The Art of Being Well-Spoken
Throughout my years as a journalist, I conducted countless interviews with spokespersons representing their company or governmental institution. Believe it or not, sometimes I actually empathized with them and the difficulties they faced in trying to broadcast the proper message to the right audience.
Recently I had the opportunity to wear the shoe on the other foot, fielding phone calls and emails from reporters seeking answers to questions about a client’s major new development. Most were businesslike, one or two were a little snippy, but in the end I think I communicated what the client wanted.
Getting the message out
Being an effective spokesperson for your organization isn’t just limited to communicating with journalists. Whether you’re reaching out to your audience through social media, speaking to a professional organization or responding to customer complaints, there are steps anyone can take to improve their performance.
Brian Hart of Jennifer Connelly Public Relations has a useful article about the seven habits of good spokespersons. Some of them are self-evident, but others might prove surprising.
- Be Prepared: A good motto in any business situation, it means do your homework beforehand. You should have talking points practiced, plus a hard copy for reference. If you’re doing a scheduled media interview, strive to know the outlet, the reporter and the topic to be discussed.
- Know Your Audience: This doesn’t necessarily mean the reporter you’re talking to, but the people who will watch their broadcast or read their article. Craft a message that will resonate with them, and avoid jargon.
Interacting with reporters
- Build Rapport: This refers to your direct interaction with the journalist or audience member. The idea is to build trust and familiarity in the brief time you’re interacting. Use their name, and refer to their work or situation. Rapport will result in a more comfortable messenger.
- Speak in Sound Bites: This is especially true when dealing with broadcast reporters. I know as a journalist I was always listening for the “money quote” that would really punch up a story. Always have pertinent information organized into short, punchy quotes.
- Be Yourself, Sort Of: I like Hart’s advice to “be your best self” when acting as a spokesperson. “Show humor and personality, but maintain a high level of professionalism,” he writes. There’s a line between being friendly and overly familiar.
- Amplify Your Message: This means selecting the right channels to spread the word. Sometimes news is best shared through a Facebook message or a Twitter post than a press release or an on-the-record interview. Be alert for non-traditional opportunities to reach out.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Like anything else, the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it. By practicing as a spokesperson in non-media situations, you can hone your skills so you’ll be ready when the cameras are on and the notebooks are out.
Need a spokesperson for your organization, or want media coaching to enhance your skills? The Coles team has the experience to help.Edit this post