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For many C-suite executives or founding members, media interactions are a part and parcel of their duties as company spokespeople. As leaders and visionaries, they are ideally positioned to tell the story of what the company has been doing and where it is going — but how do you make sure they’re equipped to handle the interaction with grace?

Media interactions aren’t just about informing the world of updates. They are opportunities to demonstrate the kind of leadership your company is investing in and showcase your knowledge, situational awareness, and confidence as a brand. For this reason, it’s vital to have regular media training sessions with the C-suite — even if they’re experienced speakers — and to coach them on the most appropriate things to say. Here are some best practices on how to prepare your C-suite spokespeople for media interactions.

1. Get your messaging right

As soon as the media interaction is confirmed, prepare a clear plan for exactly what your spokesperson will say and how they need to say it. Have a list of dos and do-nots and make sure your spokesperson clearly understands what the boundaries are. Especially if the topic is a sensitive one, it’s important to go over areas that could be misconstrued by the public and to have non-controversial responses for questions related to them.

2. Prepare some quotable quotes

Journalists will usually prioritise some quotes over others in their media coverage. It’s a good idea to prepare some statements in advance that you want publicised, such as commentary on how the business is growing, insights behind a new strategic hire, or the origin story of the brand.

3. Practise extensively

Particularly if the spokesperson is new to media interaction, or has expressed discomfort with public speaking, it is essential to coach them through regular practice sessions. Use speaking exercises that improve their tone and pronunciation, teach them how to control their body language for maximum impact, and emphasise the importance of staying hydrated and getting a good night’s rest before the interaction.

4. Coach them on how to handle the unexpected

It is very likely that the media will have questions that the spokesperson wasn’t prepared for. When that happens, the spokesperson should be equipped to respond with poise and to offer an honest answer. Teach them techniques to handle these situations, such as by requesting clarification on a question, or stating that they do not immediately have an answer. When in doubt, it is always better to not give an answer than to risk sounding vague or saying something inaccurate.

5. Emphasise the importance of maintaining composure

If the media interaction is about a difficult topic, such as a company shutting down or a product controversy, there may well be questions that are emotionally provocative. It is vital, as the spokesperson, to not fall prey to emotion when that happens. During media training sessions, run them through practice scenarios and give them tips on how to react when specific things happen. For instance, if the media continues to ask questions on something that has already been answered, coach them on how to calmly respond without expressing agitation. If necessary, encourage them to say things like: “I don’t have the answer right now,” or even to take a step back if things get too heated.

6. Encourage them to add their personal touch

As long as the spokesperson is sticking to the agreed-upon messaging, it can be a good idea for them to bring their own essence to it. If they are known for their charismatic speeches, their ability to break down complex topics, or their witty situational humour, showcasing those traits can add a more human touch to the experience and help your audience relate more personally to your brand. Take the time to understand what their “essence” is as a speaker and use it to craft tailored exercises that play to their strengths. This way, the spokesperson too can feel more comfortable about the interaction, and it will reflect in their tone and their body language.

As veterans of the PR industry, we have extensive experience coaching C-suite executives and founders across verticals. Our media training services are tailored to your exact needs and bring together the best of both established communication standards and your own unique voice. Reach out today to know more.