3 Tips to go from media shy to media savvy

The acronym ‘CEO’ will likely conjure images of fearless leaders in command of their businesses and their people, natural-born spokespeople inspiring those in the business as well as those looking on.

The reality, however, is that many CEOs may often be introverts shying away from external exposure and the prying eyes of the media. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, for example, is not only one of the most powerful leaders in the world, but he’s also amongst the most publicity-shy ones.

Staying out of the spotlight, however, will likely do more harm than good. Research shows that an accessible CEO makes a brand more authentic.

Public relations professionals must do more than just convince their CEOs, they must support their leaders in a way that makes the process as painless as possible as well as ensure their CEO will be the custodian for the organisation’s image and reputation.

To help prepare any business leader, here are our top tips to guide the media-shy through the interview process:

Media Training is key

Critical for any CEO or spokesperson, media training is a programme aimed at creating a strong foundation of interviewing knowledge from structuring responses to question redirection. A good media training programme will allow for the media-shy CEO to get a feel of what it’s like to be in front of a reporter and face difficult unexpected questions in a controlled environment.

Media training is not a magic bullet, practice makes perfect, meaning that training sessions should be carried out on a frequent basis to keep the spokesperson’s confidence up. Further, carrying out frequent impromptu mock interviews covering the latest trending topics as well as difficult probing questions around the business can provide the crucial experience that a media shy CEO must be exposed to before sitting down with media.

Practice, practice, practice!

When the time comes for an interview, preparation is key. Naturally, a comprehensive briefing document covering the topics, questions, key messages, interviewer and media profile is a no-brainer. It is vital to sit down with the CEO prior to the interview to gauge their familiarity with the subject of the interview. Working hand-in-hand to craft a narrative and key messages with additional research would help spokespeople feel at ease.

Preparation for the media shy CEO should extend further, emulating the scenario by adopting the questions, duration and style of the interviewer to give the CEO a better idea of what to expect.

Don’t underestimate media relations

Often the most overlooked aspect, and one usually undertaken solely by the public relations professional, is for the business leader to play a first hand role in building relationships with the media.

Building relationships through no-agenda coffees, get-togethers and networking events will allow the CEO to get used to being around media, and most importantly, dispel the myth that journalists are ‘out to get you’. By building these relationships, when the time comes, the CEO will likely be able to sit down for an interview with someone familiar.  

So there you have it, our top tips on how to prepare your media shy CEO to face the media world and not only be more comfortable, but also be in a position to represent the organisation in a way that will grow its reputation and standing in the business landscape.

Drop us a message at [email protected] to talk to us more about media training.

5 ways to get booed off stage

Pretty much all great orators – the ones who can talk to 10,000 people while giving off that ‘just having a casual chat with my mate on the sofa’ vibe – can do what they do because they have a lot of practice under their belts. Many have also probably had media training.

Public speaking with impact takes practice and planning. All companies worth their salt understand the importance their ambassadors have in representing their brand, and invest in experts like us at Mutant to help develop confident and compelling delivery.

However, we’ve seen plenty of people who have decided to jump in front of an audience without proper training, thinking they know what they’re doing (can anyone say crash and burn?)

Here are five of the most effective but un-obvious ways to completely lose your audience.

1. Inflate that ego, Narcissus.

“I really really want the audience to like me!”

If you want to alienate your audience and make them instantly dislike you, put yourself before them.

Essentially, your approach to public speaking is all wrong if you aren’t considering what your audience is going to get out of your speech or presentation. You should be asking yourself, “what do I want the audience to leave with, and how do I make this as easy for them to understand as possible?

A presentation should be planned, written and practised with the audience in mind. This might include:

– Explaining to the audience why you are there and what you are going to present
– Speak important points slowly and repeat them if necessary – but not to the point of condescension
– Conclude by recapping on salient point.

Just remember your audience likely doesn’t know the content as well as you do, so be nice, personable and make your presentation an enjoyable experience – not something they have to survive through.

2. Have absolutely no idea who you’re talking to

Who are your audience? Are they industry leaders? Experienced professionals? Media? Or fresh-faced young talent with a blank slate and open minds? Let the audience inform your delivery.

If they are experts in your field, feel free to dive deep on the detail, acronyms and jargon. If not, calibrate accordingly. It’s surprising how many people get this wrong.

3. Keep it boring, stale, and loooooooooooooong

Even if you’re speaking to a room of industry heavyweights, don’t make the mistake of trying to show superior intelligence by being verbose. Using impenetrable language and stretching one point into five alienates your audience, turns them off and bores them to death. At worst, you might make them think you have something to hide (I could have used the word obfuscate but then, but I chose not to, precisely for this reason.)

