Friday, March 20, 2009

Is Your CEO Ready for Primetime or Latenight?

The "question of the day:"

Is your CEO or President or top Administrator ready for a one-on-one live interview or press conference, or even a one-on-one interview with a print reporter?

If you do not have an affirmative reply to that question then consider this question:

What do we need to do to get her or him ready?

Let's consider a couple of examples. President Barack Obama hit a home run on Jay Leno's "late night" show, even if he did stick his foot in his mouth once with an insensitive remark comparing his bowling game to Special Olympics. He later apologized.

David Zurawick at the Baltimore Sun compared the President to a relaxed Tony Bennett, selling his economic plan during 35-minutes of prime TV time, watched by millions of everyday Americans. The President was authoritative when he needed to be, comfortably funny when it was appropriate and his self depricating-humor made viewers comfortable with his foray into their bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms.

Never forget, when you are on television or radio, even in a short sound bite in a news story, you are a guest in the listener or viewers' home or car. They will never hear what you say, if they are not comfortable with you in their personal space.

By contrast, go back to January 15 and watch a replay of US Airways CEO Doug Parker following the splashdown of the USAir jet in the Hudson River in New York City. He had a miraculous story to tell, with an unprecedented "happy ending." All he had to do was step up to the microphones and, with a smile on his face, talk about the flight crew that pulled off a never-before successful landing of a passenger jet on water, and everyone survived.

He was wooden and his personality, if he has one, was nowhere to be found. He rushed through his brief remarks and then took off like a CEO of a company that had just done something terrible, instead of something so great. He missed a golden opportunity.

Then, contrast President Obama and USAir CEO Parker to CNBC's Jim Cramer on Comedy Central. Cramer acknowledged some mistakes were made and indicated he and CNBC would do better. So far, so good.

Then Friday (3-20) Cramer was on the NBC Today Show, and according to Eric Deggans' blog The Feed, "In a series of statements that read like they were scripted by his CNBC producers, Cramer offered a defense of the channel that he didn't bother bringing up on The Daily Show, saying Stewart's broadsides were "naive and misleading." For all practical purposes he took back his contrition and pledge to do better.

Which one of these would your CEO come closest to?

What can CEOs do to be ready for Prime Time?

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