The "Back to School" Kit Bag for Executive Spokespeople
September always brings "back to school" ads and a sense of "getting ready" for something new, no matter whether or not you are sending youngsters off to the classrooms or are heading back yourself as a teacher or a student. We've seen an interesting phenomenon recently that seems to be part of that "getting ready" push -- an increase in requests for media training to help spokespeople learn to tell their story to the media most effectively. Many companies are planning ahead for fall announcements or shows and events and determining if their key spokespeople are up to the challenge or need training or at least a refresher on how to grab attention in a crowded market. Some others are building a broader bench of spokespeople so they have more options for interview requests. And still others are looking to media training programs to get everyone on the same page with new messaging.
In yesterday’s post on Beyond the Hype Michael demonstrated how crucial good media training can be. It's a good discipline to assess your speaking assets and determine if your spokespeople could use any of these tools in their "Back to School" kit bag:
Targeted Storytelling -- a spokesperson with this skill looks at the interview opportunity and knows how to tailor the messages and company story or announcement for the reporter or blogger to address their story angle in a compelling way that will cause the journalist to write.
The key to this skill is a strategic and disciplined preparation for each interview. It can be taught.
Effective Use of Sound-bites -- the best spokespeople know how to phrase their information, insights and opinions in quotable sound-bites that add color to the story and prompt the reporter to use their descriptions rather than their competitors because they are phrased in a more interesting and concise way.
Some people are naturally rich in sound-bites when they talk. Others can learn how to do this, through exercises and additional reminders during interview preparation.
On Message and Smoothly Bridging -- No reporter wants to hear someone spout marketing messages exclusively. But a good spokesperson helps the reporter by quickly laying out "the story," clearly outlining the company's position and backing it up with facts and examples that support the key messages and position. This spokesperson also knows how to politely stick to the main topic of the discussion, even when the reporter tries to take them off topic, especially if they are thrown a curve ball question that they don't want to discuss. They keep control of the interview in a non-obnoxious way and "bridge" back to the main topics they are there to discuss without turning off the reporter or making them feel like they are hedging.
Experience and preparation are the keys to on-message delivery in an interview. Media training and refreshers really build confidence in your spokespeople. Bridging is a technique that every spokesperson needs to learn and practice. With the very short period of time many reporters give spokespeople these days in briefings, it is critical to know how to make your main points quickly and concisely and be then prepared to "bridge" back to these if uncomfortable or off-topic questions are thrown at you mid-interview that could derail the discussion.
The last lazy days of summer are a great time to make sure your spokespeople have all the tools they need as business picks up the pace in the fall. The companies that will stand out in the noisy crowd are the ones whose spokespeople will be best prepared. In the fight for coverage real estate, the best quotes often win and the best spokespeople are the ones who deliver them.