By Margery Myers, Executive Communications Consultant

As a senior leader you may be spending the least amount of time communicating with the people who offer the most reward.  I’m talking about the time you spend speaking to the media, and through the media, your customers and the public.  As an executive coach who has advised CEOs for 20 years, I know your schedule is already more than full.

But today, both the media and the public believe they should have access to the top of the company.  In the past, they have generally gone through other people -- sales, customer service, and PR.  Social media and the web have profoundly changed that dynamic.

Today, dissatisfied consumers don’t have to wait for a call from the sales rep or a letter from customer service.   They can complain online and their post is instantly viewable and searchable around the world…forever.  All consumers are now journalists, except they don’t have to play by the rules of journalism—like checking facts or giving you a deadline for their story.

Journalists can’t play by the old rules of journalism either.  They no longer have one deadline a day…they have a deadline every hour.  It’s a recipe for reputational reward or disaster.

Here are five tips for building a relationship with these high-reward, high-risk audiences.

  1. Dedicate people in your organization who can help you leverage the tools of today to speak effectively to the media and the public.  The more you know, the more empowered you feel and the better results you’ll see.
  2. Prepare for media interviews and even social media like podcasts with the same thoroughness that you prepare for investor meetings.  That way you’ll feel confident and prepared and be able to explain difficult concepts in a straightforward way.    
  3. Reach out personally and directly to consumers and journalists through social media.  In this day and age, they expect you to be accessible.
  4. Be authentic.  Generic language and sanitized corporate speak don’t cut it with these audiences.
  5. Stay out front when an issue arises.  People are more willing to forgive if you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to fix it.

If you’d like more tips on communicating effectively with external audiences, download our special reports and articles, and check out the CEO Center

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