer will want to know what your client is doing to make things better, easier or faster for their audience. 
  2. Body language speaks volumes: Voice and body language are 90% of the message. Show your spokesperson proper on-camera posture—sit up straight, place feet squarely on the ground and look the interviewer in the eye. If the interviewee is wearing a suit jacket, instruct him or her to sit on the tails to avoid the shoulders rising up around the neck. Make sure your spokesperson avoids touching his or her face, as this might be seen as a sign of deception. Everything is magnified on camera. 
  3. Overcome objections the right way: You can skillfully address any objection in three steps. First, acknowledge the challenger to make him or her  feel heard. Second, don't dodge the question or try to deny what the interviewer is saying: Don’t give an answer, if you truly don’t have one. Third, try to "bridge" the question and move the conversation in a direction that is beneficial to your company's message. 

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis



About Lucia Davis

Lucia Davis is community editor for PR News. Prior to returning to NYC, she was associate editor at iMedia Connection in Culver City, CA. In addition to PR News and iMedia, Lucia's writing has appeared in minonline, "The Minetta Review," "EQUITIES Magazine," and "The Foothills Paper."

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  • http://twitter.com/MrMediaTraining Mr Media Training

    Lucia – Voice and body language is not 90 percent of the message. That old statistic (93 percent, actually), is an oft-cited and incorrect figure that stems from the work of UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian. His study was very limited in focus, and only applied to one-on-one communication in highly emotional situations — NOT mass communications. That figure, as it’s cited here, has been widely debunked, including by Dr. Mehrabian himself. Thought you’d want to know.

    Best wishes,
    Brad Phillips

  • Pingback: The Toughest Interview Your Executive Ever Does Should Never Be Seen Publicly | Getting to the Point: Suzanne Moran's Blog on PR