A few years ago, I received a second round of media training. The first time I completed media training was in the early 1990s while a corporal in the Army, and it was basically about not saying anything that would bring the Army into disrepute. The second round of media training was delivered by someone who was very skilled in the area. It was the same media training our politicians receive and it was designed to help me get the message out about my books; and to stay on message regardless of the interviewer’s angle, their questions or probes on other defence issues.
Listening to politicians now, it’s clearly obvious that they’ve all had this media training. Some politicians are very good at it and some are bad but they’re good enough to bumble through and stay on message. The problem is, you all know it, the interviewers know it and the politicians know it. The interviewers are playing games to trip up the politicians and the politicians are sticking to a narrative. Messaging is their business, because messaging helps them be re-elected and it’s safe.
Modern media training doesn’t support authentic leadership. When leaders are asked questions by interviewers, sometimes hard questions; their tendency to stay on message and to avoid the question creates frustration and suspicion. The various different ministers are simply carbon copies of each other. Their “position” is emailed to them by their parties Chief of Staff after the early morning think tank. Each minister, it seems, is void of personality and unique perspective.
“But let me just say this.” This is the catch cry of the political leader who is running down the clock simply to get the message across and not deviate from today’s talking points.
In your own leadership journey, think about how this type of messaging is received by your subordinates.
Of course, it’s important to deliver messages, this is how a leader describes a journey that they are taking their team on, but it’s also important for a leader to be authentic when conveying information. When addressing a team, be prepared for the tricky questions; or the points that you know are contentious. If you sidestep the hard issues to stay on another message the team will just make up their own answers, in their own time.