Most CEOs and top executives are very good communicators. They're articulate, focused and command the room with their presence.
But get them in front of a reporter and many of these same high-achievers try too hard to be a perfectly packaged persona. When they see video of themselves being interviewed, they're shocked at how artificial they look and sound.
I often reiterate five media interview methods to help them project their real selves:
Speak, don't pronounce. | With reporters, keep the tone and tenor to that of having a conversation. Many executives have a wonderfully gracious, polished style, but they'll overdo it in media settings and come across like they're running for vice president. Experienced reporters are hyper-sensitive to business people who speechify or drip with techniques they obviously got from media training. It can have quite a negative influence on the interview.
Don't try to make every swing a home run. | The best way to sound like you were water-boarded by your PR department is to force every talking point into every answer. Instead, integrate what you want to get across in context to the conversation, just like you do in real life. And make sure you're PR people help you prioritize you're the three key messages for each interview out of the gazillion that might be in your communications strategy.
Slow down. | Everyone tends to speed on in interviews and presentations, either because their nervous or animated in their intensity. Whatever the reason, try to remember to take a literal breath between passages. It will feel weird at first but it will help.
Tell stories. | Many executives have a natural gift for telling stories, but in an interview they'll often make passing reference to an anecdote or not finish a story. Part of this is a matter of just going too fast, and part is not having all those great stories embedded into your personal style of narrative. This is something you and your PR people should work on constantly.
Keep to a problem-solution orientation. | Try to spell out specific problems or issues that your organization is solving. Reporters who have not worked outside the newsroom often don't grasp the full dynamic of a corporation or organization. Talking in terms of problems and solutions will help them understand the value you create for the people who matter most to your bottom line.
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