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When the Headline is You

October 25th, 2010 / 7:00 am

Every day I apply skills that I have acquired from the several mentors with whom I’ve been fortunate to associate during my career. When it comes to the art of media training – one of the core services of PR that I enjoy the most – over the years I have prepared several hundred leaders in North America and Asia for interview encounters with journalists. There’s no doubt that I would have never been able to develop this track record absent my proximity to the great Jeff Ansell, the legendary former news anchor from my home town of Toronto, Canada.

In the early 1990s, Jeff ran the media training practice at our old public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton Canada. During those formative years, I watched in awe as Jeff would mesmerize often petrified executives with his oratory and his on-camera prowess. While sometimes visibly shaken about what Jeff would do to them playing an aggressive journalist in interview simulations (and he sure played rough!), all of them left the room indelibly engraved with the mark of Jeff’s training excellence. As a young 20-something executive, I was fortunate to learn by osmosis from this master of the communications craft.

Fast-forward to 2008, when I was back in Canada re-connecting with friends and family after 14 years overseas. Jeff called to let me know he had written a book about media training, and asked me to read an early copy of When the Headline is You and provide opinions. At first when I flipped through the draft, I was concerned that Jeff – who would never share his training decks electronically lest their precious content fall into ‘the wrong hands’ – was releasing the ‘secret sauce’ of media relations. Sort of like KFC disclosing Colonel Sanders’ confidential recipe, or Coca-Cola revealing the ingredients of their proprietary formula. But as I plowed through the pages, I realized what a wonderful service Jeff would be providing a large community of readers by transparently sharing with them the same wisdom and experience from which I had so richly benefited over the years.

Jeff just launched the book, and I recommend it without reservation (especially for PR students and as a refresher for long-time media relations professionals looking for some original perspective). I can’t put it any better than I did on the back cover:

When the Headline is You is the world’s most sophisticated yet sensible guide to making the most of journalist interactions.”

Congratulations to my old friend on becoming a published author of a great PR book.

Categories: media relations
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Public speaking and media training

November 2nd, 2009 / 3:57 pm

Ever since my team won a high school debating tournament way back in 1982, there’s something I have just loved about standing up on my feet and speaking about any range of topics in front of audiences. Especially when I am trying to persuade people of something or close the sale of winning a new business pitch, wild horses usually can’t keep me away from finding a chance to speak.

Now, most people are somewhat leery about public speaking, many are downright afraid of doing an interview with a journalist. Me, I simply enjoy the thrill of it all. Any normal person is going to feel nervous to some extent in front of an audience (or a reporter with an audience), but how awful if we let this small little organ called the adrenaline gland come between us and the successful achievement of our purposes. For me, I try and channel the adrenaline so it fuels my performance in front of a microphone or on a stage.

Since the early 1990s, I found that I could apply the lessons I‘ve learned through my own experiences to the training of several hundred executives in North America (United States and Canada) and North Asia (Japan and Korea) in:

  • conducting effective media interviews
  • crisis communications preparation and response
  • presentation and speech delivery

Probably one of the hardest sessions I ever did was in June 2008, with professional racing drivers on a Nissan team. It was hard because normally I was accustomed to coaching fancy business executives, but these were ‘regular guys’ and I had to completely change the tonality and the manner of the session.

It goes to show that the trainer needs to keep getting trained to stay sharp, as I did here a few years ago before a TV interview in Korea:

Categories: work
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