As the specialist provider of media training for luxury brands, we regularly work with designers, executives, craftspeople, influencers and public relations and marketing people to prepare them for media interviews. This might be for new product launches, for runway shows or simply because it’s useful for luxury houses to have a range of people who are trained and ready to speak to the media.
As well as helping our luxury clients develop their key messages and identify the examples and case studies they need to back up these points, we also train them on how to prepare for difficult or irrelevant questions. We know that luxury brands are naturally very risk averse, and they’re aware that the chances of negative and unhelpful media coverage have increased over recent years.
Here are five risky questions that spokespeople for luxury brands need to be ready for.
1. How sustainable are your products?
With Millennials and Generation Z consumers driving 85 per cent of global luxury sales growth and research from Nielsen revealing that 73 per cent of Millennial respondents are willing to spend more on a product that comes from a sustainable or socially conscious brand, sustainability has never been such an important issue for the luxury sector. During the role-play interviews we conduct as part of our media training workshops for luxury brands, we’ll regularly ask participants about sustainability.
If you’re a luxury house, we recommend that whoever you field for media interviews is prepared to answer questions about the company’s record on sustainability. But, as we explain during our media training courses, you need to go further than this. It’s essential to provide examples and case studies to support and illustrate your claims about sustainability.
2. What about BAME consumers?
The Black Lives Matter movement has prompted industries and companies worldwide to review everything from their staffing policies to their advertising and marketing strategies through the lens of race. Luxury influencers, designers or managers are increasingly likely to be asked about race and ethnicity, whatever the actual subject of the interview. You might be talking about a new collection, for instance, or your plans for developing your e-commerce operation. Still, it’s very possible these days that a journalist might throw in something about the ethnic diversity of your client base or ask how many of your teams are from a BAME background.
We work with luxury brands in our media training and message development and testing courses to help them answer questions about race in a convincing and authentic way.
3. What about human rights in China and other countries?
Affluent Chinese consumers have powered growth in the luxury market over the last few decades.
First, the pandemic and lockdown threw this market up in the air, and now there are questions about a cooling of relations between China and the West. Geo-politics might seem to have nothing to do with your business, and if you’re showing journalists around a workshop or a store or taking them on a press trip, this kind of issue might not be front of mind, but questions about it could still be asked.
Similarly, you might be asked about sanctions against Russian or questioned about your relationship with Saudi Arabia and other markets that have been criticised for their records on human rights and women’s rights in particular.
Working out what you’re going to say should such questions be raised and identifying answers for them is essential. You don’t want to find your spokespeople having to make up policy on the hoof or get pushed into saying something that could be embarrassing for the brand. On the other hand, simply ignoring a question or dodging a problematic issue is also a risk. We look at ways luxury houses can handle these complex issues and return to their key messages, regaining control of the interview.
4. Can you guarantee that your customer data is safe?
Journalists know that luxury houses – like so many other organisations – are collecting and storing more customer data to provide better customer service. They’re also aware of a growing number of cyberattacks and questions about data privacy.
As we explain in our media training courses for luxury houses, it’s more and more likely that a spokesperson or senior manager will be asked about customer data and the robustness of data systems. Having an answer about this is essential, and we work with our course participants and their PR advisors on how to manage these issues and to ensure that they don’t become the focus of the story that the journalists write.
5. What do you think of your competitors?
We know that the luxury sector is a small and highly competitive market. A new range, product launch or initiative by one company will be carefully observed by others. Journalists will often want to know what the designers and senior managers of a luxury brand think of what the competition is doing. The question may be asked during a lunch, a factory tour, or a press trip. The journalist might even mention it “off the record.” (In our media coaching workshops, the idea – and the reality – of “off the record” is something that we discuss. The fact that our trainers are working journalists in the luxury sector and beyond means that they know what this phrase means in practice.)
A discreet little enquiry about what someone from your company thinks about what another luxury label is doing could result in a quote that causes embarrassment and even something of a furore in the luxury press. Being ready to handle such questions effectively in a polite but firm way can get you out of trouble.
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We wouldn’t want to discourage anyone working in the luxury sector from doing media interviews and talking to journalists. However, as the specialist media training provider for luxury brands, we recommend ensuring that you’re clear on what you do want to say, as well as being ready to avoid these difficult, unhelpful subjects. Most of all, we’d say that anyone who comes into contact with a journalist should have media training – ideally with us.