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Friday, May 27, 2011

Remembering Mark Haines: When Tough and Tenacious is Appreciated

This week, the business and media world lost a witty, insightful and valued professional, the original anchor of CNBC’s popular program Squawk Box, Mark Haines, who passed away at his home in New Jersey.

There are some great perspectives and tributes to Mr. Haines in the news and around the financial communities. Check out a couple of them here:

Mark Haines, CNBC Host and Interviewer, Dies at 65

CNBC anchor Mark Haines remembered as 'real,' 'tenacious'

At CommCore we agree with the common thread in all of these reflections that Mr. Haines was witty, tenacious, challenging and often funny. We’d like to offer another perspective. As media coaches, we have referred to this iconic anchorman when preparing executives who had to face him. Our teaching points always included the lesson that one should never underestimate Mark. Expect to be challenged. Prepare to take the question head-on or he will come back at you. But also recognize that he’s fair and will allow you to make the point you want to make – as long as you’ve addressed his concerns.

We often imitated Mark or used him as an example in our media coaching workshops even if the participant wasn’t going to be on Squawk Box. We did that because Mark represented the critical need for a guest to prepare. Know what you are going to say in advance. Anticipate challenging questions. Expect the interviewer to be an advocate for the viewer, listener or reader. Prepare your messages as if you are simultaneously speaking directly to biggest and smallest customer, investor, shareholder or employee.

Of course, it helps when the anchor uses humor, pokes fun and employs levity. That, along with his often brusque tenacity, was actually appreciated by interviewees. Working with CEOs and other executives who have been interviewed by Mark, they often come back saying that he was tough, but fair. That it forced them to prepare and really think about what the value was they were proposing and how to articulate it in a way that made people care.

We believe that these challenges make an executive – anyone really – a better leader.

Mr. Haines – thanks for the good example and may you rest in peace.

What has been your impression of watching, being interviewed by or sending a client to be interviewed by Mark Haines? What interesting anecdotes can you share? Do you agree that his style made for good lessons for communicators?

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