Late last week the residents of a town in West Virginia were without clean water for several days after a chemical spill from nearby Freedom Industries. Like lots of companies, they chose to put their CEO on TV.
Watching this guy talk to the media made my skin crawl. Lots of company presidents have fumbled their way through interviews. (Cheerio, Tony Hayward!) It’s not easy being in the hot seat and clearly not nearly enough CEOs have had media training. But this was spectacularly awful by today’s standards.
Here are my quick do’s and don’ts:
— DO seek out media training for more than one member of your leadership team, no matter how small a plant or manufacturing company you have.
— DON’T take a nice, cool, refreshing drink of bottled water on camera when YOUR PLANT has spilled chemicals into the water supply, making the town’s water undrinkable and creating a shortage of clean, bottled water.
— Come to think of it, DON’T drink bottled water on camera at all. (See Marco Rubio. My all time favorite live-television moment.)
— DON’T complain about what a long day you’ve had, that you’re tired, that you want to move on.
— DO select a spokesperson who is more likely to be in touch with the community. For example, don’t select an executive with a high-falutin’ accent in a small town of hard working people. Pick the local plant manager – and give her or him some media training.
— DON’T take what’s already an environmental and human crisis and blow it into a PR crisis too.
Plant disasters can be handled well. I love how Tommy Muska, a volunteer firefighter and Mayor of West, Texas, handled this interview with Matt Lauer of the Today Show.
His simple, straightforward requests to America and his deep personal connection to the loss of life and property made him the right man for the job.
Kate Venne is the Director of Public Relations at Capstone National Partners. If you’re interested in media training, contact Kate to find out more.
The views in this blog post represent the viewpoints of individual team members, not Capstone National Partners as a whole.