How can your spokesperson become an expert media source even when you don’t have a story to tell?

How do you feel when one of your competitors is across the airwaves giving their thoughts on a story?

Perhaps it happens regularly, and they often appear on TV screens and radios or are quoted in articles.

Why do they keep getting put in the spotlight? Why are you not getting the same exposure?

Some organisations have a habit of being in the news even when they don’t have any news of their own, providing commentary and analysis on what is happening elsewhere.  

How can your organisation join them and tap into what journalists are looking for?

How can your spokespeople become ‘go to’ media experts?

 

Perform well

One of the reasons we often see and hear from the same ‘go to’ experts is because they are good.

But what does ‘good’ mean?

Well, there’s little point inviting an expert on to a broadcast slot or to interview for quotes in an article if they just repeat what is already known.

Journalists want to speak to people who can move the story on, provide fresh insight and offer a different perspective.

Those repeatedly invited back to offer their thoughts tend to tick the ‘U’ element of the TRUTH acronym we use during our media training courses – they provide something unusual or unique.

Journalists also want to speak to experts who are engaging, entertaining, willing to share personal stories and anecdotes, and who are authentic.

Part of performing well also involves remembering that the audience won’t share your expertise. So, can your spokesperson make their argument in simple terms, using language the audience will understand?

Give a good media interview, and it is likely to lead to more media opportunities.

 

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Journalists often need a quick turnaround.

The news agenda moves quickly – and social media is making it move with even greater speed. Breaking news doesn’t stay ‘breaking’ for long, and deadlines are tight.

It means that as well as having experts they can trust to move a story forward, journalists also need experts who they can rely upon to get back to them and who are available to share their thoughts.

If your spokespeople are not readily available to give their views and commentary, they will quickly fall off that list of ‘go-to’ experts.

We often hear comms and media teams struggle to get this point across to their spokespeople. There could be many reasons for a media spokesperson not jumping at the interview opportunities you secure.

Some could be personal (such as school runs). Others could be caused by a lack of understanding of how the media operate.

The single biggest reason tends to be a lack of confidence in talking to the media. And many spokespeople are afraid to admit this. Technique in how to manage interviews and practice will grow confidence.

Ultimately, it is down to the comms and media team to understand their spokespeople. To identify the topics and interview formats they are comfortable handling, while also getting to know them as a person to understand what could be preventing them from saying yes to your media opportunities.

If you are a comms or media person reading this and it resonates, I’d encourage you to become part of The Media Team Academy.

 

Newsjack

One way to gain more coverage for your organisation and get your spokespeople on to the airwaves is to involve it in what is already on the news agenda.

You’ll sometimes hear this referred to as ‘newsjacking’.

Could you offer an opinion on a current hot topic in your sector - or beyond - that would help journalists move the story forward and create a new angle?

If you do, put some quotes together on the topic and send them to some of your media contacts, offering them interviews.

Alternatively, pick up the phone and let the newsroom know you can contribute to a particular story. And you have spokespeople available for interview.

You can get ahead now by thinking about the sorts of issues your organisation would be willing to discuss and beginning to track them so you can act quickly when they are in the media spotlight.

Covid has made this harder for comms teams lately. It’s hard to feel connected to an organisation and its people when so many of us are working from home.

Now is the time to consider how else you can stay connected and identify potential stories from within the business. If you don’t already issue a regular PR newsletter or email to your company, maybe this is worth considering?

Another option is to make media awareness training mandatory for all management level teams. We have rolled out several online media awareness and story-identification courses for brands to help them achieve this cheaply and efficiently.

 

Build relations

Find the journalists that cover your industry and who could be interested in what you have to say.

Follow them on social media, share their content, and offer opinions and insight on the stories they cover.

It will help to build an impression in their mind, make them more aware of your organisation, and potentially seek you out in the future when the story is right.

We know from talking to our current working journalist trainers that many of them (not all) are keen to get back out there and meet with people face to face again. So, maybe now is your chance to reconnect or make new connections?

Remember – Zoom is also your friend.

 

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Showcase expertise

Where do you turn to for easily available information?

Chances are it will be Google and social media.

Journalists are the same.

They will turn to these channels to find experts for their interviews. So, use them to showcase the expertise and knowledge of your spokespeople.

Publish blogs on your website covering the subjects you want to discuss in the media. It will also increase your visibility and help ensure your website appears on the first page of Google – just like you, journalists are unlikely to delve below the first page of results.

While we discuss websites, make it clear how reporters can contact the press office – it is amazing how often this information is buried and hard to find.

Similarly, make yourself visible on social media. Ensure the organisation’s profile, and those of its key spokespeople, are up to date and that they share information on the areas they would want to discuss, using the relevant hashtags.

If they have previously been interviewed – and they have gone well – ask them to pin clips to the top of their profiles. It will show journalists the type of expertise they could access by talking to them.

And if you can’t get the broadcast interview clips, why not try recording some for yourself? We can do this as part of our media and communications training and provide you with the footage afterwards.

It can be a great way of showcasing you have capable and confident spokespeople who aren’t media trained robots.

 

Spot the opportunities

There are journalists out there actively asking for people to come forward and speak to them about the stories they are covering.

As I write this media training blog, there are journalists on Twitter looking for a range of experts to interview. It includes requests for a sustainable fashion expert, a finance/budgeting expert, a plastic surgeon who can discuss botox when pregnant, and an electric vehicle expert who could give their thoughts on how the infrastructure will reach those living in high-rise flats.

There are many more of these requests under the #journorequest hashtag. And the #PRrequest hashtag offers similar opportunities to gain valuable coverage.

Additionally, there are also media enquiry services like Gorkana and Help A Reporter Out, which provide email updates from journalists who are looking for experts to interview.

 

Start small

Local media and trade publications may lack the glamour of national media.

But there are lots to be gained from starting here.

Local newspapers and radio stations have suffered cutbacks, and many now have severely limited resources.

They desperately need content ideas. This offers an excellent opportunity to showcase your expertise, raise your profile and fine-tune those media skills.

And those ideas may not stay local or with a trade publication. National and regional newspapers and broadcast journalists view them as credible sources of information.

Many of our current working journalists use them to research and develop stories they are working on and find ones they feel could interest a wider audience.

 

Caution

Finally, it is vital to remember that even though your organisation is not at the centre of the story, your expert could still face difficult questions.

Would your expert be able to handle complicated or unexpected questions without distracting from the message they want to get across?

As we stress on our media training courses, preparation is crucial. Even though it may be a brief interview, still spend time anticipating the possible curveball questions and other issues that could be brought into the conversation.

 

About to face the media? Get your media interview homework off to the best start by downloading your copy of our free media interview preparation eBook.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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