As business becomes ever more global, it is inevitable that more
company spokesmen will find themselves in the international media
spotlight . In order to ensure a strong brand image in front of the
cameras worldwide, it is essential to prepare your spokesmen thoroughly.
So if your people have to face the cameras in Italy, Japan or Australia,
for example, how can you prepare them?
’Issues now travel so fast around the world that companies are
increasingly asking us for more ways to deal with the media in different
countries,’ says Jurgen Togotzes, CEO of Manning Selvage and Lee
Germany. ’We always focus on developing clear strategies and messages
for a global audience and then look at regional differences, in terms of
what we will say to each region, and how we will say it.’
UK operators will also need local input on regional issues and hot
topics, in order to deal effectively with foreign journalists.
While it is vital to get the inside track on who or which programmes are
media-winners in each market, it is also important to understand
potential differences in media landscapes.
For example, Countrywide Porter Novelli director Deborah Green, who
works out of CPN’s Brussels office, says that in France, the media is
strongly regionalised, with the daily national newspapers seen very much
as biased towards Paris. And in Belgium, she says, there is the problem
of two cultures and three languages.
’We recently carried out a promotion for a new Mercedes vehicle using
Belgian celebrities, but the people who are famous in Flanders are not
particularly familiar to people from Wallonia,’ she says.
This extra work-load driven by diversity of cultures and language is
mirrored in the almost federal composition of the likes of Spain and
Switzerland, while in Germany, each of the 18 states has its own TV
The way the media carries out interviews also differs quite radically
Susanne Sperber-Pflaummer, Text 100 Germany general manager, says:
’There is a great emphasis on investigative journalism and informing the
’German journalists rate their professional ethos very highly, so you
won’t get any detailed information about questions before an interview
and they are always very well informed on subjects such as technology,
economics and science,’ she adds.
Mark Rogerson, managing director of Hill Murray Rogerson, adds that the
German media are extremely polite. ’You may well find you are asked to
make a short statement to camera on your position rather than respond to
any question at all,’ he says.
He also believes UK spokespeople may be surprised by the almost
deferential treatment afforded by many Japanese journalists. ’The
interviewer first bows to the camera then, facing the camera, frames his
or her question - in a very polite manner - bows again and hands the
microphone to the interviewee,’ he says. ’The interviewee, who is
sitting next to the interviewer and also facing the camera, bows,
replies to the question and bows again. He or she hands the microphone
back to the interviewer and the process begins again.’
Arial Communications managing director Chris Loosemore, however, warns
that live interviews which have a simultaneous translation can be a
recipe for disaster. ’Translators tend to simplify what is being said
and can completely destroy the meaning of your words, especially if you
are using idioms, such as ’not seeing the wood for the trees’,’ he
Drawing on his ten years’ experience with the BBC in locations around
the globe, Loosemore highlights the need to think laterally, tap into
local culture and work out a means of delivery which will interest the
However, with the speed of electronic communication and the reach of
media giants such as CNN, some suggest these differences will gradually
disappear as TV become more homogeneous.
Medialink consultant Beatrice Hollyer says such changes in global
communication have been at the root of an increasing conformity to the
interview styles of the US journalist.
’You can see the UK catching up with the US, with soundbites getting
shorter,’ she says. ’Ten years ago, you would be given 40 to 45 seconds
to respond to a question. Now, the average is 15 to 20 seconds, so you
can no longer assume you will be able to make your case.’
Hollyer adds that this has led to a change in how people prepare for
their flash of fame in front of the cameras. ’US ’bang, bang in your
face’ reporting has made non-verbal signals very important,’ she says.
’It is vital that people project the right image and say what they have
to say with heartfelt conviction, energy and dynamism.’
Alongside basic media techniques, her organisation coaches clients in
all the skills of projecting warmth and credibility on screen.
’Passion is in body language, so even if a viewer doesn’t understand
what is being said, they believe the spokesperson is a trustworthy and
likeable person,’ she says.
This is the ethos behind most US trainers’ approach to preparing
corporate bigwigs for the media.
Anne Ready, president of California-based Ready For Media, says her
clients are taught to identify one ’SOCO’ (Single Overriding
Communication Objective) they want viewers to remember. They are then
coached to project a natural, confident image whether they are handling
a crisis or launching a new product. ’Anyone who deals with the media
must master the six ’c’s’. They have to be concise, candid,
conversational, correct, compassionate and calm,’ she says.
