Your media spokespeople are busy.
So, how can you ensure they are best prepared for that crucial next interview?
Effective preparation always begins by checking they have had recent media training.
But ahead of any media opportunities, they should also be given a media briefing document that covers what they need to know and ensures they are able to communicate with clarity and confidence.
Here’s what that briefing should include:
Let’s start with the basics.
It may not be the most exciting part of a briefing document, but it is crucial spokespeople know where and when the interview will take place and whether it will be live or pre-recorded.
In the current media landscape where many interviews are taking place remotely, Zoom or Teams meeting details will need to be included.
Do your research on the journalist
Your spokesperson is going to need to know who they are talking to.
Are they a specialist reporter for your sector? Have they reported on your industry before? Have they covered a story on your organisation before? What about your competitors? Are they known for having a particular interview style?
If you don’t know much about the reporter, take a look at their social media accounts. This will give some insight into the stories they cover and their interests.
And who they work for
It is also a good idea to include some detail on the media outlet.
Who is their audience? How influential is it (readership, viewing/listening figures)? Is it known for holding a particular stance?
Also, look back at how it has recently covered stories on your organisation and your sector.
Learning points from last interview
Before you get into the next media opportunity, it is worth considering any lessons the spokesperson should remember from their last interview.
Are there things they did well that you would like them to repeat? Are there areas where they could do better?
Maybe you noticed they didn’t hold that crucial eye-contact with the reporter or repeated the negative language in the journalist’s question.
Perhaps they gave a great example or used the bridging media training technique brilliantly when faced with a tricky question.
What is the overall aim of the interview? What are you hoping to achieve?
The key consideration with identifying the objective is to think about what you want the audience to do, think, or feel once they have seen it.
If something has gone wrong and you are in crisis communication mode, the aim could be to make people aware your organisation is sorry and the steps you have taken to improve the situation.
If you are launching a new product, the objective could be to show the difference it will make to people’s lives and how it differs from what is already on the market.
This is how you achieve your interview goal.
The temptation is to create several key messages.
But a good briefing document will whittle this down to just one.
While some people may think that is not enough, few watching or listening to an interview will remember more than one major point.
The message should be simple and brief. And it must be capable of being summarised in a single sentence of no more than 20 words, otherwise, it is likely to be too complicated for people to remember.
It may be worth reminding your spokesperson that they do not need to memorise the message word for word.
Empowering them to use their own words (within your corporate guidelines) will increase their confidence and help bring messages to life.
What examples can you use to support that message and make it resonate with the audience?
This is crucial, because without strong examples, messages are just empty statements.
Examples need to be relatable and have a human element. The best ones are those which are personal to the spokesperson.
Personal stories and anecdotes help make the brand relevant, provide a human side to the organisation and help spokespeople speak with confidence and sound more fluent.
This may feel like a part of the briefing your spokesperson should fill in themselves. But, if you know them well, you will probably already have a good idea of examples and stories they could use.
Ultimately, this part works best as a team effort.
Even if the interview is on a good news story, thought still needs to be given to difficult questions that could be asked.
So, spend some time identifying them and planning how your spokesperson could answer them.
To give you some examples, if your organisation had a period of negative coverage a few months ago, that could be brought into the interview. If the CEO’s pay or bonus has attracted controversy in the past, then that too is likely to become a line of questioning, particularly if they are giving the interview.
Remember that the tough questions might be about wider issues. Your spokesperson could be asked to give their views on the impact of Brexit, how the government has dealt with the COVID crisis, or a competitor who has been in the headlines.
This is where we run the risk of sounding a little contrary.
But you don’t want your briefing document to over-prepare your spokesperson for interviews.
You want to help them to produce a confident, assured performance.
You don’t want to turn them into a corporate talking robot who has memorised answers to specific questions. Or someone unable to create a natural-sounding conversation.
Additionally, a ten-page document will be too much for any spokesperson to absorb and recall when the pressure is on. It is information overload.
So, your briefing documents needs to be succinct and should be no more than two to three pages.
The key to creating good media briefing documents is to give each one your complete attention, whether it is for an interview with a niche trade publication or an appearance on a national TV news programme.
Don’t treat them as a cut and paste exercise.
Treat each media briefing as an opportunity to showcase your expertise and knowledge to senior members of your organisation.
Putting the effort in will not only ensure your spokespeople are best prepared for their media interviews, but will also help to raise your profile.
As your spokespeople gain experience, you can trust them to fill in more of it themselves, particularly the examples and difficult questions parts.
My other recommendation is that you keep your briefings on file and don’t disregard them once the interview is over. The more you have, the easier they will become to complete in future and you will have a great archive of information on journalists and the media.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 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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