How do media mishaps take place? Take a look at this video of David Letterman’s Top Media Mishaps and see for yourself the hilarious ramblings of some prominent people and some tips on how to avoid them. These are fun to watch, but do you wonder, “How the hell could someone say that?” Personally, I have said things off the cuff and can’t believe that it came out of my mouth after I’ve said it during regular conversations. If you’re in Communications, have you ever sat next to your client and can’t believe what came out of his/her mouth during a meeting with a reporter? If you’re a reporter, are you just as stunned? Most of my media training clients have a horror story from working with the press.
Mishaps take place when people don’t take the time to practice and prepare for an important interview, presentation or conversation. When executives believe they know everything there is to know about working with the press and don’t need to be trained. I call it “the know-it-all” – we’ve all met that person!
One prominent CEO with a VC backed Internet Company refused to be part of a media training session claiming, “I know everything there is to know about my company. No one has ever asked me a question about my company that I could not answer.” Later the same CEO was in a broadcast studio, lights in his eyes, staring at the camera for a satellite interview, IFB all hooked up and he said to me, “Binay, can we practice before the interview?”
How can we convince executives they need training? My simple gut response is to let them fail. That will definitely convince them they need training and certainly the fastest and most effective way. While I stand by that theory, there are a couple of other ways to bring light onto this subject matter. First, explain to your executive that training for the media is like training for sports. Would you ever play in an important baseball game or the Olympics without intense training? I think not. A media opportunity is your chance to make it great, or, quite simply, to lose the game.
Another idea to add to your arsenal is to conduct an “at-home” session utilizing the iPhone or iPad camera. Record your executive answering a few questions and have them watch it. During this time, the executive will watch the playback and may get the feeling some professional help is in order. Usually we are our own worst critics and once executives see themselves on camera they usually come to terms with their need for a professional training.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid media mishaps is to practice and prepare. Below are a few simple tips and tricks to avoid the most common mishaps:
- Think before you speak: As you take a look at the CEO of Lululemon, he didn’t have a clear message. He said, “The pants don’t fit everyone.” A public relations professional will tell you to have 3-5 message points, but practicing them out loud is equally as vital. Use your iPhone/iPad camera and practice delivering the message to friends and colleagues. Does it sound ok? How does the message get conveyed if taken out of context? Are you sending the right message utilizing effective verbal and non-verbal skills? How will the public respond? Not well in the Lululemon example.
- Know the format: This is especially true for broadcast, however, media is merging now. A blog post can have a video next to it because the reporter may have you answer a few questions and record it. Before you dismiss the importance of broadcast training, consider how much video is becoming integrated into everything online. Master effective delivery across all mediums to truly avoid media mishaps.
- Preparation is key: Try to determine each and every possible question before working with a reporter. You don’t need to memorize the answers, but it’s certainly a good way to be caught off-guard, like Former President Bush was in the video example
Whether you go with a professional trainer or just practice on your own, it can be the key to success or failure. Practice a variety of messages and formats and watch yourself before taking it to the public! Usually, the spokesperson on camera will be his/her own worst critic.
Binay Curtis— Binay Curtis has two decades of experience as a media coach working with celebrities, CEOs, company spokespeople and the financial community. As a top trainer in the Silicon Valley, Curtis has worked with Apple, Fenwick & West, Mozilla, OpenTable, Plum District and Yahoo! At the end of the day, her clients can be heard saying, “Wow, that was really helpful,” despite the fact they didn’t want to do the training in the first place! You can find her on any of your favorite social media networks and at www.galaxysix.com.
*This blog has also appeared on The Bulldog Reporter.