This is a view echoed by Laura Peck, vice-president of Barry McLoughlin
Associates, based in Washington DC, who adds that many UK practitioners
are caught out by the way US journalists sidle up to a difficult
’What most surprises UK clients is how casually US interviewers ask
killer questions, despite sounding so casual. And they are very
Wherever in the world you are trying to get your message across, media
training can help overcome potential ’translation’ difficulties. The
proliferation of media globally means it has never been more crucial to
understand your audience.
SPOKESPERSONALITY: HOW NATO’S SHEA APPEALED TO THE MEDIA
When NATO began its bombing crusade against Serbia on 24 March, the
global media spotlight fell on its spokesman, Jamie Shea.
He had some tough messages to deliver and his performance in front of
the cameras has been scrutinised far and wide. This is not a situation
many would envy - Shea had to balance openness with journalists against
NATO’s needs for military security. He also had to take the heat for a
number of NATO foul-ups, including the bombing of the Chinese
But above all, Shea was placed in the unforgiving eye of live TV and
asked to justify NATO’s position to an often hostile media.
So what advice would the professionals have given the NATO spokesman at
the outset of the Kosovo crisis? The answer is that not many would have
Shea himself has admitted that in the first month of the campaign, such
advice was desperately sought and gratefully received.
In an interview with the Sunday Times last month, he said: ’NATO had
never done this kind of operation before and I really needed help. I
thought I might be sacked, but instead Downing Street and the White
House got together and agreed I needed some serious support’ - a
decision no doubt influenced by such gaffes as Shea’s infamous
’collateral damage’ description of civilian fatalities.
This support was delivered in the shape of Alastair Campbell, who Shea
credits with helping to monitor the media and sorting out his office’s
relationship with the military to establish better quality briefing.
After a shaky start, these moves saw Shea’s credibility rating rise and
his own profile take on celebrity status. And while some of the British
media have been rather side-tracked by his ’East-end boy done good’
credentials, Shea’s approach has by and large been viewed as a welcome
breath of fresh air.
’He has a sense of humour, he’s risque, and that’s great,’ says media
defence expert and managing director of MDA, Mike Dewar. ’He has brought
NATO alive and put a human face to it, but he is also hugely informative
to the public and has secured good damage limitation.’
Shea also meets the criteria of being knowledgable and passionate about
his subject. ’It’s been a learning curve,’ says Media Interviews
managing director Hugo Brooke. ’Once he got into his stride, he kept his
eye on the big picture that NATO’s argument was with President
Milosevic, not the Serbs, and managed to squash possible stories of
disharmony within the alliance.’
In bringing grim reality into people’s living rooms, Shea has drawn on
imagery from far and wide, comparing Milosevic to Pol Pot and Al
It is a technique which has come in for both praise and criticism, but
most agree his earthy style has engaged his audience worldwide. ’He
opted to be himself, which is the best advice I’d give anybody’ says
VOICE TRAINING: HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LARYNX
While current training programmes may focus on presentation and message,
one company is teaching business people how to develop the most
fundamental tool of communication - the voice.
London-based company Professional Voice, founded in 1997, runs courses
in ’voice coaching’. While effective vocal delivery is vital for
executives in corporate communications, it is only recently that voice
skills have been taught in the business world.
Even proficient public speakers can benefit from learning about ’pitch,
pace and pause’ and how to keep an audience interested.
I was invited to take part in an individual programme, a course which
takes place over several weeks. In the first lesson, I was given a voice
assessment by Madeleine Cannon, principal voice coach at Professional
Voice, a RADA-trained actor and drama teacher, to identify my strengths
Posture, stance and breathing are covered in the lesson - basic, but
crucial in a stressful situations like public speaking. Tensing up
results in the voice being constricted.
Over the series of lessons, we worked on developing my resonance - when
the voice is produced from the chest and not the back of the throat; and
pitch - exploring the full range of the voice. Tapes and worksheets were
provided by Professional Voice to practise at home. By the end, I know I
still have a lot to practise, but the idea of putting the skills into
use in front of a real audience is exciting rather than daunting.
While the benefits of individual coaching are obvious for those who
often speak in public, there are a surprising number of other uses for
these skills. In the two years since it began, Professional Voice has
provided training for everything from sales to internal communications
departments . Programmes can be given to groups over a three-day
There are also courses for non-native English speakers. The emphasis in
the training is not on conforming to a specific accent, but about making