Don't become the story

Jose Dos Santos, the CEO of Cell C, is in the news for all the wrong reasons, and despite any positive moves the company might be making in terms of leadership, managed to make the cardinal error of becoming the story himself.

I don’t presume to know how much media exposure or experience Mr. Dos Santos has, his preparation techniques, or how exactly he wasn’t able to realise that when you’re in the hole, stop digging. It does however highlight something many executives take for granted – the importance of practicing again, and again, and again and never becoming complacent ahead of what you might think to be an ‘easy’ interview.

There is no such thing as an ‘easy’ interview. Certainly, when speaking to an investigative journalist you can expect a different line of questioning from that of a lifestyle based interview, but the important thing is to prepare as well as you would for a real grilling, as for what you might think to be a walk in the park.

We are all familiar with the quote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, and this is something that as communication practitioners responsible for molding corporate images, we should never forget. Any situation in which the company is being represented by a spokesperson, should be viewed as an opportunity. The most successful spokespeople are the ones who take as seriously an informal coffee meet and greet, as they would a live interview on BBC.

Preparing your messages, practicing the tone and line you want to take in the interview, and most importantly knowing beforehand what you want to audience to remember, can never be done enough. Not leaving anything to chance means you will have far more control of the conversation and outcomes, use the opportunity to drive home the message, and as happened in this case, hopefully not become the story.