5 Best Practices for Media Training with Senior Executives

Between us (Marianne and Marilyn), we’ve spent decades successfully training executives to be ready for media opportunities. The hardest part of doing this work with an executive is getting their time, focus and buy-in. Once we have those three elements in place, we can begin work on five key areas for development:

  1. Understand the medium: There are different techniques to master for different environments–broadcast TV and radio, online video and podcasts and print media–so be clear about what you’re preparing for. For example, if you’re an executive appearing on TV to discuss quarterly earnings results, knowing the studio background and the framing of the shot will inform your appearance and other non-verbal communications. If you’re in a podcast or radio studio, you’ll want to learn the dos and don’ts with microphones.
  2. Know your audience: While you likely speak to many different audiences as an executive, be clear about the needs and expectations of your specific audience. This will help you focus on both your messaging and delivery. For example, if you’re a CEO delivering the quarterly results your audience will expect you to present your financials with personality, enthusiasm and vision. However, if you’re a CFO your audience expects something different–namely numbers, data and trends, presented in a way that generates trust and confidence. Developing your persona with your audience in mind is key.
  3. Master your narratives: Company narratives, product narratives and your personal narrative are all vital for any media appearance. Being clear about your content, what you’re looking to communicate, your positioning and guidelines will help you stay on track during an interview. This work should be done well in advance of any media appearance and you’ll likely have a team of people from various departments helping to develop your content and create the soundbites that will resonate.
  4. Build range in your vocal techniques: Once you’ve mastered your content you’ll need to work on your delivery. You want to be engaging and interesting to listen to. This requires an understanding of vocal dynamics, and that you to hear yourself the way others hear you. Watching and listening to ourselves is generally an uncomfortable experience, but we’ve found it a useful technique in building self-awareness and correcting bad habits.
  5. Make time to practice: Being prepared to answer whatever question comes up requires hours of practice. If you’re not well rehearsed you’re likely to be guilty of one or more of the following:
    a) talking your way into your answers
    b) ‘motoring’–talking without taking pauses
    c) not knowing when to stop talking
    d) not having strong, concise, soundbites at the ready
    e) not sticking to your key messaging

Some of these mistakes could get you into trouble with an intrepid reporter or host, and others will result in your audience zoning out.

We coach media training one-on-one with senior executives, leveraging their existing talents and strengths to improve their communications skills. We also coach in small groups when appropriate. Typically the engagements are a half-day commitment–we understand that executives’ time is tight. Developing a more confident, self-aware and engaging version of yourself is valuable for all presentation and media opportunities.

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Velasquez

 

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Between us (Marianne and Marilyn), we’ve spent decades successfully training executives to be ready for media opportunities. The hardest part of doing this work with an executive is getting their time, focus and buy-in. Once we have those three elements in place, we can begin work on five key areas for development:

  1. Understand the medium: There are different techniques to master for different environments–broadcast TV and radio, online video and podcasts and print media–so be clear about what you’re preparing for. For example, if you’re an executive appearing on TV to discuss quarterly earnings results, knowing the studio background and the framing of the shot will inform your appearance and other non-verbal communications. If you’re in a podcast or radio studio, you’ll want to learn the dos and don’ts with microphones.
  2. Know your audience: While you likely speak to many different audiences as an executive, be clear about the needs and expectations of your specific audience. This will help you focus on both your messaging and delivery. For example, if you’re a CEO delivering the quarterly results your audience will expect you to present your financials with personality, enthusiasm and vision. However, if you’re a CFO your audience expects something different–namely numbers, data and trends, presented in a way that generates trust and confidence. Developing your persona with your audience in mind is key.
  3. Master your narratives: Company narratives, product narratives and your personal narrative are all vital for any media appearance. Being clear about your content, what you’re looking to communicate, your positioning and guidelines will help you stay on track during an interview. This work should be done well in advance of any media appearance and you’ll likely have a team of people from various departments helping to develop your content and create the soundbites that will resonate.
  4. Build range in your vocal techniques: Once you’ve mastered your content you’ll need to work on your delivery. You want to be engaging and interesting to listen to. This requires an understanding of vocal dynamics, and that you to hear yourself the way others hear you. Watching and listening to ourselves is generally an uncomfortable experience, but we’ve found it a useful technique in building self-awareness and correcting bad habits.
  5. Make time to practice: Being prepared to answer whatever question comes up requires hours of practice. If you’re not well rehearsed you’re likely to be guilty of one or more of the following:
    a) talking your way into your answers
    b) ‘motoring’–talking without taking pauses
    c) not knowing when to stop talking
    d) not having strong, concise, soundbites at the ready
    e) not sticking to your key messaging

Some of these mistakes could get you into trouble with an intrepid reporter or host, and others will result in your audience zoning out.

We coach media training one-on-one with senior executives, leveraging their existing talents and strengths to improve their communications skills. We also coach in small groups when appropriate. Typically the engagements are a half-day commitment–we understand that executives’ time is tight. Developing a more confident, self-aware and engaging version of yourself is valuable for all presentation and media opportunities.

