By Stephanie Kirschner
Picture this: a single offhand remark, a momentary lapse in judgment, and poof—a company’s reputation is left in tatters. That’s precisely what happened to Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, when a few ill-advised statements led to the company’s spectacular implosion in 2018. The moral of the story? Equip your spokespeople with the media training they need to avoid torpedoing your brand’s image.
The media is a double-edged sword. While it can amplify your brand’s message and sway public opinion in your favor, one ill-conceived comment can instantly spark a crisis. Therefore, investing in media training for your spokespeople is not just a wise move to safeguard your company’s reputation, but an absolute necessity.
Media training helps spokespeople develop the necessary skills to effectively communicate the brand’s message and values to the media and the public. Spokespeople need to be able to convey their message clearly and concisely, while also being relatable and engaging. Media training can help spokespeople learn how to structure their messages effectively, use appropriate language and tone, and adapt their communication style to different audiences.
One of the tangential benefits of media training is that it often involves an analysis of the company’s values, mission, and vision. This analysis provides spokespeople with a deeper understanding of the business and its place in the brand’s wider industry. This understanding is vital when it comes to communicating the company’s POV on a particular issue to the media and the public.
In addition to preparing spokespeople for regular media interactions, media training can also prepare them for challenging or unexpected situations. In a crisis or a difficult interview, spokespeople need to remain calm, composed, and focused. They must be able to handle tough questions from reporters and address sensitive topics with empathy and tact. Media training can help spokespeople develop strategies for handling difficult situations and equip them with the skills to stay on message. It can also prepare spokespeople for difficult questions. This would’ve been beneficial for Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, who, in 2019, gave an interview where he stumbled in his responses to questions about the company’s involvement with US Customs and Border Protection. If he had been better trained, Benioff could’ve avoided being sidetracked or led down an ill-advised line of questioning by his interviewer.
Furthermore, media training can help spokespeople understand the media landscape and how it operates. They need to be made aware of the different types of media, their audiences, and each party’s own priorities in each scenario. They should also understand how journalists work and what they expect from a spokesperson. Media training can provide spokespeople with insights into the media world, including how their company’s PR teams are framing stories and announcements, building relationships with journalists, and managing media coverage.
Above all, media training protects a company’s reputation. Spokespeople are the public face of a company, and their words and actions can impact how the company is perceived. In 2018, John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s, was forced to resign after news came out that he had used a racial slur. Had he not resigned, Papa John’s as a company, may not have recovered from his actions.
The bottom line is clear: a damaged reputation, negative media coverage, and plummeting stock prices can result from a poorly handled interview or controversial statement. So invest in media training now, rather an waiting for a disaster to strike to ensure your spokespeople are always ready to represent your company with poise, professionalism, and unwavering confidence.