Executive Spokesperson DOs and DON’Ts — Critiquing a CEO interview on CNBC

I just watched a CNBC interview with a CEO (no need to disclose the CEO’s name or his company).  Critiquing what the CEO did well — and what he could have done better — is an opportunity to share some real life spokesperson DOs and DON’Ts.



Media Interview DOs:

  1. Given today’s news about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the CEO started his interview correctly by expressing genuine concern and empathy for the people of Japan.
  2. He delivered his key messages and repeated an important message more than once.
  3. The CEO reframed potentially negative perspectives paraphrased by the reporter in order to communicate a more positive company stance.  The reporter said, “…The news must be a win for your company.”  The CEO replied confidently, “The news is a win for consumers.”  Bravo!

Media Interview DON’Ts:

  1. In an attempt to demonstrate the company’s commitment to their customers, the CEO said that his company “thinks of customers as friends.” Unfortunately he took a positive point about wanting to deepen the company’s relationships with their customers to an unbelievable extreme.  Just sounded silly.
  2. He beat us over the head with his key message. Once is good; twice can be better if the actual wording or context of the message delivery is different. More than that begins to feel overly scripted and opportunistic.
  3. The reporter asked a tough question and the CEO handled it, calmly responding that he had nothing to add to the information already released on the issue. (Better than saying “no comment.”) But then he kept talking and ending up mentioning the negative perceptions that he was hoping to avoid. It’s almost always better to stop talking after you’ve answered a tough question.

Overall, the CEO did a very good job. There are teachable moments everywhere for corporate spokespersons who want to polish their media interview skills. Start paying attention to executive interviews–whether on CNBC, the nightly news or in print media and do your own constructive critique. What is the spokesperson doing well and what would you do differently?

2 Responses to “Executive Spokesperson DOs and DON’Ts — Critiquing a CEO interview on CNBC”

  1. Jay says:

    Interesting comment from your blog on the do’s and don’ts. You said the use of the term “friends” for “customers” was “an unbelievable extreme, and just sounded silly”. You may want to rethink this. This CEO may be just a step ahead of the rest of the world. In a recent forum we ran for a large, global packaged goods firm, one of our outside experts – Mary McBride, Director of the Pratt Institute Graduate Program in Design Management, and Partner in “Strategies for Planned Change” was talking about the new world of social media, instant messaging, etc. She made a great point. Companies have to stop thinking about their relationships with customers around transactions. We have to change the way we relate and talk to “customers’. We need to think of them as “friends.” Friendship is a relationship that goes both ways. And in today’s world of social media, our “customers” share their experiences and opinions instantly with all of their social media links and “friends”. We (marketers) are often part of that conversation. Start thinking of customers as friends, and you start paying attention to more than the transaction, but your total relationship.

    I found this interesting. The client found it to be a huge and important shift. Looks like this CEO may have been speaking with Mary recently himself and have been more on the cutting edge than you realized.

    Nice to “talk” with you again after all these years — friend.

  2. Beryl Loeb says:

    Thanks for your thought-provoking comment, Jay. I absolutely counsel the companies and executives I work with (both in media training as well as client service training) to focus on relationships vs. transactions with their clients. And communication in today’s world is all about conversations: two-way listening, learning and response.

    Despite the “Facebook” culture in which the concept of “friends” has evolved, I’m not sure that millenials, Gen X or Baby Boomers are ready (yet) to describe our relationships with our banks, computer companies or retailers as friendships. What both want (and potentially this will change), is a mutually respectful relationship — an experience that is light years beyond the older transaction mindset.

    But these are amazingly interesting times and social media is clearly changing how we think and do just about everything. I very much appreciate Mary McBride’s insights.

    I also look forward to our continued conversation, Jay.

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