It’s on the tip of every media relations manager’s tongue: “Who can we put in front of the camera that won’t blow it up?”
Well, we’re here to share a few tips on selecting and training your spokespeople for the coverage you want and the coverage you really didn’t want when your public relations team calls on you to fill the need. We’ve broken it down into key points to use to evaluate and guide a great interview outcome, all while building the spokesperson’s confidence to do it over and over again.
Selecting The Go-to Person
Sometimes a person who is a wealth of knowledge is not the right fit for getting to the soundbite and speaking concisely. When considering a spokesperson for the entire organization, not just a topical expert, you don’t want a rambler.
You want someone who has a sense of precision and comfort, and even modest confidence in being an expert communicator. This person should not get flustered easily and maintains a sense of control in their voice. You want them to also not want to be the expert at everything, while knowing where their expertise lies.
We’ve found the best spokespeople to have a guiding nature about them. They want to inform, educate and steer you to a greater outcome. But they have no problem setting boundaries and rules in a perfectly delivered response. Like that boss you love but you know you’re not getting one over on with that cough.
Just for the Moment Expertise
We all need in-the-moment experts. A municipal water manager, a dentist speaking to pediatric dental care or an engineer on doing that thing we don’t really understand but know we need to know more about.
It’s the job of the public relations manager to work with reporters to guide interviews on precise subject matters. That means you want to pick the right expert. You want to make sure it’s not someone who wants to be a know-it-all, but instead only wants to speak to their area of knowledge. They should feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know that, but you can ask our public relations team for someone who does know.”
Prepping the topical expert is a bit easier than the spokesperson. You want to ensure they have the credentials and understanding of their role in the interview. Prep them for a few potential zingers with simple responses and to point out what the public really wants and needs to know.
If they can stick to a 10-minute interview and throw in a brand message, you’re golden!
Getting Them to Love (or at least like) the Interview Process
This is important. If you can make the experience great for your spokespeople, you can get them to perform and be open to those 5 a.m. at-station interviews.
We’ve found a few ways to create a great experience, sprinkling in a little limelight.
- Coordinate the entire interview. Don’t let the reporter call them directly. You coordinate all the gatekeeping.
- Tell them what to wear and be honest with what makes them look good.
- Text them reminders as needed.
- Give them a few messaging points in bullets that are REALLY easy to remember and to regurgitate.
- Be on site for them to be the buffer.
- Pat them on the back for a great interview, but don’t hide important feedback.
- Get the clip and share it with them first.
- Push out the coverage on all your shared (social) and owned (website/email) platforms and celebrate a great piece of coverage.