Recently, my eightand 10-year-old children came to me and said, "Mom. We can't watch our favorite show. There's something on the TV about the channel not being available anymore. Are we in trouble?" Upon further inspection, I learned that DirectTV was in a pricing dispute with Viacom and had taken their channels off the air until it was resolved. What fascinated me about the communication approach being used by DirectTV was the short video that was playing over and over again. The star of the clip was DirectTV's own CEO, Mike White. Here's the clip: http://youtu.be/iqfTbB6soW8.
Executives: Are You Ready for Prime Time?
What struck me was the ease and on-camera confidence White displayed. The video itself is short, simple, and well-shot. But more important, White clearly comes across well -- and that can't be faked. In this time of transparency, where social media is the "new normal," I think executives should pay heed to what's coming their way; an expectation that they need to a) be good on camera, and, b) available to jump in front of one on a minute's notice. In fact, I foresee a future where, much like the American presidential race, the ability to speak in sound bites and leverage the spotlight will outweigh to some degree the ability to do the job. It's a sobering reality, but one that should be embraced instead of ignored. Here's why.
The King's Speech -- Radio Was the Original Social Media Revolution
In the epic movie, The King's Speech, we saw firsthand how radio forced a king to step up his ability to speak to his people. Radio was a form of social media that revolutionized communicating with the masses. Radio broadcasting brought a new level of responsibility for high-level officials with respect to being able to speak well. Fast forward to today and ask yourself: "Are social media tools like YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook any different?" They are no longer a novelty, but rather, important messaging tools used to spread the word and affect the opinions of millions and millions of people. In short, Mike White's approach is one we will see more and more of.
3 Ways Executives Can Prepare for This New Reality
In my executive branding practice, c-suite clients are encouraged to develop their camera savvy. I start by telling them to use Skype, Google Hangouts, and any other video-based conferencing tool they can -- as much as they can. In my experience, the more "air-time" executives get on these basic video-conferencing resources, the better. Not only do they get over the technology learning-curve of using them, but, as they get comfortable talking on-camera, they find it easier to adjust their style and approach to a point where they feel highly effective in this medium.
My second piece of advice is to have them purchase an inexpensive HD web camera and use it to record themselves answering questions. Just like mock-interviewing can help prepare a job seeker, the same technique can help an executive prepare for their day in the video spotlight. Finally, I encourage executives to search YouTube for video clips of top CEOs. High-profile executives have extensive resources behind them, including on-camera stylists and voice coaches. Pay attention to what they are wearing, what they are doing with their hands, how much facial expression they are displaying, what type of voice tone and pace they are using, as well as other key elements of their presentation. It's not hard to pick up small nuances to effectively communicating via video that can be incorporated into your own on-camera presence.
The sooner an executive develops their ability to jump on camera to comfortably and confidently share their views, the more likely they are to be selected for high-profile positions and to be the spokesperson in moments of incredible visibility. Don't make your first "live" video moment be one where you are unprepared to make a good impression. The likelihood of it being something critical (i.e. damage control, communications spin), is high, while your ability to knock it out of the park will be low.