Some executives are media interview superstars.
They were born to do it, and they work hard to improve. They prepare,
effortlessly handle tough questions, and then smile when it’s done and ask
Others, not so much. Here are four types of challenging spokespeople, as
well as tips on how to rein them in:
Cowpokes are eager to lasso the next media interview. They’re always ready
to go—or at least they think they are. Forget about prep; interviews are
easy. Sometimes they are, but Cowpokes tend to mosey into risky territory.
[EVENT: Corporate Communicators Conference]
Overconfidence is tough to tamp down. One way to corral their exuberance is
through positive critiques, such as taking the best of what they did
before, reminding them of it and urging them to do it again. You can also
point to someone else (a competitor or a person they look up to), highlight
what they did or didn’t do well, and then show them how to replicate the
success or avoid the disaster.
To wrangle Cowpokes, emphasize and hone their strengths. Gently stressing
the importance of prep and training is also helpful.
Avoiders are just fine with media interviews—until an opportunity for one
comes up. Suddenly they just can’t make this one work, but maybe next time?
Avoiders always know someone else who could step in, or they might decide
that postponing is a better strategy. Avoiders hate doing interviews but
won’t admit it.
Managing Avoiders is all about advance prep work. Don’t spring surprises on
them. Identify the key journalists, audiences and topics they will speak
to, and warn them when an interview could be coming.
Technicians feast on jargon and complain that reporters “don’t get it.”
They might diligently prepare, show enthusiasm and profess an understanding
for what must be done, but as soon as the interview starts they often
launch into overwrought, byzantine answers.
Play to the Technician’s ego. Explain at the outset that the reporter needs
help and guidance. Work on snappy quotes and simple, clear talking points.
When Panickers get an interview request, they often try to memorize messages like a movie script. No matter how they’ve performed, they’ll be
certain they blew it. They will also hate the resulting article, even if
everyone else is happy.
You never want a Panicker facing a tough interview. If it’s
inevitable, build their confidence with baby steps, such as a casual
Running mock interviews can also help. Panickers often possess expertise
and have a deep concern for accuracy, which makes them excellent
spokesperson material. The trick lies in helping them conquer their fears.
Are there other types I’ve missed? Have any advice for handling difficult
spokespeople? Please offer your thoughts in the comments below.
A version of this post first appeared on
Provident Communications’ blog.