FOCUS: MEDIA TRAINING - Reaching out to a global audience/The increasingly global nature of the business world has seen the need for PROs to learn the art of international spokesmanship

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?

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

between nations.

Susanne Sperber-Pflaummer, Text 100 Germany general manager, says:

’There is a great emphasis on investigative journalism and informing the

public here.

’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

local people.

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

persistent,’she says.

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.


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



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

and weaknesses.

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

yourself understood.

Jennifer Whitehead.

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