|Five Questions about Executive Media Coaching and Crisis Readiness
Denise Woernle is Vice President Communications at AREVA Inc., with headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
AREVA’s CEO, you, and other executives recently went through executive communications coaching. How would you describe the value of one-on-one media skills training in terms of preparing senior managers for media interview opportunities?
The one-on-one approach allows the coach to focus on one senior manager at a time and really tailor the training to that particular individual and his or her specific needs.
Participating in one-on-one on-camera coaching creates a safe environment in which executives can practice important skills they may not often use. This allows us to make mistakes, learn from them, and try different approaches.
Was it helpful that the on-camera media coaching C4CS® provided also covered interview preparation steps and interview techniques used by reporters?
Including the interview preparation steps and reporters' techniques was effective in a couple of ways.
First, it helps an executive who does not normally focus on media interviews understand the perspective from which a journalist is likely to approach a topic. This helps focus preparation in a real situation. These are unfamiliar situations for most and call upon skills not used every day.
Secondly, as the head of communications for my company, I know that the other executives have some level of awareness and understanding of how we need to prepare for a real interview which reduces the amount of time my team needs to bring them up to speed.
What are the most important things you learned in on-camera media coaching sessions and group media trainings?
It is harder than it looks! We see on-camera interviews on the news and it often looks effortless. On-camera training is a good reminder that it takes preparation and practice to do it well.
Showing empathy in a situation that affects people personally, especially on camera, is important and it may not come across as well as you think it does. It is worth thinking about in advance and preparing so that you can truly convey how you feel.
The use of real-life scenarios helps to recognize how a situation may unfold and how quickly it can turn bad. Training, preparation, and practice are important to be able to manage through challenging circumstances.
How important is recurring scenario-based crisis communication training in terms of preparing managers for communicating effectively in times of crisis?
Using realistic crisis scenarios as a basis for training facilitates awareness of the scale and life of a crisis. It allows us to simulate being in the moment and fosters better understanding of what is needed from us in terms of leadership and communication.
In addition, the trainers can insert various elements based on how we react and how that affects the evolution of the situation. It feels real.
How regularly should crisis communication responsibilities, tools, procedures, and corresponding plans and training programs be reviewed?
In an ideal world at least quarterly. However, once or twice a year may be more realistic. Certainly anytime the business experiences a major transformation, new leaders are appointed, or external factors increase the company’s risk, the crisis communication plan should be reviewed and updated.
Q&A on Strategic Issues Management
In 2016, a number of C4CS® client partners dealt with potentially damaging public issues that required effective communication with various stakeholder groups. Is this development rooted in the fact that the environment in which these companies operate is increasingly complex and changing faster than ever before? Or is it perhaps closely linked to the fact that more and more stakeholders are effectively utilizing social media to voice critical opinions and put pressure on companies around the world? We believe that both factors are key reasons why our strategic issues management services are in high demand. This Q&A includes questions that often come up during an initial conversation about strategic issues management.
What is strategic issues management and how does it work?
Strategic issues management is a process used
to prevent business crises and seize opportunities through the systematic identification, analysis and mediation of public issues that are of strategic relevance to the organization. The issues management process includes the following six steps which are geared toward aligning organizational goals and activities with stakeholder expectations:
1. Early Identification and Continuous Monitoring of Potential and Current Issues
2. Issue Prioritization
3. Detailed Issue and Stakeholder Analysis
4. Formulation of Strategic Response Options
5. Implementation of Selected Response Strategy
6. Evaluation of Issue Status and Process Efficiency, Organizational Learning
What can we do to identify relevant issues?
Continuous scanning and monitoring of the environment in which the company operates are essential. What are stakeholders that have been critical of the company in the past up to? Are there regulatory changes on the horizon? What is going on within the industry and how will current changes affect the business? These are some of the questions that need to be asked on a recurring basis. Customized Internet as well as traditional and social media monitoring will also generate valuable information concerning issues that have the potential to trigger a crisis or provide business opportunities. Because emerging issues are easier to frame and mediate, it is important to identify issues as early as possible.
Who should be in charge of issues management?
Issues Management may be integrated as a separate business function, or as part of an existing business function. As effective communication with internal and external stakeholders is critical to altering the evolution of public issues, many companies have formally put corporate communications in charge of issues management. However, the successful management of individual issues requires a cross-functional approach that utilizes issue specific task forces comprised of managers from various functional areas. In order to be effective each task force must have access to sufficient funding and the task force lead must have support from and direct access to senior management.
Who should be on an issue task force?
Ideally, all departments and business units that are affected by the specific issue should be represented on the issue task force, or at least have access to pertinent information and remain in close contact with the task force. Experienced external consultants should be pulled in to provide guidance and work closely with the task force members on steps three through six of the issues management process -- Detailed Issue and Stakeholder Analysis, Formulation of Strategic Response Options, Implementation of the Selected Response Strategy, Evaluation of Issue Status and Process Efficiency and Organizational Learning.
How will we know that an issue no longer poses a threat?
Most public issues can be resolved if the issues management process is correctly applied. Fixing a problem that resulted in a recurring product failure for example suggests successful management of the issue. However, if the solution to the product related problem is not effectively communicated to internal and external stakeholders, the issue could be viewed as unresolved, which may trigger public criticism and result in damage to brand equity, reputation and the bottom line. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the issue status on an ongoing basis and to keep in mind that an issue can give birth to new issues or be dormant for an extended period of time and suddenly reemerge.
If you have any questions concerning this article, please contact us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
Food For Thought
"The true cost of reputational damage is often
underestimated because it doesn't always
consider the full extent of the corrections that are
needed - the ramifications typically extend well
beyond the area of direct impact."