is your spokesperson ready to engage with the media?

Posted on April 26, 2011

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from CN8 at the Petco gas explosion.

Image via Wikipedia

As always, let´s begin with strategy. The whole objective of training your company´s spokesperson is to position him (let´s assume he´s male) as a thought leader within your industry, create visibility for your brand and establish him as a Subject Matter Expert.

To get there, you need to know a couple of things. The first is an understanding of how media thinks. Many are intimidated by reporters and don´t have the right approach when speaking to them. You should keep in mind that you know more than they do about the issue you want to communicate. They are usually busy and covering several topics.

The second point is to know what your spokesperson is capable of and what level of experience he has. This means evaluating his skills as a public speaker and reviewing his previous interviews for anything we might want to correct or improve on.  Never overlook the importance of training. Even the most seasoned speakers have room for improvement.

So I´ve developed two lists of basic tips.

Why do you want to have an interview? Remember: strategy!

  1. Focus on the message. Elaborate on no more than three key messages.
  2. Keep your objective in mind when telling the story. Make it short and sweet. Develop exit strategies to diplomatically deviate back to the original message if the interview gets sidetracked.
  3. Always speak the truth.
  4. Own your crisis and bad news.  Apologize if necessary.
  5. Be the first to give the good news.
  6. If you can´t answer the question, say “I don´t know”. It sure beats a verbose answer that says little or nothing of relevance and hurts your credibility.

Your spokesperson´s charisma and experience. Remember, he´s your face to the world!

  1. Make the tone conversational.
  2. Use the reporter´s name during the interview and always look him in the eye.
  3. Deliver the message with high, positive energy.
  4. Never underestimate the power of what you say. It might easily be taken out of context if the reporter is looking for a good anchor statement. As a rule, even if you speak “off the record”, beware.
  5. Funny as it sounds, you must practice in front of a mirror. Do mock videos and check them for intonation and inflection as well as for mannerisms and posture.
  6. Do a wardrobe check. Make sure you dress appropriately, reflecting your position in the company and industry dress code, and not in conflict with the studio set or background. Always call and ask what is recommended.

And never forget the biggest takeaway of an interview: It´s never about the questions!

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Posted in: Communications