When you’re a company spokesperson or high-ranking executive, you play a vital part in how your organization is presented through the media to its stakeholders. Essentially, you act as the face of the company, whether at an industry news conference or when quoted in an article. But however you face the public, it’s essential you know HOW to do so and come prepared.
Many companies fail to anticipate just how vitally important it is to ready key executives for this part of the job. They need to develop strong communication skills — while also being calm under pressure, relatable and effectively able to convey authority. But if they’re not prepared, they can weaken the company’s message or damage its reputation.
Media training is essential
The best spokespeople have undergone media training to prepare for the role. Practice makes perfect doesn’t just apply to music or sports. It’s critical here, too. Media training typically involves mock interviews to help the spokesperson fine-tune their messages. It’s an opportunity for them to master important details that cover everything from what to say to how to look. It’s crucial to make this kind of investment in your key representatives.
While media training covers many areas to prepare spokespersons, there are a few basic things you can do on your own to prepare for your next interview:
- Be prepared. Identify three main points you want your audience to remember and determine how to best present them. Always wrap up with these major messages. Brush up on facts and figures to back up your points. Know your audience, company, products and industry trends.
- Be on time. Always keep in mind the reporter’s deadline. Be on time to the interview or send any written replies by their due dates.
- Anticipate fundamental questions. Know the who, what, when, where and why answers before the interview.
- Use concrete words and facts. When possible, use statistics rather than generalities. Don’t use complicated terminology unless the reporter is well-versed in the subject/industry.
- Correct wrong information. If a reporter includes wrong or misleading information, correct it before answering the question.
- Be honest. I cannot repeat this enough: Nothing will destroy your credibility (and that of your company) more than being caught in a lie. It takes years to establish a credible image — but just minutes to destroy it. TELL THE TRUTH.
- Give one-word responses to questions. Expand your answers to assist the reporter in getting the story. Use brief, interesting anecdotes to develop your points when possible. Be concise and don’t drag out answers.
- Speculate or guess. If you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say, “I don’t know, but I can get you an answer.” If possible, let the reporter know you will follow up with an answer.
- Comment on subjects outside your area of expertise. Refer the reporter back to your PR spokesperson, who should be able to find an appropriate representative to answer a question that you cannot answer.
- Go off the record. Never go off record. Give the reporter only the information you are wiling to stand behind and have your name attached to in print. Although most reporters respect off-the-record comments, they are not legally (or morally) obligated to do so.
- Say anything you don’t want to see in print. Have you ever heard about not putting anything on social media that you don’t want your mom or boss to see? Well, that applied to print long before social media was even around. Don’t say anything you think is funny (but probably is not), or anything you’d regret to see in print.
- Assume you will see the reporter’s story before it’s published. As a professional, the reporter is not obligated to show you a copy of their story. This is one reason why it’s important to be clear and concise during an interview. If technical data is being used, you might suggest that the reporter contact you to verify which facts are used.
- Pick up negative phrasing from the reporter. If a reporter asks, “Why didn’t you identify the source of the problem sooner,” don’t answer with, “We didn’t identify the source of the problem sooner because...” Instead, answer in a positive way. “By identifying the source of the problem now, we have been able to successfully implement a new program that helps customers...” Accentuate as many positive points as you can.
We can help you to prepare
At TriComB2B, our PR team can help you to prepare for a successful interview, no matter how large or small. When an interview is scheduled, we’ll work with your subject matter experts (SMEs) to develop the right messaging and background information. We can conduct mock interviews to prepare your team and give recommendations on everything from body language and facial expressions to honing your answers. We can customize media training to meet your unique needs — whether for a few people or an entire team of SMEs. We do this every day and can make it easy on your team.
Give us a call to learn more. Off the record, I’m sure we can help you.