4 media training tips for working with the C-suite

Working with high-level executives is a different beast.

Media training is a must for anyone that interacts with the press. Nervous newcomers likely recognize this and are grateful for the help.

But experienced executives who think they’ve seen it all and don’t think they need to take time out of their busy schedules for another media training session can pose a particular challenge for PR professionals.

Roberto Munoz has worked with his share of C-suite executives in past roles as vice president of communications for Fannie Mae, head of communications for the U.S. and U.K. at HSBC, and in his current role as a fractional CCO.

He cautions that no matter how experienced the executive, media training is always a good idea.



“You might have had training and it was pre-pandemic, let’s say. But you haven’t had one in the really multifaceted environment that we’re operating in, from politics, to the economy, to societal changes … to do a media training feels different when the messaging was in a different place and the world was in a different place,” Munoz told PR Daily in a recent interview.

Munoz pointed to recent headline made by senior, seasoned executives making seemingly off-the-cuff remarks that earned them the kinds of headlines they definitely weren’t looking for. Think of comments from the CEO of WK Kellogg’s saying they were marketing cereal for dinner as an option to economic hardships, or Wendy’s CEO making an off-hand mention to “dynamic pricing,” which led to a flurry of negative reporting.

Executives should aim to “be quotable, but be quotable on what you wanted to be quoted on,” Munoz said. That’s where media training comes in handy. Munoz likens it to flexing a muscle regularly and approaching media training with the same rigor and discipline as a leader would take toward understanding cybersecurity or other little-understood areas of the business.

Here are some of Munoz’s best tips for media training seasoned executives – and where it can all go wrong.

  1. Prepare messaging

Good interviews start with strong, clear messaging. For Munoz, that ensures you have the right people in the room when you’re developing that messaging.

“If you’re doing your quarterly earnings, you need to have your IR, finance, legal, comms sitting around the room to be sure that as you’re coming up with messaging that it resonates and it’s true to the brand and that you’re saying the right things out loud,” Munoz said.

Having these kinds of cross-departmental messaging brain trusts ensures that all voices are represented. They may need to be massaged to ensure they’re catchy, media friendly and in the executive’s voice, but having these people in the room to begin with ensures that, above all, your messages are correct.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

While Munoz is a strong advocate for having many voices in the room during messaging discussions, he recommends keeping media training intimate.

“It’s a very vulnerable thing to go do an interview and to be representing the brand and then to see your name in lights,” Munoz acknowledged. “I’ve found that actually narrowing the aperture of the number of people that are in the room, you might be able to give a little bit more of that honest, clear advice.”

As he recommended earlier, make sure to flex that media training muscle with regular practice. You might not need as intensive training with a seasoned executive as you might for a greener one, but preparation will always improve performance.

  1. Understand the journalist’s motivation

One underrated part of prepping an executive for an interview is understanding the journalist’s motivation, which is almost certainly not the same as yours.

“Journalists and executives can be friendly towards one another, but there’s also an agenda that folks have,’ Munoz said. “Journalists are looking after the readers of their publication and executives are looking after their brand and the reputation of the organization. And so not understanding that dynamic is when I think people could get themselves into some trickier situations.”

To that end, Munoz says it’s important to help executives understand this is quite different than internal speaking opportunities, precisely because of that differing motivation.

“Just because they’ve done a speech or in a town hall or road show doesn’t mean that they can fully just apply all of those lessons and understandings to media training.”

  1. Read the room

One of the most common ways executives can get themselves into media trouble is by failing to read the room. And that goes beyond simply understanding the journalist sitting opposite you, Munoz says, and understanding the “mood music” of the broader society.

“You need to be really sensitive to stay true to what your mission and your values are as an organization, but being clear that there are certain places that you might be asked questions and practice how you handle those. It’s judgment and it’s process.”

Judgment, Munoz says, is what happens in the moment in the interview, but the process happens beforehand. Understanding audience, determining messaging and driving it all home are all key.

And that’s where you, media trainer, come in.

Learn more about today’s media landscape during PR Daily’s Media Relations Conference, June 5-6 in Washington, D.C.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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