There’s often one thing that gets left out of the publicity conversation: the importance of a prepared spokesperson. Having a good spokesperson on hand is a key component of almost any media opportunity, from radio interviews to feature stories in magazines. A successful interview outcome requires succinct, insightful answers. It also requires the ability to lead the discussion towards interesting topics and company messages, phrased carefully for the occasion and seamlessly delivered. So, it’s no surprise that being the chosen spokesperson for your business can be overwhelming, for newbie and experienced spokespeople alike.
Today, I’d like to address two assumptions that can undermine even the most experienced and prepared of spokespeople.
The first of these is that it is up to the journalist to ask all the right questions to draw the best story from the spokesperson. It is true that the journalist plays a key role here, but there are mitigating circumstances that can prevent them from helping you get your story across. Journalists are often time poor and pulled in various directions across multiple topics. So, to ensure the best possible result from your interaction with a journalist you need to identify your messages, collate them and prepare yourself to use them flexibly throughout the conversation. Practice is really important, not just to memorise the messages but to ensure flow and direction – yes, a practised spokesperson can play a role in the direction of the conversation.
The second assumption is that the spokesperson is doing the journalist a favour by being available for the interview. It is true that a good interview will be of mutual benefit to spokesperson and journalist alike. However, a lot of groundwork can go into securing an interview on any platform. Busy executives disconnected from the publicity process sometimes miss this groundwork and don’t realise how precious the opportunity is. It’s important that he or she realises that it is a fabulous opportunity to have one-on-one attention from a journalist, and that approaching the opportunity properly prepared is essential to the outcome of the story and the opportunity.
To navigate these issues and to ensure an exceptional outcome from the media opportunity, a spokesperson often needs a little guidance. Media training allows the spokesperson to run through how the interview will work, which messages will resonate with the audience and rehearse potential questions. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to interviews.
But media training isn’t just good for a single opportunity – it is the basis for great media relations in the future. Why? Well, media training gives the spokesperson – and by extension the business – an outside perspective on what the most important messages are to their audience, and how they need to be conveyed. It can also really help the spokesperson distil the messages and work out how to frame answers to sticky or complex questions – this isn’t necessarily about ‘spin’ but rather making sure that the conversation flows into interesting, topical areas. Finally, it uncovers the interview introvert in otherwise confident executives who have never had trouble speaking at conferences, but clam up in front of someone with a Dictaphone or a TV camera.
Basically, a little publicity know-how goes a long way when it comes to making sure that your marketing strategy is supported and extended in the public arena.