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Why answering the tough questions is an essential skill for today's CEO

June 11, 2013 by Jonathan Hemus

With interest in and scrutiny of business at an all time high, today’s CEOs must also assume the role of CCO – chief communication officers.  With the value of trust at a premium, corporate reputation management should now be high on the agenda for all business leaders.

This means that the most successful CEOs will be accomplished communicators – not masters of spin, but authentic, passionate leaders with the ability to communicate their messages effectively.  These skills are required in the good times to drive growth and, even more crucially, when engaged in crisis management.

Effective communication cannot be achieved by deciding what you want to say and ignoring the legitimate questions and concerns of your stakeholders.  That’s why I was so interested to read the following Twitter exchange from Simon Neville, one of the Guardian’s business reporters, following an interview with Marks and Spencer CEO Marc Bolland (read from the bottom up):

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When preparing for an interview, my advice is to face your fears and contemplate the five toughest, most unpleasant questions possible and work out your best answers to each of them.  Doing so means you will approach the interview with confidence knowing that in a worst case scenario, you have the ability to handle whatever the journalist may throw at you.

If you’ve done your media training you will also understand that you can’t control a reporter’s questions, only your response to them.  Don’t allow yourself to be riled: an emotional spokesman can lose control of an interview.

Finally, remember to begin your  interview planning by considering the perspective of the people reading the newspaper article: it’s not enough to consider what you want to say – you must double-check that your proposed messages resonate with the ultimate audience.  It’s only by adopting this approach that CEOs will win the trust of their stakeholders and fulfill their potential as CCOs.

Take a look at our video below for more insights on the right place to start planning a presentation (or media interview) or click here to visit our YouTube channel:

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