Media training: how to limit reputation damage
09 November 2018

Media training tips: how to limit reputation damage

B2B tech media training sessions often feature videos of past RIM executives demonstrating how not to interact with the press. We have previously published our guide to working with the media. In this blog, we highlight the importance of media training and best practices to limit reputation damage.

How not to bridge in interviews

In one, RIM’s co-founder goes into meltdown when the BBCs Rory Cellan-Jones asks questions he doesn’t want to answer. And, in the other, RIM’s UK MD shows how not to bridge when Nicky Campbell keeps on seeking an answer to what RIM has learnt from Apple’s iPhone.

But, the supremacy of these online clips to media training is now being challenged by how construction CEO, Jeff Fairburn, so badly handled a BBC regional TV interview. His promotion of a new brick factory was derailed by his refusal to answer a question about his £75m bonus. The video went viral and is likely to feature in media training presentations for a long, long time.

The Fairburn interview is another case of spokespeople always needing to prepare (and practice) an answer to the ‘elephant in the room’ question you don’t want to answer. The bridging technique of acknowledging the question but then pivoting to talk about what you want to talk about could have helped him in this instance.

The incident also reinforces how spokespeople must keep their cool in front of the camera, always. Telling a broadcast journalist to turn off their camera is always going to backfire.

Spokespeople can be at the sharp end of reputation management. This is especially the case when it goes wrong as these and other examples show.

So, what should you do?

Fairburn was pushed out by his firm builders, Persimmon, in a move designed to limit the reputation damage. But, this action may be of limited value as his replacement received a £40m bonus. Repairing your reputation takes strong, more concrete steps that communicate a real change of direction.

To be honest, the best policy is preventative. Don’t let even your most senior spokespeople refuse to do media training that really tests their ability to keep on message and engage with even the most difficult journalist in a positive way.