Are You Prepared to Meet The Press?

by Walt Laskos, The Laskos Group

What if your credit union experienced a data compromise affecting thousands of your members? And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Channel 4 shows up and they want to talk to you, on- camera, about its broad-reaching impact and the factors that contributed to the compromise.

What if you’re on the road and your assistant is frantically paging you. It seems a reporter from the Times has been calling the credit union asking for you. The reporter wants your comments about some derogatory remarks one of your employees made on Facebook about the President and his re-election?

What if you’ve just attended the local monthly Rotary meeting and as you are leaving the restaurant you are approached by a business reporter from KTZ-Radio News. He’s working on a story about consumers steadily moving their accounts from Bank of America to credit unions. Finally, you think here’s your opportunity to seize the spotlight and promote the benefits of your credit union and its many innovative products and services. As the reporter walks closer you recognize him. He’s the one with the notorious reputation for his adverse style of interviewing. Your heart sinks and you consider turning down the interview and fleeing the scene.

Think any of these what-if scenarios would never happen to you? Well, think again.

The world just saw life turned upside down for millions in New Jersey and New York. Scores upon scores of credit unions were forced into business contingency by Hurricane Sandy and I’m willing to bet a lot of CEOs and credit union executives thought such a widespread disaster would never happen to them. We now know better, and doesn’t our heart go out to them.

If there’s ever one thing—besides taxes and death—that we can be certain of, it’s this: in today’s world anything is possible. Acknowledging that reality and taking prudent steps now to always be prepared for the what ifs can be a lifesaver, not only for your career as an executive but for the reputation of your credit union as well.

During my 20-plus years in communications and public relations, I’ve learned a great deal. One lesson experience taught me is that engaging the news media is one of those what-if scenarios that need not be viewed as a painful encounter. In fact, with training and practice, engaging the news media can be an exciting and awarding venture, well worth its weight in gold.

Such an adventure begins with your understanding of and attitude towards the news media. I find far too many credit union CEOs and executives avoiding the news media rather than engaging it for the benefits it can bring. I suspect they may have a lot of reasons for doing so, like not wanting to be on TV or believing that the reporter is only going to misquote them so why bother at all.

Honestly, such reasons don’t hold water with me, especially in an age shaped by instant communications from both the social and electronic media, and where every organization and company is competing to make its message known. In today’s over-saturated media marketplace, I can’t think of a better way than to tap the power of the news media to complement and further expand your marketing efforts. And, unlike advertising, it’s free! You got that . . . right? It’s FREE!

Understanding how the news media works and fixing your sights on ways to be proactive in attracting news coverage can more than double the value you currently experience after paying all those dollars in advertising and issuing the occasional news release to the local media.

To help you get out of the starting gate in building your strategy for working with the news media, here are three handy tips to follow.

Tip #1recognize the value of news coverage

If your credit union is currently in the papers or on radio and television, I’m willing to bet the only reason it’s there is because you shelled out a lot of money to advertise.

Ever consider tapping the news media simply to promote your credit union and its reputation in the community? Achieving free space in a newspaper or free airtime where someone who is not on your payroll is talking about your credit union in a positive way, are truly more valuable than advertising.

With advertising, what would I expect you to say? You’re always going to pitch a positive message about yourself, right? But, when someone not on the payroll talks about you in a positive way, it’s seen as third party testimony; more believable; more valuable.

Although such exposure is free and won’t cost you a penny, it still comes with a price. You cannot control what the reporter or consumer will say or write. You can have an influence, but you cannot control the final outcome and this is what gives this exposure such value.

Acknowledging that value, learning how to influence interview opportunities and seeking them out are essential to embrace if you are to move forward across the starting line.

Tip #2learn how to become media-genic

When you look good appearing in pictures because you know how to pose, dress and face the camera, you’re said to be photogenic.

Becoming media-genic is all about knowing how to look and perform for the news media. It not only accounts for the way you look, dress and act when being interviewed, it also includes what you say and how you say it, skilled in delivering your main message points to the audience in soundbites.

Being media-genic not only heightens your chance for doing a successful interview, it also makes you stand out to the reporter. It establishes you as an authority, someone the reporter will be eager to turn to again for expert commentary and insights.

So you ask, how does one become media-genic? Try working with a media trainer.

Training and practice are the key elements that will build your personal confidence and deliver success in your dealings with the news media. In working with a media trainer, you’ll begin to learn how the news media thinks and works. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the wide-range of issues involved in doing news interviews and being in the media such as developing your key message points, and how to block and bridge when asked a question you prefer not to answer. For TV appearances, you’ll learn where to look; what to wear so you stand out rather than fade into the background; how to warm up your voice; and, for many of us, how to manage those butterflies leading up to the moment you go LIVE. Media training is an investment in yourself and an investment for your credit union.

Tip #3don’t walk away from news interviews; Run to them!

Once you understand how the media thinks and works, you’ll become more adept at pitching your stories to them. And, once reporters and journalists see how well you perform—responding to their questions, listing reasons that support your opinions, providing visuals that further enliven the exchange—the more they’ll see you as an authority in your field, as someone who will deliver a good interview, as someone they’ll want to tap again on topics discussing financial products and services. Suddenly, your credit union’s name and what you’re about become known by more and more people in the community.

Remember, as the chief ambassador of your credit union, sharing your views and insights on news programs and in the press will garner visibility for you and your credit union that advertising cannot buy. CUNA’s chief executive, Bill Cheney, recognizes this and that’s why he’s frequently in front of a national TV audience sharing his views on credit unions. Paul Gentile, the CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League, is another example of someone who recognizes the value of the news media, having appeared many times in newspaper articles, on radio and on television news programs in the number one market in the country.

While your role as a CEO or a credit union executive might not require you to be in the news as much as Bill Cheney or Paul Gentile, you do have a responsibility to be prepared to face the journalist or the reporter’s TV camera should an event occur at your credit union that attracts media attention. Remember, in today’s world, anything is possible. Being prepared ahead of time will prove to be your ace in-the-hand, and participating in a media training presentation or workshop will deal that ace to you. Then, of course, once you’re been trained, you can apply those newfound skills to expand your marketing efforts by proactively pitching the news media and seeking out interview opportunities.

It all begins by recognizing the value of news coverage, learning to become media-genic and then running toward those interview opportunities! It’s a strategy worth pursuing, one designed to strengthen your marketing initiatives and further distinguish you and your credit union within the community.

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos, C.U.D.E., M. Div., is editor-in-chief of CUNA’s monthly flagship publication, Credit Union Magazine. He is a DE (Development Educator) with a background spanning more ... Web: Details