All too often, we see CEOs put their foot in their mouths. Remember Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ “apology” last year? Or how about former BP CEO Tony Hayward and his “relatively tiny” Gulf oil spill comment? These types of words cannot only stain a chief executive; it can also hurt a company. In the cases above, both Netflix and BP suffered mightily.
These types of instances are very preventable though. One of the things that are often forgotten about in our PR planning is media training. Sure, we see crisis communications mentioned, but never much about actual media training. Even if you believe your client(s) have a good feel for the media, it never hurts to reinforce their skills.
Here are five tips to consider for your clients or your own businesses.
1) Mock-up an interview- Role-playing may seem like something you wouldn’t consider, but it can really be helpful. Develop some questions based on a scenario where the CEO would be tested. Then, do a review session afterwards. Go over the strengths and weaknesses of the answers. If and when a crisis arises, you know he/she will be prepared.
2) Review what each outlet brings to the table- Your CEO may think he/she understands the print and electronic media, but both platforms are changing. Take the time to help the CEO understand what each outlet does, how they report, and what they may be looking for.
3) Keep messages short and sweet- Once a CEO starts having long answers to media questions, that’s when things can get sticky. Make certain your key messages and talking points are crafted to be clear and concise. The tighter the messaging is, the less of a chance of being misquoted or misunderstood.
4) Speak up- I always like to see how CEOs handle speaking in public during non-crisis situations. If they stumble during a check presentation, imagine what it would be like in a crisis. It doesn’t hurt to offer a public speaking session. A good CEO will accept your advice, since it will help in the future.
5) Social Media training- Yes, it may sound odd to include this, but if you have a CEO of a small to medium sized business, they may interact on social networks. It is integral for the CEO to understand to pros and cons of posting and how their message will be taken in 140 characters.
Media training may seem like something very small in the grand scheme of things, but when a crisis hits, it could end up being extremely important.