Spokesperson Training Case Study
Opportunity: A fortune 500 company has a new CEO with no media experience. The communications team includes seasoned professionals, junior staff and an experienced marketing professional. The team members moving into media roles have limited media experience.
- Design a media training program for the CEO to get him media ready, by teaching the fundamentals of media relations, developing his personal brand narrative, and practicing performance and delivery.
- Design a coaching program to level-set the communications team to support the CEO with his new narrative and ensure a consistent approach in message development and briefing for senior executives.
Approach for CEO Media Training
Every time a new senior leader joins an organization or is promoted from within, a new narrative needs to be developed and communicated. By establishing their personal brand, it’s an opportunity to position the change positively in the eyes of employees, customers, and other invested stakeholders. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Particularly for leaders, reputation is linked directly to the reputation of the organization. The two must align.
Many leaders are whip smart, visionaries and hard workers. They are completely deserving of their position, respect, and the responsibility that comes with it. However, working your way up the ladder with hard work and experience doesn’t automatically mean you know everything or know how to communicate effectively. In leadership roles the need for strong and effective communication is paramount. Without it, your creditability suffers. In a role meant to inspire confidence, delivery is essential.
In this case, the CEO had been with the organization for more than two decades and worked his way to the top. He was a confident and a strong leader and fully capable of the job, yet he had no media experience. If you have never been a company spokesperson, the idea of speaking to the media, specifically as a senior leader, can be fear inducing. As a seasoned media trainer, it’s easy to appreciate why leaders have this fear. From a coaching perspective, a healthy dose of fear indicates the person genuinely cares about doing a good job. That also means they’re coachable.
I don’t subscribe to intimidating studio set-ups or fear-tactic interviews designed to further scare clients into thinking they can’t do it without my services. Our offering is the exact opposite. Through our training, spokespeople are equipped to confidently deliver their messages on their own because they know the goal, how to prep and how to measure their success.
My approach to media training, especially when there is an element of fear, is to put all my energy into building the spokesperson’s confidence through clear and candid information about how the media works and what they can expect from their communications team. This “knowledge is power” approach has never failed because I already know my audience is a quick learner and highly invested in performing at their best. I then prepare messaging and run practice sessions where I offer unvarnished feedback with a focus on performance.
When training senior executives, I often have a member of the communications team join the session. This approach provides them with a fly-on-the-wall perspective of our approach and a peripheral training ground for them to then provide ongoing and consistent support to their executive. Sometimes, this inclusion in the session is enough. In other circumstances, a team training program may be beneficial to ensure the whole team understands the methodology for briefing and supporting their executive team.
Approach to Team Training
To address the problem of inexperienced media relations team members, I developed a program that included quick individual coaching sessions to build the confidence and capability of each team member. I also ran a team professional development training session to establish new practices and unite the team.
More and more, the terms marketing and communication have been combined and are seen as somewhat interchangeable; however, there are a few areas of expertise that do not overlap and leave true marketers or true public relations practitioners with a skills gap. In this case strong internal communicators and marketers had been hired from within the organization into media relations roles even though their experience with advanced media relations was limited. The idea of crafting messaging documents or media pitches felt overwhelming, and they often reverted to marketing-speak.
Working with the Director of Communications and relying on her intimate knowledge of the entire team, we designed a training program to re-calibrate the team to work as a unit and offer the same standard of service to their executive team. I delivered the training in two, two-hour blocks in the same week. The topics I covered included message preparation, how to effectively brief and give feedback, writing for the media, and how to develop newsworthy pitches.
Before the team training sessions, I met with each participant to better understand their capabilities, their learning goals, and their individual professional goals. These sessions were invaluable to developing the team training program and allowed me to establish an easy rapport with each participant ahead of the sessions. Following the training, each participant identified clear actions they would put into practice. A month later, I met with each participant again to check their progress and offer any additional guidance they needed to succeed.
The entire experience was successful, the CEO confidently introduced himself to the media with a clear story and guardrails, and the team’s progress was recognized and appreciated immediately.
The comments from the participants speak for themselves:
“I have been media trained before, but it was nothing like this. Crystal explains how the media work and then walks you through how to prepare for media interviews. We practised my content and possible news stories and then we worked on delivering responses I would actually use.”
“I dreaded doing media training and was not looking forward to this training, but Crystal made it so informative, so interesting and really fun. It was the best training I have ever had, and I learned so much.”
“My goal was to improve my media interviews and deliver my messages more confidently. Crystal’s ability to give constructive feedback is a gift because she is direct yet kind. I know when she makes a suggestion it is with a clear intention - to make me better.”
“Crystal gives a behind the scenes view of how the media works and then really practical tips to deliver great interviews.”
If you are looking to elevate your team with confidence inspired professional development designed to tackle your unique needs reach out to Propel Leadership Coaching for a free consult.