There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to deciding who you put in front of the media to speak on behalf of your company.
There is the ‘show pony’ approach, where everything is routed via one media superstar who comments on everything from prickly subjects such as National Hedgehog Day (mark February 2nd in your calendar) to developments in industrial process simulation. This comes with its advantages. The media star becomes attuned to the rules of media storytelling and techniques like bridging from negative questions to more positive messages. However, show ponies can fall at the first jump if they are not available, either on holiday, in meetings or being interviewed by another media outlet. Plus, when you lose a key spokesperson after they move on, it leaves a huge hole. Finally, your media front person cannot be an expert in every single topic that might come up.
Voice of the experts
The other approach is to have an expert panel of media spokespeople that can comment on the business generally but also have specific areas of subject expertise. The key to becoming an expert is that they don’t spend all their time doing press interviews, but instead focus on the day job. With this route, not only do you have more available spokespeople to cope with more media opportunities, but it also enables you to present someone with deeper insight into a specific issue who is more likely to be up to speed with latest developments. If you’re an international company, it also means you can cover multiple time zones by having trained spokespeople in different countries. The final advantage of the shared approach is that it gives you a degree of continuity at a time of the ‘great resignation.’
Get trained or get exposed…in a bad way
The only caveat to the shared spokesperson approach is that they all need to be media trained. A single spokesperson will know the key messages and the rules of engagement, but these differ from company to company and need to be learned before you expose your experts to the media. Many savvy organisations have a golden rule that nobody should talk to the media unless they have had media awareness and interview training. Now they are not going to be media savvy in the space of a day, but you can explain how the media works, the nature of the relationship and the basic skills to get a point across without risking their own and the company’s reputation.
Experts don’t need to be extroverts
Remember, your spokesperson doesn’t need to be an extrovert to be an expert. In fact, it often helps to have someone more understated as they are likely to actually listen to the question the journalist is asking and reply with relevant information. Much of what we call an ‘interview’ is conducted over email or in a Q&A format. This means your representative doesn’t necessarily need to be a natural performer in front of a camera, but your PR agency should prep evangelists in advance of any face to face or phone briefings in order to deliver a great interview. They just need to know their subject and understand what the journalist is looking for.
On message; but keep it human
Basic ground rules and messaging should be written down for everyone to refer to along with plenty of facts and figures to back up arguments. It’s also important to keep this document updated with the latest messaging and evidence. The finer skills of storytelling will come with experience and practice. Your experts will learn to let their personality shine through and this matters if they are to build trusting relationships with the media. Try not to make your people work to a script from which they cannot deviate. Give them the ground rules in a briefing document and let them use their intelligence to convey your messages like a human being not a robot. Assuming the guidelines are in place and training has been given, multiple spokespeople will multiply your coverage opportunities and you never know you may unearth a media star in the making.
As specialists in PR for the tech sector, we want your people to have the best chance of gaining positive media coverage. Not only do we provide initial media training for new spokespeople, but we continue to coach your experts and give them a thorough briefing each time they have an encounter with the press. Get in touch for more details →