Geoff Michels, Senior Adviser – Corporate Communications
At FIRST Advisers we are frequently asked to coach senior business executives or managers on presentation techniques. Generally it’s about coming across well at an AGM, or at a roadshow event or in presenting to audiences large and small. There is also a significant demand for advice and coaching on how to interact with the media.
The request for media skills coaching will often be couched as: ‘Can you help us in dealing with the media?’ We certainly can, however you need to be clear to which media you are referring. ‘A Current Affair’ crew prowling around your front door is a completely different proposition from say a polite request for an interview by the ABC’s ‘The Business’ TV program or the business press.
In an initial discussion a potential client for media skills coaching will often also speak about ‘handling’ the media. That in itself can suggest a mind under siege. The individual or entity feels under threat because a journalist is shining a light in places you’d rather were kept dark.
WHAT TO SAY, WHEN TO SAY IT AND HOW TO SAY IT
Our experience is that a person seeking help with media skills is often actually looking for guidance on what to say, when to say it, how to say it and in particular how to work out what to leave out. CEOs and senior executives – deeply embedded as they are in the minutiae of their businesses – can find it difficult to decide what can be omitted in answer to a question.
In truth, there will be no questions about the business – nor indeed about the sector in which the business operates – to which an experienced CEO or senior executive does not know the answer. However when the correct answer in the mind of the interviewee is akin to a 25-minute address to a Rotary Club while the journalist is looking for a 30 seconds maximum response, a disconnect looms. Uncluttered by the minutiae, we can help with that dilemma.
At the risk of generalising, the following should be kept in mind:
- whenever possible, set an agenda
- never lie – it is impossible anyway to hide the truth
- most journalists are not wanting to start a fight rather they are seeking information and that is their job
- if you are in trouble, the court of public opinion is quickly in session – at these times you must lead rather than react
- there are fewer journalists today than ever before – if you help them get the story right, you will often be helped in return
Apart from all that, try and enjoy the experience. FIRST Advisers is here to help if you need it.