This Leader Can Handle the Pressure of the Press. Can You?

"Know your message. Respect your audience. Be authentic."  

That's what media expert Ashley Russo shows people how to do when she's leading a workshop or coaching clients on how to handle the media.

And that's why BB&T reached out to Ashley.

When BB&T, one of the largest financial services holding companies in the U.S., merged with other banks in the spring of 2016, regional presidents were called on to deliver the message.  The regional presidents were in the best position to talk about the transition to customers in their communities. But some of these executives had no experience handling journalists and challenging interviews.

As David Kennedy, Regional President of BB&T Northern Pennsylvania, pointed out, "All of us are bankers, so we aren't necessarily good at communicating when we're being interviewed by the media. It's obviously different from our day-to-day job of making lending and credit decisions."

To help its accomplished leaders tackle this mission critical task, BB&T brought in a media veteran, someone with on-camera experience at NBC, The Weather Channel, Bloomberg and WFMZ. 

They engaged Ashley Russo, a senior consultant with The Professional Development Group. Ashley designed a media training program that walked the executives through cold call interviews -- the kind you can't prepare for -- as well as pre-planned interviews. Through role playing and videotaping, she simulated the experience of "being under fire" and provided expert advice every step of the way.

3 Pieces of Advice from Ashley: 

  1. Take a breath before answering any question to give yourself the time to formulate a succinct answer.

  2. Bridge the question to your message to convey your mission.

  3. Smile and stay calm and open.

"Ashley's coaching helped all of us get more comfortable and confident," Kennedy acknowledged. "It also helped us understand what the reporter is looking for and what the media is looking for."

"We were all a bit naïve about what can happen when you're interviewed, so we were grateful to have Ashley outline what we could expect."

After doing actual interviews with the Morning Call, the Reading Eagle and the Lehigh Valley Business Journal, Kennedy felt confident he had effectively introduced the BB&T brand. He also helped the people in his marketplace understand the benefits of the merger. 

"I was able to broadcast the message that we have more products and services and we're in a better position to take care of our clients' needs moving forward."

"There were a lot of positive outcomes for all of us who participated in Ashley's training," Kennedy affirmed.

These leaders skillfully managed their teams and customers through a complex merger, and they went from 0 to 60 in their ability to communicate with local media. Impressive, isn't it?

If you want to handle media inquiries, impromptu speaking remarks, and presentations with confidence and ease, contact The Professional Development Group. You'll find the coach you need to help you expand your influence inside and outside your organization.