CEOs of fintech companies who have little experience giving media interviews do well to take a media training before entering the media limelight.
The content of the fintech CEO media training is not different from what the media training for any other executive should look like. There are merely a few points of attention that deserve special attention that follow below.
Composition of the group
A question I will very often receive from clients is whether CEOs should be trained alone. The answer to this question mostly depends on others. If there are other executives who require media training but who are insecure having to perform in the presence of their boss, possibly because they are entirely new to giving media interviews, you do best to train the executives separately from the CEO.
If the executives are confident, and there is nothing that will be discussed during the training that should be kept from them, then they should be included. I tend to not train more than four people at once. This allows me to train everybody actively (one simulated interview per person) during a 3 hour session.
Next to the trainee(s), you will typically have one trainer or possibly a trainer and a co-trainer. The trainer is almost always an external consultant. He or she should have sufficient experience media training senior executives. He or she also needs to have enough business acumen in order to level with the CEO. A CEO will sense when a trainer does not grasp the financial terminology that is used in a conversation, and when that happens the credibility of the trainer will always suffer (no exception!).
I also recommend having the PR manager present. The PR manager and the trainer take on very distinct roles in the media training. I will come back to this later.
Finally, if the media training is on-camera a video crew member will be present to record the interviews and play them back whenever the trainer asks for this. This playback is part of the ‘hot debrief’ that follows every simulated interview. This video professional should not engage with the CEO or any other trainees except to give instructions on where they should place themselves, how to put on their mic, etc.
Designing the training
Each media training is a variation on the same theme. What the agenda for a specific media training with the CEO will look like will depend on both the needs of the moment and the type of support the CEO needs most.
In theory, there is a “message map” that is ready for everybody to get to work with and attention can be focused on rehearsing delivery techniques. If you are a bank launching a new contactless payment solution in the wake of COVID-19 for example you might have a message map that contains key messages on the new solution (one of them being safety), proof points (the layers of safety built in the contactless card) and even ready made quotes.
I said ‘might’ because this is the ideal scenario. Often, a company will find itself in a situation where the messages still need to be hammered out. The media training will in such case identify important inconsistencies and gaps that will then inform a thorough discussion on what needs to go in the message map.
The needs of the CEO follow from the experience that the CEO has talking to the media. The trainer is tasked with designing and facilitating a session that fits exactly the needs of the CEO. Knowing what the CEO expects from the training will come from asking him or her the question beforehand (I am stating the obvious, but this does not always happen).
Knowing what they need (which is something different altogether) will be based on input from the CEO but also on observations of past performances from both the PR manager and the trainer. Some CEOs will need special coaching for their non-verbal communication, some will need to be (re) taught how to ‘bridge’ and others might still have different requirements.
While the trainer will carry most of the training, the PR manager will inform and remind the CEO of the communication policies and resources that are in place (“we do not tend to communicate that number…”).
Although some might be of opinion that a CEO should not be bothered with information on the different types of agreements that are struck on things such as attribution and exclusivity, because there is PR staff to handle this, I have always found it more than useful and even necessary to include this subject matter in the scoop of the training.
The better the CEO understands the actual reality of day to day media relations, the more realistic the expectations of the CEO towards the PR manager will be.Written by Jo Detavernier.
Jo is the principal of Detavernier Strategic Communication. He conducts media trainings in Austin and Houston.