These days it is almost unthinkable that anyone in the C-Suite would not have done some form of media coaching.
But it’s not always appreciated that leaders in companies and organisations can get much more out of these sessions than just mastering how to handle a media interview.
High-level insightful communication coaching is a strategic tool that can help CEOs define the direction and values of their business and actually help shape their leadership.
FINDING THAT LIGHT BULB MOMENT
It’s not uncommon during a good coaching session for a senior executive who is challenged to define and distil their corporate story to experience something of a light bulb moment that can change the way they talk about their own business.
For example, working with executives from one of the discount supermarket chains, the whole bargain price proposition was put through rigorous questioning in a series of role-play scenarios.
Their lowest-price USP had served the business well, appealing to low income families in times of austerity. But it was time for a new direction. The brief was to explore and stress-test a new narrative that would reach a very different kind of customer.
Unbeatable value was at the heart of their story, but could their bargain proposition be elevated to reach upmarket customers? Was it possible to see Range Rovers, Mercedes and Audis in the car park of the cheapest store in town?
Cue a story of award-winning champagne, a range of fine wines chosen by 2000 tasters, deluxe whole lobster and a 1kg serrano ham complete with traditional wooden stand and specialist ham knife.
All of a sudden bargain basement became the smart place to shop. One where savvy hosts of weekly book clubs and supper parties proudly revealed where they got the Saint Emillion Grand Cru or a Barolo for under £12.
GOOD LEADERS TELL A GOOD STORY
It’s ultimately about story telling. Leaders who do it well increase their chances of commercial success. That is why some of the UK’s best-known communicators, such as Alan Leighton and Justin King, just so happen to be some of the most successful business leaders.
The critical question is not so much what you do, but why you do it. When coaching the senior team at one of the leading mobile phone brands, the story wasn’t so much about how many million megapixels the camera had, but that most young people no longer own a camera and the photographic capability of their phone is a lifestyle essential.
WHY, WHAT, SO WHAT?
By drilling down to the fundamentals that underpin any business, then talking about not just the features of the business but also the benefits, you discover the True North of your business.
It is important to master the tried and tested techniques to improve the delivery of any message but by far the most important element of great communication is the message itself.
Great storytelling can grow businesses, strengthen value and build and protect reputation.
Great storytelling is remembered and acted upon – as an old American Indian proverb says: “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”