Executives and spokespersons expecting difficult or antagonistic questions from aggressive reporters or angry citizens have a new source to help them prepare.
A new training program, “Answering the Toughest Questions,” is now being offered by Eric Mower + Associates’ Reputation Management Services group. The training is based on advanced verbal communications techniques for dealing with problematic or hostile question types such as those most commonly encountered during potentially negative news media interviews or contentious public forums.
EMA’s Reputation Management Services group, a unit of the firm’s Public Relations + Public Affairs practice, has been providing Media Training, Crisis Communications Training, Managing Public Meetings and Governmental Advocacy Training since 1990.
“What all these programs have in common is the spoken word,” explained Stephen Bell, the group’s director. “Preparing and communicating while speaking requires a very different skillset than what most people are used to. A written script is useless in this arena.”
“Regardless of whether you’re speaking to a reporter or at a public meeting, how you look and how you sound while answering questions makes all the difference in whether people understand and believe you,” said Bell.
“This training was designed specifically for anyone who may be required to face tough questions in public,” said Peter Kapcio, the program’s lead trainer. “Make no mistake, this is high-intensity training, intended to prepare people to manage potentially difficult, volatile or embarrassing situations.”
Kapcio offered examples of types of people who the program is designed to help:
• Spokespersons for organizations with high-risk public exposure, such as hospitals, universities, nursing homes, banks and providers of hospitality and food service.
• Top executives and organizational leaders expecting intense media or public scrutiny regarding a proposed project or planned development.
• A company or organization facing exposure on specific environmental or public safety issues.
• A company or organization hoping to recover from a major operational failure or other negative event.
• Seasoned spokespersons or senior executives with better-than-average skills seeking to master higher-level skills.
• Topical experts who must prepare for a supporting spokesperson role at a public hearing.
• Any organization wishing to “test run” key messages and their ability to effectively address an upcoming controversial issue.
“In our work, we’ve witnessed some real horror stories when improperly prepared spokespeople enraged citizens at public meetings or caused reporters to reach a conclusion that a company was up to no good or had done something wrong because they misspoke,” added Greg Loh, EMA’s managing partner of Public Relations + Public Affairs.
“Anyone who doesn’t understand the finer points of answering challenging questions while being observed by the news media or an audience runs a real risk of doing real harm to their company or organization,” Loh continued. “When people question your motives or are predisposed to disbelieve you, it’s dangerously easy to make them angry.
“And once you’ve made people angry, you’ve got really big problems, almost impossible-to-fix problems,” said Loh.
“As prerequisite to our most advanced training program, we prefer trainees to be seasoned individuals, ones that have a solid basic understanding of either media relations or public speaking,” said Bell.“One of our motivations for creating this program came from the constant number of requests from people who’ve previously completed our Media Training and Crisis Communications Training programs. They kept saying ‘we want more’, and ‘give us more’.”
To see how past trainees evaluate EMA’s training, please visit www.mower.com/crisisready and click on “What Others Say.”
The Curriculum of “Answering the Toughest Questions” includes:
• Strategies to take and keep control during an interview or forum
• The six key verbal communication techniques necessary to get your message across
• How to attain maximum clarity by “talking backwards”
• How to spot and then handle the 16 question types used by trained reporters
• How to manage your personal speaking style for maximum credibility