Ensuring that your organisation is cohesive when communicating with the media is particularly important, and it’s something that we look at carefully when we work with PR companies and in-house communication teams during our Media Training courses.
The risk is that if you have various people doing media interviews and communicating with journalists, they might be saying slightly different things. Offering different messages, even if they don’t actually contradict each other, can make you look chaotic, disorganised and directionless. Criticism of the management and rumblings of discontent about lack of effective leadership are bound to follow.
Lack of cohesion in the real world
Recently we’ve seen the prime minister and his deputy, Dominic Rabb, taking different lines on fixed penalty notices in the Downing Street parties’ controversy. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has been at odds with his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, over regime change in Moscow.
Our media trainers are also working journalists. They’ve sat in many press conferences and company results presentations when the CEOs appear to say one thing and their finance chief or strategy expert has said something else. It’s often a great story for the media but not so good for the company.
Ensuring that your organisation is united in its line to take and its messages on any particular issue is essential for good corporate communications. Lack of organisation is particularly noticeable during a crisis. We’re helping more and more companies deal with crisis communications at the moment, as the risks facing organisations increase because of political and economic uncertainty, the explosion of social media comments and consumers who are more active and vociferous.
Crisis Communications training
As we explain in our Crisis Communications training courses, there is nothing more that journalists like them to be able to write than “chaos reigns at XXX company”. The danger might be that as the situation unfolds rapidly and other organisations, experts, and commentators have their say, the company leaders find themselves at odds with each other, delivering slightly different messages.
One of the issues we look at during our crisis communications training courses is how journalists can cause divisions between an organisation and other players in the crisis. These might be suppliers, emergency services or even employees arriving at the office or the factory. In real life, during a major situation, journalists will not only contact the organisation at the centre of the crisis but also talk to suppliers of products used in a crash or accident.
They might talk to customers and other partners in the hope of getting a new perspective or an exclusive angle. That is why all those involved in a crisis must be singing off the same hymn sheet; in other words, the lines to take are coordinated, so the media cannot get a cigarette paper between spokespeople and organisations affected by the situation.
How to remain cohesive
Crises aside, more generally, we work with the PR companies in house communications teams of a growing number of organisations to help them define and test their messages and ensure that every spokesperson can deliver them in any situation they find themselves in.
It’s also worth remembering that the message you give to the media needs to be the same one that you provide to employees, local residents and other audiences, such as financial markets, if that’s relevant. You might add a different emphasis or tweak them slightly, but the overall theme must remain the same.
How to sound natural
So how do organisations maintain this consistency without having their spokespeople sound like robots? After all, as we emphasise in our media training workshops, sounding sincere and authentic is one of the critical building blocks of effective communication.
The answer is to ensure that all spokespeople can use their own language whenever necessary. During our sessions, we work with senior spokespeople to identify the words and phrases that work for them and that they feel comfortable with so that they can sound like real human beings are still delivering a coherent, cohesive corporate message. We also work with communications advisors and public relations professionals to help identify the examples, case studies, anecdotes and stories that back up these key messages. This provides another opportunity for spokespeople to make the message their own and, therefore, sound human and convincing, maintaining a coordinated approach.
Ensuring that your organisation is cohesive in peacetime and during a crisis is essential. By following these and another few simple steps that we can teach you in our Media Training courses, you’ll be able to ensure that you achieve this important objective.