Opinion sells. What reporter would want to speak with an executive who only offers facts they can read on the company’s website?
Of course, the reputational issues at stake for executives or a firm seeking media exposure are often complex. It is the reason why companies go out of their way to have smart corporate messaging in place to communicate with stakeholders.
So, is there room for opinion when speaking with media?
Sharing opinions with media can be a delicate line to walk for executives, in particular CEOs, as they may see their views get picked up instantly by social media – verbatim, possibly lacking appropriate context, or inaccurately paraphrased – impacting market opinion or the firm’s reputation.
Controversial opinions, whether attributed directly or indirectly to a spokesperson, can lead to undesirable or ill-timed coverage potentially upsetting clients, business partners, investors, or colleagues. They can generate ideas for interesting follow-up stories, or reporters may see potential to uncover darker subject matter.
Truthfully, reporters are not alone in this. PR professionals are just as enthusiastic about charismatic executives who bring refreshing, intelligent and provocative perspectives to conversations.
So, what would be sound advice to give to a CEO or executive talking to media? Consider:
- Use opinionated views wisely and sparingly to support the facts and key insights that were the drivers for the conversation.
- There’s no need to chime in on every topical issue if over-exposure can diminish the value of an executive’s perspectives.
- For heads of global businesses, consider how strong views may resonate with the firm’s audiences in different regions.
- Think about whether it is the right time to create a buzz. Company stakeholders don’t like surprises!
- Remember you are representing the company. Restrain yourself from letting personal views flow into conversations if they don’t align with the corporate voice.
- Finally, explore with the firm’s communications team potentially controversial and differentiated perspectives you bring, if and how they can be relevant to market discussions, and how to convey them with clarity. Are they helpful to driving thought leadership around topical issues, generating a constructive dialogue, or building visibility with prospective business partners?
Needless to say, speaking with media takes practice and sound judgment. Weigh in with opinions if additive to the discussion and in support of goals to differentiate the firm.
-Katrin C. Lieberwirth