I asked a long time colleague, Jessica Johannes, a communications pro with more than 15 years of progressive experience in communications, public relations and marketing for Fortune 500 technology companies, to share her insights on the importance of media training for executives. Her background includes extensive experience developing hard-hitting, creative global communications programs to promote technology and innovation for Fortune 500 and emerging businesses.
A solid media relations program entails a steady flow of continuous interactions with media and influencers all with a few goals in mind—obtain the coveted media interview and secure the coverage your client or company is seeking. While the journey and path to securing the interview is one facet of the process, after the victory dance for landing the interview is done, there’s prep to do to make sure the conversation your spokesperson has with the reporter is meaningful and produces a positive outcome. Each interview is a critical component of the media relations campaign and holds the promise and potential to forward a company’s thought leadership initiatives by helping to establish a unique point of view and voice. Although there is no one formula or magic bullet for getting it right every time, there are some approaches that in today’s world – where traditional and social media models are colliding – still stand the test of time.
Know Your Spokesperson’s Style
Every spokesperson will bring a varied level of skill, knowledge and expertise. Having an understanding of the mix they bring will help you to assess how to get them ready. We’ve all been trained to do our homework and view past videos on YouTube or find quotes from previous interviews. We all know to provide our spokesperson with clean, concise briefing materials that outline the opportunity and make it easy for the spokesperson to deliver the message. Meeting with the spokesperson and having a short discussion regarding the goals you want to achieve and the story you want to tell is a standard practice for many practitioners. Using the meeting to establish or strengthen rapport with the spokesperson, understand any objectives or concerns they might have about being interviewed and just engaging with them in a conversation can aid in the success of the interview.
Focus on a Few Key Messages
In today’s noisy world, where the volume of information we are bombarded with is growing at an extraordinary rate, netting out a few key messages is critical. The company you work for or client you represent will always want to drive more points across than the media will have time, space or room to cover. Although the battle of what’s essential and what’s nice to have is always a tough conversation to have with an executive, having a few succinct points the spokesperson can bridge back to will help lead the way to the goals and objectives your organization wants to achieve.
Allow the Spokesperson’s Authentic Voice to Emerge
In the age of PowerPoint, ghost writers, tweeters, bloggers and teleprompters, it’s gotten easier to tell when someone knows their content and truly has a passion for their industry. Surrendering control is one of those sage pieces of advice that is even more imperative due to a number of factors such as emerging social media models and the growth in the volumes of information and external influences. Allowing the spokesperson to tell the story in their voice can often lead to new story opportunities and spark new, creative ideas that help to enhance and evolve the programs your leading.
A Few Closing Thoughts
There’s plenty more ground to cover on the care and feeding of spokespeople. Knowing your spokesperson’s style, identifying a few key messages and giving the spokesperson some runway to make the content their own are only a few tips that can aid in success. These methods are just a small sampling of the strategies I’ve tried that have worked over the years. In today’s world of hybrid, traditional, emerging and social media models, there are no hard and fast rules or a magic formula for success—just an abundance of opportunity, fusion of approaches and many great stories to tell.