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CEOs ONLY: 4 rules for national media interviews

By June 22, 2011March 11th, 2013No Comments

W2M’s COPE methodology nails better investor value in each interview

Television and video segments create value for a long period of time–they showcase the company and do more than just inform, they also sustain credibility for years. Video interviews are also tough to live down when they go wrong.

Write2Market’s investor relations team preps our CEOs to handle any kind of interview, and you can see from their performances on national television they came to us with tremendous skill already–and it’s our privilege to polish it.

The successful CEO on camera

What I find with transparent, intelligent, passionate CEOs is they make a few of the same mistakes and they’re easy to correct.

Here are the four rules for CEOs–if you do these things, you can be sure the interview opportunity is building investor value big time.

The memory device for these rules is COPE.

CEO media relations rule #1


Executive pace is even, calm, collected and unflappable. A measured pace–think Walter Kronkite reading the news–OOZES “I’m capable and so is my company.” It’s POWERFUL. Many execs, especially innovative and enterpreneurial ones, are too fast, flighty and uber-energetic. That doesn’t play well. Your “SOLID” feel is an asset. (PS: see me on Inc. Magazine: I have to work on this one myself!)

CEO media relations rule #2


DON’T change your openness. You are naturally open and trusting. You are a connector of people and ideas. Your transparent comments communicate in a “real” way to people who have been oversold. I know your legal department and your CFO are chapping your hide on this and have a long list of things you can’t discuss, but lead with your gut on this point. Trust your instincts. If it’s not NDA, you can share it–you’re the CEO and the company’s vision and its communication ARE YOUR PRIMARY MANDATE.

CEO media relations rule #3


POINT one is “big sandbox.” If you communicate one thing well, this is it. So most CEOs– DO change your first POINT. Most CEOs are asked, and will always be asked in the first couple questions, to tell how your company “fits in.” That question can sound like this:

  • which market do you serve?
  • who are your biggest customers?
  • what do you do?
  • tell us about “your company?”

You can get this SANDBOX question in any number of ways.

  • First, recognize it.
  • Second, go for the BIGGEST SANDBOX.

You do that concisely by giving the biggest number that is truthful. Then clarify that number however you like.


So, I would suggest you always answer the SANDBOX questions like this example from a recent live interview:

JOURNALIST: So how do you compare to “competitor” and other companies that do “your thing?”
YOU: “Over a billion dollars in business flows through our platform every *month for companies like (name big client.)”

Another option:

JOURNALIST: So how do you compare to “competitor” and other companies that do “your thing?”
YOU: “We are the only company that leads in (hedgehog!), and that’s why companies like (key client) rely on our (product).”

CEO media relations rule #4


This is how you answer the question most CEOs hate about the competition or their industry.

It hits you like this, drawn from an interview I watched last week for one of our clients:


CEO SAMPLE ANSWER (first broadens question)

“THERE ARE THREE TESTS OF E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS: SCALE, STABILITY and SIMPLICITY. So you bring up the world of opensource or community-sourced e-commerce, and that’s not very SIMPLE. Platforms like SHOPVISIBLE however…

The technique to handle this competitive landscape issue is called BROADENING the scope of the question. Try not to mention your competition by name, and if you do, mention at least two more companies along with them so your comments cannot be misconstrued as inflammatory or libel.

I think it’s handy to think in 3’s. When you talk about just one competitor, like MAGENTO, you create potential issues. But if you go BROAD, you will find it’s very hard for legal or others to get hands on you.

Follow up your broadening tactic with a mini story (a case study) if you have time. Like this, “To illustrate how important scale is, when Vapour Beauty went on Oprah… To illustrate how important SIMPLE is, when Office Depot wanted to put all of Canada on one platform in three months…”

CEO as media relations artisan

Investor relations mean vision

For media, start large and go small. You may be serving small companies mostly but that’s not the point. Journalists are into soundbites because that is how they grab audience attention to read the depth of the story. It’s not bad, it’s just reality. Your true audience WILL read at depth because they care about your subject like you do, so this fact isn’t even working against you. Use the medium. Become a media artisan.

Media relations analysts love

Another broadening approach for you numbers and analyst minded CEOs– think of the Cartesian coordinate system and the x/y axis, just quad 1. Think of the two axes you like to be compared on–is it PRICE and FEATURE SET? Is it SERVICE and INNOVATION? Pick your two favorite, outstanding items, and then rank all your competitors on those items so that you are clearly the “top right” of the quad–max value. Share this illustration with journalists. It’s killer. : )

Your [intlink id=”80″ type=”page”]public relations agency[/intlink] should put that together for you!

Seriously, I hope these 4 rules have helped you COPE (memory device!) with your next national interview in ways that make you both more comfortable and more communicative at the highest level. Drop me a note and let me know what you think.