Why aren’t senior executives trusted?

Why aren’t senior executives trusted?

Media training is personal. It is about shunning the cookie cutter approach and forging close partnerships with the executives and organisations with which we work. They are relationships based on trust and an acceptance that no one is invulnerable.

Media training isn’t just essential for the tough times: it’s called into play on a daily basis. It’s just as much about fully seizing the opportunity of a great announcement as it is about defending against criticism.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it: the broadcast interview is always a testing environment. It’s the media’s turf: not yours. The odds are always stacked in favour of the journalist. But being prepared will help you grab some of those odds back.


And media engagement is no longer just a planned interview in a TV studio or a sit down with a reporter: it is anyone with a smartphone; an ill-judged comment when you thought the mic was off; a rash social media post.

Developing, building and maintaining an authentic and trusted senior leadership voice has never been tougher. Trust in corporate leaders has never been so low.

That is damaging, not least because it comes at a time when the CEO voice is more crucial than ever to corporate image and purpose. CEOs are the embodiment of their companies. What they say, how and where they say it, as well as what they don’t say, can instantly translate to the bottom line. Just ask Elon Musk.

So, why aren’t senior executives trusted? I think much of the blame is bad media training. Too often media training has been formulaic and over cautious, whitewashing the personalities of industry leaders to make them look and sound the same, issuing jargon-laden platitudes that lack the compelling narratives which make a connection.

Talking the way humans talk to each other is simply trained out of them.

Good training builds on leaders’ unique personal capital and ensures it comes across every time their voice is heard. To achieve that is and ensure it is intuitive relies on significant live newsroom experience. It involves working closely to make spokespeople and executives comfortable in addressing the media however tough the questioning.

If the job is done well they leave a session with tools to better be who they are in every media engagement.

Central to that view of media training is the increasingly international and borderless communications world.

Media training needs to be carried out with the world in the mind – not just a target market. What will work in New York may be a mistake in Saudi Arabia. The right time in the UK might be the worst moment in China.

Global awareness is an essential communications priority in the digital world. Specific markets cannot be ignored but they rarely exist in isolation.

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Often it is not about playing it safe. Over caution leads to bland. Bland leads to forgettable at best; evasive at worst. The confidence that comes with a strong media training partnership allows CEOs and communicators to talk with flair, transparency and engagement about their business.

Open and honest is what any good relationship looks like. It is no different when it comes to the media.

Simon Harrison is MSL’s media training lead. He is former senior international news director with over two decades’ experience in some of the world’s biggest and most influential newsrooms. Simon made a career of giving some of the world’s senior executives a tough time. Now he works on the other side of the camera.



Simon Harrison

Senior Director

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