Add these Three Missing Pieces for Better Executive Storytelling
After training hundreds of spokespeople to get ready for their interview close-ups over many years, I’ve noticed a change in the questions and requests from workshop participants. Because of the way journalism and blogging has evolved, there are three new things that all spokespeople feel they need in their communications arsenal before they hit the interview circuit.
Context, context, context. Content truly is king, but anyone who is trying to tell a story about their products or services or company cannot do it piecemeal or in a vacuum. They need to interconnect it tightly with their overall company messaging. And that messaging needs to be connected to important themes and issues that the influencers and the marketplace care about. We tend to work with our clients to produce and refine Storytelling Frameworks that accomplish these connections. They are a great base for effective media training sessions.
We always have provided messaging and Q&A and FAQ materials to spokespeople as part of Storytelling workshops, but more and more these sessions have included a great deal of discussion regarding how to fit the announcements for their segments into the overall corporate positioning and messages. Now more than ever, it seems, spokespeople also are concerned about not saying the wrong thing. They want to understand what is safe to impart and what they need to stay away from. Bridging techniques definitely help address this, but the safety net of a clear set of policies regarding how the company communicates externally makes even the most seasoned spokesperson much more comfortable. If you have a Storytelling session planned, make sure someone from corporate communications participates to answer questions and provide that level of context and safety net.
Think multi-media. Content experts like CTOs and the much-sought-after CIOs are likely to have someone find them at a conference or show and ask them to do an ad hoc video or to participate in a podcast. Spokespeople need best practices on how to handle these requests and how best to fulfill them once they are accepted. They may not be the right person in their company for CNN, but they definitely may be the right person for a key publication's video series on a particular topic. Be sure to give them pointers about how to execute these, as well as the procedure they should follow to screen the requests and get PR involved.
Up-level the discussion. If the breaking news isn't from giants like Apple and Google, influencers these days are much more interested in content that is relevant and will attract clicks to their posts or articles. Therefore, it's critical for companies to connect their messaging and their stories to issues and themes that have resonance in the market. Training a spokesperson to do an effective interview about a new product isn't enough anymore. You need to train that spokesperson to be able to weave a story that connects the announcement to an important trend or change in their market that customers and influencers will care about. This again tracks back to Storytelling Frameworks and messaging that has context and relevance to the hottest issues that are affecting buying decisions.
It's been fascinating over the years to track the evolution of spokesperson preparation. A content-rich and customized approach has never been more important. These three additions really help elevate the programs to build passionate and effective spokespeople who are confident and grounded. Our program is always evolving so I'd love to hear any other elements that people are using to give their spokespeople an edge in today's noisy markets.