How Media-Ready is your candidate? – Puseletso Mompei

By Puseletso Mompei

Communication and Media skills were once thought of as a nice-to-have for Managers, Corporate Executives and other business leaders. Those who were blessed with the ‘gift of the gab’ were as happy to address shareholders as they were to appear on the evening news business segment. Meanwhile those who didn’t want much exposure could afford to shy away.

But times have changed. 24 hour news cycles have made the media hungrier, coupled with internet and social networking-driven exposure, executives can be easily ‘Googled’ and called on to be part of conversations happening in the public arena in multimedia platforms ranging from online webinars, to radio, print and television interviews

As an HR practitioner, it can sometimes be difficult to assess whether candidates are ready for the new responsibilities of having a more public profile.

Tips on how to assess media readiness:

Prior experience

A candidate who has been exposed to the media in the form of past interviews or providing information or opinion, has an advantage when they step into a more senior position which turns the spotlight on them. Familiarity with the media allows candidates to engage more effectively and comfortably than those who find this space totally alien.

Have they undergone any training or coaching?

Many sectors, such a technology and finance emphasize highly technical or specialized skills, and over time professionals in these areas develop a great understanding and aptitude for the complexities of a specific industry. However, they are then faced with a serious shortcoming from lacking skills such as communications and media relations, which often come into play at more senior levels where they have to account to broader, more diverse audiences. Individuals with specialized or technical backgrounds benefit greatly from a systematic introduction and explanation of the media and communications landscape.

Do they have a grasp of how they fit in?

Some appointees often underestimate how much weight their voice carries with a more senior position, and may be unprepared for how closely tied they are to a company’s reputation, and even share price. Having an in depth understanding of the different audiences he/she now addresses- ranging from consumers to government and competitors- as well as knowing the different ways they can interact with him/her, such as via twitter or call in radio shows, allows senior staff members to be more strategic in how they conduct themselves and business.

What is their grasp of media fundamentals?

Some people have a natural ability to speak in front of the camera or microphone, but are they savvy enough to know when to reject an interview? Do they understand what being ‘off the record’ implies? Would they be able to lead at a time when there is a Communications Crisis? Understanding how they and their company fit into a broader context will allow a manager or leader to anticipate opportunities, and address challenges far more astutely.

Puseletso Mompei is a Communications Consultant and Trainer. She offers Communications and Media training for corporate executives, spokespersons, managers, entrepreneurs, government officials, diplomats, academia and public relations officers. Contact her at [email protected], or visit www.kwazicommunications.co.za for further information.