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Velasquez

 

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Client Story: Coaching Executives Through Media Certification

Recently we worked with an internal PR team at a Fortune 500 technology company. They are a progressive technology organization that heavily invests in media training for their executives.

Business Presence, LLC was hired to assist with certifying executives as company spokespeople, bringing our expertise in both content and presentation. We recorded video of each interview for playback and review.

One of us took on the role of ‘reporter’, interviewing each executive for about twenty minutes with a set of prepared questions. The content covered both the broad company narrative along with communications around their particular areas of expertise. We also scattered in some trick, pass/fail questions to keep them on their toes, simulating an interview with an intrepid reporter. For example, executives are trained by the PR team to pivot away anything related to company financials unless they are on the finance team. Thankfully nobody went to PR jail!

Overall, we were most engaged by the executives who used plain speak versus jargon and who were relatable, passionate, and easy to follow. When a reporter is able to break through the predictable, linear narrative and get sound bites that connect at a human level, their stories are more engaging to their readers.

After the twenty minute interview we moved into the playback and review process. This is always the most uncomfortable part of the certification process for an executive. It’s not easy for any of us to watch ourselves on camera, and it’s even harder in front of a group of experts poised to give feedback. Many spoke very quickly and needed to take more time to disseminate and explain the content, especially when it was technical. Some of the most common issues were being repetitive or buying time at the start of an answer with “great question!” Or they persistently used uh’s and um’s. Adding more color and details via customer stories to illustrate points was another area of improvement. These are problems we can help them overcome. There were a plethora of small notes from the PR team about content, such as how to say something differently, better use of metaphor and when to cut an answer shorter.

Ultimately the executives will pass or fail based on the scores given by the internal PR lead/certifier. About 30 percent didn’t seem ready to speak with reporters. There’s room for them to grow: taking charge of the interview, being less scripted, nailing key messages and giving good soundbites. They can also work on using more range in their vocal dynamics.

Those who pass are in command of messaging and storytelling, and, thanks to our coaching, now have the confidence and experience to communicate with journalists on behalf of their company.

Being an effective company spokesperson requires mastery of both content and presentation, they’re inseparable, one without the other and you’re only half-way there.

We enjoy this kind of work. The content is typically stimulating and we get to bring our expertise around both content and form, and tap into our journalistic backgrounds.

Marianne Wilman and Marilyn Pittman were the Business Presence coaches at this training.

 

Image by: Alejandro Escamilla

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Recently we worked with an internal PR team at a Fortune 500 technology company. They are a progressive technology organization that heavily invests in media training for their executives.

Business Presence, LLC was hired to assist with certifying executives as company spokespeople, bringing our expertise in both content and presentation. We recorded video of each interview for playback and review.

One of us took on the role of ‘reporter’, interviewing each executive for about twenty minutes with a set of prepared questions. The content covered both the broad company narrative along with communications around their particular areas of expertise. We also scattered in some trick, pass/fail questions to keep them on their toes, simulating an interview with an intrepid reporter. For example, executives are trained by the PR team to pivot away anything related to company financials unless they are on the finance team. Thankfully nobody went to PR jail!

Overall, we were most engaged by the executives who used plain speak versus jargon and who were relatable, passionate, and easy to follow. When a reporter is able to break through the predictable, linear narrative and get sound bites that connect at a human level, their stories are more engaging to their readers.

After the twenty minute interview we moved into the playback and review process. This is always the most uncomfortable part of the certification process for an executive. It’s not easy for any of us to watch ourselves on camera, and it’s even harder in front of a group of experts poised to give feedback. Many spoke very quickly and needed to take more time to disseminate and explain the content, especially when it was technical. Some of the most common issues were being repetitive or buying time at the start of an answer with “great question!” Or they persistently used uh’s and um’s. Adding more color and details via customer stories to illustrate points was another area of improvement. These are problems we can help them overcome. There were a plethora of small notes from the PR team about content, such as how to say something differently, better use of metaphor and when to cut an answer shorter.

Ultimately the executives will pass or fail based on the scores given by the internal PR lead/certifier. About 30 percent didn’t seem ready to speak with reporters. There’s room for them to grow: taking charge of the interview, being less scripted, nailing key messages and giving good soundbites. They can also work on using more range in their vocal dynamics.

Those who pass are in command of messaging and storytelling, and, thanks to our coaching, now have the confidence and experience to communicate with journalists on behalf of their company.

Being an effective company spokesperson requires mastery of both content and presentation, they’re inseparable, one without the other and you’re only half-way there.

We enjoy this kind of work. The content is typically stimulating and we get to bring our expertise around both content and form, and tap into our journalistic backgrounds.

Marianne Wilman and Marilyn Pittman were the Business Presence coaches at this training.

 

Image by: Alejandro Escamilla

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