The Credible Spokesperson Handbook – Ch.3: Why Media Training

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Chapter 3:

Why Media Training

My friend Steve Housser, a former CBC Bureau Chief, likes to say that reading a book on how to be a credible spokesperson is like watching a video on playing golf. You can study how to improve your swing all you like, but it really only happens when you get out on the course and play. It’s the same with media interviews, the more you do, the better you’ll get.

You need to spend time practicing interviews and getting used to the camera, microphone and camera lights. Media training is the best way to achieve this. Whether you’re a company president, field worker, politician, lawyer, work for a not-for-profit, a government employee or research scientists, you’ll find that time spent responding in on-camera interview training can produce enormous benefits in interview managements skills, performance improvements and personal confidence. It will also make you a much better communicator.

But the principles of media training apply to almost all forms of organizational communications, including stakeholder engagement. In fact, being a credible spokesperson is central any kind of constructive organizational engagement.

Here’s a story that will be familiar to any who travels a lot. Our plane had landed safely after a long flight. My business colleague and I were waiting for our luggage. It was late and we were both pretty tired from a long day on the road. After about 30 minutes of waiting at the luggage carousel with our bags nowhere in sight, our concern grew. We were not alone. At least thirty others from the same flight were waiting too. Ten minutes later some of us began to saunter over to the other side of the airport where two equally tired looking and sullen airline clerks stood at their wickets taking information, one by one, as to the size and color of our bags – a process that took another full hour before the last of us were able to leave the airport. Yes, the bags were not loaded on our plane. No, they had no idea where they were. Yes, they would contact us as soon as they were found and meanwhile here’s an overnight toiletry kit.

Like I said, not a particularly unusual story for those who travel a lot. Luggage gets lost. Usually its found the next day and shipped to you. That’s not the point though. What struck both my business colleague and I was just how poor communications had been between with us the paying passenger. Within seconds everyone was on their phone sharing their misery and naming the company, No one come over to tell us there was a baggage problem or where to go to address the problem. The most telling part of this little incident was that not one of the passengers flying on this particular airline in this particular night was surprised at how they were treated. It’s as if this single case of lost baggage simply confirmed what people already knew about this airline – its customer relations are abysmal.

Stories like this get around, especially on social media. And many of them get to reporters and are often harvested at a time when the company itself can be most vulnerable, a time of intense media scrutiny.

The moral of the story is that the work of being credible applies to every engagement. Had the two ticket agents acted more like credible spokespeople they would have gone a long way to retrieving the reputation of their company, at least amongst my group of ragged travelers.