This specialised exercise is unlikely to be in the majority of assessment centres, but if you are seeking a senior management position or directorship then you must familiarise yourself with this exercise. You can view it as a unique role-play exercise designed to assess how well you perform with the press.
If you are likely -- as part of your role -- to be involved with talking to journalists or have to field-press enquiries, then you must be aware of how to tackle this sort of exercise. You must also ensure that you display the appropriate competencies and behaviours your role requires.
For the majority of ‘Media Interview’ exercises the behaviours you need to show are:
• Excellent Verbal Communications
• Awareness of Corporate Strategies
• Manages Stakeholder expectations
• Confident Decision Making
• Evaluation & Analysis
Interaction with the press and acting as a spokesperson for your organisation is most likely to be stated in your job specification, but be aware of subtle inferences that you may perform in this activity. The more senior your position within an organisation, the more likely you will have some dealings with the press.
For example, you may be seeking a role as ‘Finance Director’ and think this doesn’t apply to you, but consider who the press may call to ask about the latest annual report or performance reports. You could find yourself the organisation’s spokesperson, even if the occasion is rare.
When you look at the likely scenarios that will come up in this type of exercise you will appreciate that a wide variety of job positions could find themselves in the situation where they are required to represent and speak for the organisation to the press or a journalist. The most probable scenarios are:
• Following a merger or acquisition
• Staff redundancies
• Office/ Plant closures
• Poor financial results
• Environmental issues
You can quickly see that all of these scenarios have a negative aspect which the majority of journalists will exploit. This exercise is designed to test how you respond to a ‘crisis’ and unexpected situation. Also to see how well you portray the Organisation under pressure from a journalist to get a ‘good’ story a possible front page headline!
To perform well in this exercise your preparation is vital. You must research the organisation’s ethos thoroughly to give you a clear understanding of its mission and how to communicate this to others. This will include you giving careful consideration to exactly what words you would use to express this ethos.
The more familiar you can become with your organisation's ethos and values the more easily you will be able to communicate as if you were already part of the organisation. You will be able to glean much of this information from the following types of sources.
• Press Releases & actual coverage
• Strategic priorities from annual report & statement
• Website & Marketing literature
• Industry press & Editorial
As you go through the press releases and any resulting coverage you will be able to see how the press interpreted and portrayed your organisation. If you wanted to get a more detailed picture of their public relations you could call their Public Relations (PR) agency and ask to speak to their account manager who may be willing to provide you with a fuller picture. They may even be kind enough to provide you with a 'Notes to Editors', which lists key achievements, strategic objectives, target press and journalists they focus on in their PR activities.
In addition to these preparations focused on the organisation and its activities, you should also source a host of supporting industry facts and figures. You would then be able to appreciate any key issues that your journalist may focus on during this exercise from both the organisation’s and industry’s perspective.
The media interview exercise is covered in depth in the 'Assessment Centre' eBook.
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Who are the Assessors?
What are Assessment Centre Exercises?
What is an In-Tray Exercise?
What is a Presentation Exercise?
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What are Role Play Exercises?