Keep on top of your game...

And avoid a media nightmare

Anyone in the media spotlight knows how the right response during a press conference or interview can elicit a positive reaction and reinforce credibility. Lewis Hamilton may not be to everyone's taste but his attempt to unify the country after these few weeks of unrest in the UK will do no harm to his public persona.

Reflecting that, "There are people out there from all walks, from all different places, poor, wealthy, going through difficult times and on this day we come together and I think that's a beautiful thing" will undoubtedly win over new fans and guarantee the loyalty of his existing fan base. The Mercedes' management team won't be disappointed either.

And when it goes wrong - it can spell disaster

Whilst this is a good example of using media as a key stakeholder influencer (particularly if Hamilton is looking for a career in politics, once he steps off the throttle), at the same time there have been some unbelievable gaffes reported. Watch the Sky recording of Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, making some unguarded and somewhat candid comments to Sir Malcolm Rifkind - oblivious that the interchange was being recorded. Even a veteran, media-savvy politician, one of Westminster's three longest-serving MPs, can sometimes come unstuck.

Similarly, Andrea Leadsom's disastrous interview with The Times brought her quest for leadership to a quick demise. No amount of back tracking could help her cause once the damage had been done; particularly when The Times published a transcript of Mrs Leadsom's comments to the paper in direct response to her defensive words, "Truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said," she tweeted. Clearly, this controversial article was not the expected outcome, when Mrs Leadsom agreed to participate in the interview.

The examples above illustrate why it's so crucial to be on top of your game when dealing with the media and to regularly receive refresher training. Telling your story to the media in the right way will help your cause, not undermine it. However, it is also knowing the right interview techniques and being aware of warning signs, to ensure the focus remains on the subject you want to promote, rather than a scenario everyone would rather avoid - and the resulting damage limitation headache.

There are numerous training techniques to fine-tune your media performance but it is always important to remember the fundamentals:

  1. You are always on camera and on record from the moment you walk into a studio or in a room with the media.
  2. Concentrate your focus on the key topics you want to get across; don't get drawn into side-chat - particularly around the subject matter you intend talking about!
  3. Never say anything that you wouldn't want to appear in print, appear online or broadcast across the airwaves.

Don't put it down to chance...

The benefits of a communications advisor

Consider having a communications advisor present. I recommend you always have one to support the interviewee throughout a media interview process and here's why:

  1. An effective communications advisor will act as the intermediary, agreeing the focus, terms and timescale of the interview with media and follow-up on any points of clarification, post-interview.
  2. For transparency and auditable purposes, a communications advisor will ensure there is a record of the interaction between interviewer and interviewee.
  3. Will offer coaching between interviews so the interviewee never loses sight of communicating the clear views, opinions or facts as he/she conducts a round of media briefings.

And above all

In the event something is reported wide of the mark, the communications advisor has immediate insight and is best placed to advise on how to address the situation and react accordingly to the wider public interest that may ensue.

For many business people, being in a media situation is only an occasional experience; whereas the interviewer's job is to extract information and insight - and do so on a daily basis. Having a communications advisor in your corner to agree the scope of the interview, provide expert advice and protect your interests, can only increase the odds of achieving a mutually beneficial outcome.


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