Excellent customer service can be your company’s differentiator, especially when dealing with parity, products and services. Consumers are more informed and educated; they have access to competitive options and alternatives. Is your product or service on their radar as the alternative? Their purchase decisions are also influenced by the reputation of companies and their responsible business practices; more so, the leadership ability to continuously deliver excellent financial performance.
Some leaders are charismatic with the ability to inspire their employees, shareholders, the media and other stakeholders. Most leaders have expertise, experience and technical skills which can equip them to be thought leaders in their industry. They can forecast movements in the market, identify new business opportunities and produce the best business growth plans.
However, one of the biggest challenges to many leaders is the need to articulate, translate and communicate their business imperatives to their primary stakeholders, especially the media.
It may seem easier if you have a particular personality. Sir Richard Branson, for instance, has the ability to connect with people from all walks of life, share his experiences and offer pragmatic solutions. People buy into his ideas, because he is excellent in expressing his passion. The media love him, because he is always willing to comment and engage. Some of his ideas might seem impractical at first, but he has to ability to turn them into profitable business ventures. Realistically, we all can’t be Sir Richard Branson, but we can develop the ability to engage more effectively with our key stakeholders, especially the media.
Insightful companies understand and embrace the importance of ensuring that their leaders and spokespeople are well trained to deal with any public engagement session, or a complex business issue which is keeping the leaders of that particular company awake at night. The capacity of your leaders to effectively engage with their stakeholders, especially during media interviews, can either work in favour of your company or can create adverse reputation challenges. “No Comment” has become synonymous with businesses that have not invested in raining and on-going refresher media engagement programmes, which are pivotal during a crisis but also for routine engagements with your stakeholders.
Alignment, consistency and clarity are key ingredients for effective reputation management as a strategic business imperative. Are your leaders or spokespeople able to influence and change sentiments positively in favour of your organisation? During interviews, across different media platforms, do they have the ability to articulate and translate your business objectives, growth strategies, values and personality of the brand, and the key messages unique to your business? and rise above the noise and clutter to resonate with your target audience? Your leadership and spokespeople must have the confidence to strategically engage with media during challenging times, but also when you have something positive to share.
There are certain non-negotiables and guidelines to be aware off when you engage with the media, to ensure your messaging is received as intended with the desired positive outcomes. Dress code, body language, effective utilisation of “airtime” during interviews and simplification of complex information to ensure impact, clarity and support of your business interventions – these are some of the variables which you can expect from an effective media training module.
Statements that are conveyed by your leadership or spokespeople without proper consultation and approval systems in place are catalysts for unfavourable perceptions, experiences and sentiments from all your stakeholders. By contrast, effective and proactive communication can substantially enhance both your corporate reputation and the standing of your individuals brands or services.