TED speakers aren’t allowed to exceed 18 minutes for their presentations. You have a precious time limit for the audience’s attention, who will probably only leave remembering three of your points. Choose them wisely and give them impact.

4. Leave them wanting…less?

A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” – Winston Churchill

Thanks for the typically uncouth quote Winston, but you get the point. This massively applies to a presentation where you want to signpost the audience onto something else. It could be to a product, another event or even an interview with your client. Spill all of the beans and they wont have any need to pursue it further.

5. Over rely on scripts and slides

“I’ll read from my script. That way I’ll avoid the risk of saying the wrong thing or forgetting my point.”

No, no, and no. A speech, presentation or interview is about having a conversation. Even if you’re the only one talking on stage, you’re trying to create a dialogue – not a monologue – between yourself and the audience, and the only way to do that is to talk, not read, and be engaging while you do it.

You want people to walk away believing two things:

a) You believe in your stuff
b) You know your stuff

Yes, it’s good to prepare. But to rely on a script equals less engagement and snoring audiences. Your whole tone and body language changes when you read, rather than talk, and it’s highly obvious. Plus, there are the technicalities to be concerned with. What if the projector doesn’t work on the day? What if someone wants to interview you afterwards to clarify or repeat a point? Knowing your key themes and messages will allow you avoid having to re-wind the tape and start over again.

Learn two or three key points you want to convey from each slide and practice making each point off the cuff without crutches. This will make you more natural, relaxed and ultimately more compelling.

Want to learn more about how to better conduct yourself in front of media? Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg

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4 media training tips we can all learn from Ahmed Mohamed

In case you’ve been off the Twittersphere or living in isolation, you may have missed the story of Ahmed Mohamed – the bright, 14 year-old student in Texas who brought a home-made clock with him to school to impress his teachers, but ended up in handcuffs instead when she (wrongly) assumed it was a bomb.

The hash tag #IStandWithAhmed has since been shared and circulated hundreds of thousands of times, with support for Ahmed coming in from Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton, Steve Wozniak (who had a similar incident in 1967) and a host of other incredibly supportive fans.

The story really resonated with me on a few levels. One, because he looks freakishly similar to my nephew Sam who is exactly the same age and is half Muslim. I would be horrified if Sam were to go to school with a brilliant invention, only to be considered a threat and subsequently arrested. Oh, did I mention – Ahmed was interrogated without his parents’ knowledge for one and a half hours?

But the other thing that stood out to me as a PR professional and media trainer is how eloquently and calmly Ahmed has conducted himself through this whole debacle and subsequent social and media frenzy.

There are a lot of public figures that could learn a lot from this young man.

Here is Ahmed’s very polished interview:

Here are media training lessons we can all learn from him:

1. Controversy can lead to good change

The most important takeaway is that Ahmed has managed to take a very upsetting incident and turn it into a voice for change and progress. He’s not sulking about it or voicing his opinions negatively. He acknowledges “since the charges have already been dropped, I would like to say that I really want to go to MIT and TAMS” and later adds, “but since I have gotten this far, I will try my best not just to help me, but to help every other kid in the entire world who has a problem like this”. He’s managed to bypass the unpleasantness to reveal hope for change and a desire to make that happen.

2. Keep it short and simple 

Ahmed did not take a long-winded approach to explaining his story and ordeal. He stated facts, as they were, using no complicated language or jargon and immediately got to the point. He expressed that he was sad about the way he was treated but kept it to two clear and concise sentences. Which made them so much more powerful.

“I built the clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her. So it was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it and I got arrested for it later that day.”

3. Good interviews and speeches usually start on a lighter note before getting serious

Ahmed started his interview with a slight grin and a light tone. He introduced himself by saying, “So, I guess everyone knows I’m the person who built a clock and got in a lot of trouble for it”. What a great, succinct and fun way to sum up why he’s starting the speech.

4. Stand up for yourself and your values

Ahmed’s words here speak for themselves: “Don’t let people change who you are. Even if you get a consequence for it. I’d suggest you still show it to people because you need to show them your talent”

Ahmed’s confidence, tone, voice and presence are such a great lesson for everyone preparing for an interview to address a difficult issue. Thank you!

#IStandWithAhmed

#AhmedMohamed

Want to pick up a few more tips on how to better conduct yourself in front of media? Get in touch with us at [email protected]