PR helps you keep your CEO happy without sacrificing the company’s image
Your company just hosted a public event with news media all around and your CEO put his foot in his mouth – again. Perhaps he said something insensitive, appeared sweaty and uncomfortable, or gave statements contradictory to the company line. Whatever he did, the end result was that he made your entire organization look bad.
The CEO is most often the public face of a company, and sometimes that face is not the one you want to show to the world. Do you wish you could just keep your CEO away from the media altogether? There are right (and wrong) ways to handle this issue and PR can help.
1. Have a comprehensive media relations plan. Your plan should clearly state who can speak to the news media, with the CEO’s name at the bottom (or not listed at all). This way, you don’t have to say anything; just remind the CEO to stick to the plan.
2. Designate someone to speak with media on his behalf. With all the responsibilities on his plate as CEO, he may welcome the opportunity to remove media relations from his to-do list. You can assign the PR director, a vice president or a representative from your PR firm for this important task.
3. Use statements. It is not always necessary for the CEO to go on camera. A timely, well-crafted response or quote can go a long way toward satisfying a journalist’s demands. This way, your company or CEO can still be included in the piece without him actually having to speak or give an interview.
4. Get him some spokesperson training. Not everyone is born being comfortable in front of a microphone. Also, speaking to a room full of customers, employees or shareholders is vastly different than speaking to the media. He must learn to stay composed, use succinct answers, speak clearly and control body language. Research has shown that CEOs who communicate well tend to have more longevity in their industry. Professional training can boost both your company’s image and its profitability.
If you must say something to your CEO
1. Develop your strategy and talking points first. No one enjoys being called stupid or a laughingstock and the conversation can quickly shift in that direction if you go in unprepared. Remember that everyone is there for the good of the company and any discussion should focus on that.
2. Don’t be insulting. Play up your CEO’s strengths and explain that being in front of cameras is not one of them. In addition, you must remain respectful and businesslike. Often, what you say matters less than how you say it. For instance, instead of saying, “You don’t understand,” you might say, “Perhaps I am not explaining myself clearly.”
3. Find someone the CEO trusts. This could be a vice president or other C-suite executive, a loyal administrative assistant or someone from your board of directors.
4. Let your PR firm take the lead. Sometimes, it’s best if an expert and objective third party delivers difficult information. PR professionals understand what journalists want and how to position your company for maximum positive media coverage. Therefore, they may be best suited to handle the issue of the relationship between your CEO and the news media. (We’ve done this many times; trust us!)
At Axia Public Relations, we recognize the importance of positive news coverage for increased brand identity, and we will help you develop long-term, strategic media relations campaigns that get results. Contact us today or download our e-book Learn Media Relations from the Media for more information.
Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter at @axiapr.
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