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How To Be a Good Spokesperson

A good spokesperson knows…

  • His or her target audience
  • Understands the media has a job to do as well
  • His or her messages and how to communicate them no matter what question is asked
  • How to use specific interview techniques to control the interview
  • When to stop talking

A few checkpoints to live by…

  • Never go into an interview unprepared. If you are not familiar with the journalist, be sure to read articles by the reporter and determine his/her reputation, style and areas of interest. Some reporters are known to be aggressive, while others don’t have a grasp of the subject. Most reporters are fair and impartial, but always make an effort to know all you can about the interviewer.
  • When a reporter calls looking for comment, ask questions. Find out what they are covering, why they called you, who else they will call, when will the story appear. You must find out – what all background information do they have? Review the reporter’s requests before you hang up and have your PR expert coordinate the interview so you have time to prepare.
  • Practice answering questions. Before the interview, try to predict the reporter’s questions and prepare answers. To practice, type out the answers and say them aloud into your smart phone, in front of the mirror or with colleagues. What questions do you least want to answer? Have two to three ways to address the tough questions and bring the interview back to what you want to focus on.
  • Review your message points. Set the goal of clearly communicating your message, no matter what is asked.

Top 10 Interview-Prep Tips:

1. Storyline and messaging. Create three or four key messages that capture the essence of the story with supporting examples and data. You’ll need these to make a memorable impression on your audience.

2. Stay out of the weeds. Avoid jargon and technical language. Use analogies to explain concepts. Simplify your work in a respectful way that makes it tangible and attainable information for the reporter and the audience watching, listening or reading the resulting piece.

3. Prepare for each interview. Practice your delivery. Record yourself. Familiarize yourself with the media outlets and review recent articles by the reporters who will interview you.

4. Shake off stress. Go to the gym. Go for a run. Relax before the interview so your body language shows comfort versus discomfort.

5. Build a rapport with the journalist. Be happy to be there, make eye contact and be a good listener so you can respond appropriately to all questions. Be ready to move back to your messaging and have your favorite ways to transition back ready to go.

6. Deliver a strong performance. Remember that you’re there to help the producer or reporter create a compelling and/or entertaining segment, talk show or article. Show enthusiasm; lean slightly forward in your chair; vary your speech rate and volume; and keep your answers concise but compelling.

7. Manage the interview. Set the agenda and stick to it. If the reporter asks a question that is off topic, you can’t or don’t want to answer it, bridge back to your message points. You might say, “That’s interesting, but what’s really at issue here is…” or “I can’t really address that topic, but I can tell you…”

8. Never let them see you sweat. Even if a reporter gets combative or argumentative, don’t respond in kind. Defensiveness never looks or sounds pretty, so avoid no-win situations. Also, don’t repeat the host’s negative phrases or hypothetical statements; that will only call attention to them. Try to seize opportunities to bridge back to your main points or change the subject altogether.

9. Don’t ever talk “off the record.” NOTHING is off the record; assume your entire conversation is being recorded. Beware of idle chitchat with reporters. You never know for sure when the camera or microphone is on and you’re on the air. A comment on the way to the elevator could turn into the unwanted headline and it has, so remember, act as if you’re media-facing at all times.

10. Think long-term. After the interview, send a thank you note to express your appreciation for the interview. You’ll stand out as a quality guest or resource and maximize your chance of being asked back.

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