Trumped Up? Three Tips for Getting Your CEO to Prep for Media Interviews

Even Donald Trump’s biggest fans were disheartened by his lack of preparation for the first presidential debate. Shortly after the 98-minute showdown ended, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani tweeted: I assure you that @realDonaldTrump will be better prepared at the next debate.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly spent four days preparing for the debate, even practicing in the evening to simulate the time of day when the debate took place. Trump’s staff said they sat around a table and discussed topics on Sunday. He refused to undergo the usual preparations of standing at a podium to debate someone playing Clinton.

This is not uncommon for CEOs and other top executives. Even though their words can move markets and determine the fate of their employees and investors, it’s often hard to convince the highly skilled and educated executives that they should spend the time practicing for a major media appearance. But appearing on television or facing a grilling by a tough reporter require very different skills than running a company or a country.

Just like Trump, executives often wait until after they faltered on camera to seek the media training they need, much to the dismay of their in-house public relations staff that had tried valiantly to prepare them for the interview. Sitting around a table discussing topics is too often considered media training to executives. But the best way to prepare is to simulate the actual interview.

In our work with top executives and in-house public relations leaders, we have found these three tips can help get the executives into media training.

  1. Seeing interview debacles by others: Showing top executives how even the most skilled communicators can blow a media interview helps convince them that no matter how smart they are, media training will help them ace their media interviews. Trump’s performance is just the tip of the iceberg. Google “media interview blunders” to find a host of examples. Showing these examples to media interviewee trainees also helps ensure they will take seriously the tips they are getting during the training.
  2. Putting them in front of a camera: iPhones and other easy-to-use video equipment make videotaping and playing back a mock media interview a simple way to show executives how they appear on camera when answering tough questions. Showing them a video of someone who is expert at media interviews will help them see the difference in someone who is media trained and someone who isn’t media trained.
  3. Hiring an outside consultant: Very few executives are willing to be vulnerable in front of their employees. Letting them know that you propose to hire an outside consultant to provide the training – and that none of the staff will be in the room when they’re undergoing their mock interviews – will assure them that they’re not embarrassed in front of their employees.


What other tips would you provide for getting executives to undergo media training?

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