I’m pleasantly surprised each time I witness the transformation.  It begins with a CEO’s first experience with PR.  Whether it’s an interview with an industry analyst or top reporter, a presentation at a major show, or participation on a panel as a speaker, he or she is usually nervous about what to say and how to act.  They might spend hours reading briefing documents and practicing in front of colleagues.  The company might even consider expensive outside resources to help prepare the boss.

Can a CEO successfully navigate his or her first PR experience without spending big bucks on media training or devoting hours to practicing the perfect response? The answer is yes!  CEOs can find their comfort zones to handle any PR interview or speaking engagement including Forrester Research, PC Mag and CES without burning resources.   The secret is simple: he or she knows more about the company and market than virtually anyone else, including press and analysts.  What’s important is to understand that, these days, what makes news is often skewed more toward scandal and controversy than the facts.

Given this environment, even a PR savvy CEO can have a hard time keeping an interview focused on the topic.  Without the proper strategy, the boss could be confronted with providing answers to proprietary or controversial questions.  So consider these tips the next time you secure a high-profile interview or speaking engagement:

  1. Demeanor is everything. The biggest factor to ensure a successful outcome is a calm and cool exterior.  Remember, the CEO is the expert and should appear happy to share  thoughts on a variety of relevant topics.
  2. Create Boundaries.  The CEO is under no obligation to disclose information to unanticipated questions on proprietary matters; however, these sometimes awkward moments can often be defused with honesty, respect and even humor.
  3. Be a Resource.  The audience is seeking information regarding current/future industry trends and best practices.  The CEO can be perceived as a thought leader and a long-term resource by providing information based on his or her experiences.  Avoid using marketing hyperbole and grandiose verbiage.

Placing the CEO front and center for high profile interviews and speaking engagements can present risks such as inaccurate or negative articles.  But, if done correctly, it could also position the company for long-term success.