Media training: What does it mean to be an authentic media spokesperson?

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What does it mean to be an authentic media spokesperson?

Authenticity has become something of a buzzword in recent times.

It is a term which seems to be increasingly applied to just about everything, from authentic leaders and marketing to authentic furniture and clothing.

The strange thing is that although everyone seems to be seeking authenticity, few people can actually define what it is.

Look it up in the dictionary and you will find terms like ‘genuine’, ‘accurate’, ‘reliable’ and ‘not a copy’.

When applied to people it seems best defined as ‘being yourself’.

But when it comes to media interviews it is not as simple as that.

Donald Trump has many flaws, but it would be hard to argue that he isn’t himself when he appears in front of cameras and gives speeches. It’s an approach which has won him as many admirers as it has critics.

At the other end of the scale is Theresa May, who particularly during the last general election, seemed unable to move beyond rigid pre-prepared messages. It was an approach which left her dubbed the Maybot and left us with a government which is anything but ‘strong and stable’.

So, if you attend one of our media training courses and one of our current working journalist tutors stresses the importance of being authentic, what are they looking for you to do? What does being authentic mean for media spokespeople?

 

Authentic spokespeople self-edit

As we’ve already briefly brushed upon being an authentic spokesperson is not about saying whatever comes to mind and completely being yourself.

While it may go against the dictionary definition, when we talk about authentic spokespeople it is those that monitor and choose their words carefully because they are sensitive to the impact they have on others.Tweet: 'Authentic spokespeople monitor and choose their words carefully because they are sensitive to the impact they have on others' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2DBSqbt

 

 

They are attuned to their audience, are aware of boundaries and know what will motivate people to take positive action and what will cause them to switch-off.

 

Authentic spokespeople put messages in their own words

The more natural a message sounds the more likely the audience is to feel that the spokesperson genuinely believes what they are saying.

To achieve this it is crucial that - while spokespeople should still prepare thoroughly - they don’t memorise their briefing and messages so that they sound like they are regurgitating a press release or statement.

Spokespeople should feel empowered to put messages into their own words (within corporate guidelines). Not only does this approach help bring messages to life and give them authenticity but it will also increase the spokesperson’s confidence and make them more comfortable with what they are saying.

 

Authentic spokespeople are human

To be an authentic media spokesperson you need to be able to express feelings and show emotions and vulnerabilities.

We are not talking about tear-filled Oscar-style acceptance speeches and, of course, some subjects obviously lend themselves to this style of delivery much more naturally.

But it could be as simple as admitting mistakes, sharing what keeps you up at night, what makes you nervous or what makes you excited – although you should really avoid the clichéd ‘excited to announce’.

 

Tweet: 'Authentic media spokespeople are able to express feelings and show emotions and vulnerabilities' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2DBSqbt

 

In a crisis media management situation it is about showing you really care about those who have been affected.

While displaying emotion in an interview may feel uncomfortable and perhaps make spokespeople feel self-conscious, it can be compelling and engaging for the audience. 

 

Authentic spokespeople draw on personal experience

If you’ve been on one of our media training courses you know we stress the importance of examples to support messages. As one of our tutors once said ‘messages without examples are just rhetoric’.

The most powerful examples are those which are personal to the spokesperson and that connect with the audience take them on a journey.

Personal stories and anecdotes help make the brand relevant, provide a human side to the organisation and help spokespeople grow in confidence.

 

Authentic spokespeople are honest

Authentic spokespeople are confident, sincere and honest. But the key thing is that the honesty is subtle and not announced.

 

'Authentic spokespeople are confident, sincere and have a subtle honesty' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2DBSqbt

 

Using phrases like ‘I’m going to be honest with you’ or ‘to be honest’ will undermine your credibility and suggest to the audience that you haven’t been truthful during the rest of the interview.

 

Authentic spokespeople banish the jargon

Language is a key part of being an authentic media spokesperson.

Sometimes spokespeople opt for words and phrases which they feel may make them come across as more intelligent or they rely on industry jargon and acronyms.

The problem with both these approaches is that they can alienate the audience, sound hollow and affect credibility.

To be an authentic spokesperson you need to be able to create a natural sounding conversation using the language you would use if you were talking to a friend in a coffee shop or pub (just without the swearing).

 

In media interview terms being authentic means being yourself but with a deft-touch to ensure you avoid the pitfalls of over sharing experiences, emotions and feelings. And while it may sound like a contradiction to talk about training someone to be authentic, it is the only way to develop the skill, care and craft needed to be perceived as having this much sought after trait.

'In media interview terms being authentic means being yourself but with a deft-touch to ensure you avoid the pitfalls of over sharing experiences, emotions and feelings' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2DBSqbt

 

 

What do you think makes a spokesperson appear authentic? Let us know in the comments box below.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

Click here to find out more about our journalist led media training and crisis communication courses.

 

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