Media training: Why your spokesperson isn’t being quoted in the media

Thirty Seven is a journalist led content creation and web design agency.

We put journalistic principles at the heart of every piece of content we produce and every website we build for our clients.

CONTENT MARKETING / Email Marketing / Blogs / Social Media Content / Articles / Podcasts / Speech Writing / Presentation Design / White Papers / eBooks / Infographics / Interactive Games / Surveys / Contests / Magazines

DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT / Branding / Web Design / Web Development / Digital Design

Why your spokesperson isn’t being quoted in the media

Your spokesperson gives up their time to talk to journalists but their interviews make little more than short clips in news programmes.

And when it comes to print interviews they are not quoted at all.

This is a hugely frustrating and unrewarding scenario, which can lead to spokespeople being reluctant to do interviews again.

The temptation is often to blame the journalists for this situation. 

But actually, it is more likely there are things your spokesperson is doing which are preventing the organisation from getting the coverage it is aiming for.

Here are eight reasons why your spokesperson is not being quoted in the media:


They are too scripted

We’ve all seen and heard spokespeople who keep hammering away at the same heavily scripted response, no matter what question they have been asked.

If you need an example, look no further than Theresa May and her reliance on ‘strong and stable’.

If you’re the Prime Minister you will get away with it – apart from some mocking - and your scripted responses will still be covered.

But journalists and their audience do not like spokespeople who sound like they have memorised approved lines or are regurgitating a press release. We tell delegates on our media training courses that they are wary of corporate speaking robots.

Reporters want to speak to someone who can add value to the story. The key is to produce a conversational tone - 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, spokespeople should feel empowered to put messages into their own words (within corporate guidelines).


They don’t sound human

The most effective spokespeople are those which are able to express feelings and show emotions and vulnerabilities.

This could be as simple as admitting mistakes, sharing what keeps you up at night, what makes you nervous or what makes you excited

Not only does this approach help bring messages to life and give them authenticity – meaning they are more likely to be used - but it will also increase the spokesperson’s confidence and make them more comfortable with what they are saying.

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. 


They don’t say anything different

Spokespeople who simply offer the same view as everyone else do not stand out and therefore what they say is often not used.

We tell delegates on our media training courses that two of the key things journalists look for in a story are the unusual element and conflict. If your quotes offer something surprising, or something that conflicts with what others have said, then it is likely to be more widely used.

What do journalists look for in a story?Examples and stand-out statistics will help bring your message to life and support what you are saying.

Colourful, descriptive language which helps the audience picture what is being discussed is also helpful.


They talk too fast

One of the bits of feedback I find myself giving most often after the print interviews on our media training courses is to slow down.

Often spokespeople rattle through their answers as if they are racing to get to the end of the interview, and it can be hard to follow what they are saying.

If the journalist hasn’t properly got down what someone is saying, or can’t make it out when they listen back to a recording of the interview, then they can’t use the quotes. And that means messages are lost.

The other risk with talking too fast is that spokespeople can be misquoted or that their arguments can be misconstrued.


They use too much jargon

If you’ve read this media training blog before you’ll know we have long been battling against the use of jargon in media interviews.

The reason is simple. Using industry terminology, corporate speak and acronyms doesn’t make spokespeople appear intelligent.

It actually means that most people won’t understand what you are talking about.

In a broadcast interview the audience may zone out or switch off altogether. In a print interview, the journalist is likely to decide that much of what has been said cannot be used for quotes.

Jargon can also make the spokesperson sound like they don’t really know what they are talking about.

Spokespeople should focus on using simple language – as if they are talking to a friend or family member in a pub or cafe. Not only will this ensure that people understand what you are saying, but it is also more likely to make them care.

What 'destroys staff morale' and 'turns off' customers?


Their answers are not the right length

There are many reasons for avoiding short answers in media interviews. One of the main ones is that they see spokespeople surrender control of the interview to the journalist.

But one of the other risks is that short responses do not provide good quotes because they offer little to the story.

Long, rambling answers do not work either. They can be hard to follow and the journalists may feel they need to paraphrase what has been said.


They haven’t prepared properly

Good preparation is key to so much of media interviews, including being quoted.

It is imperative spokespeople know the message they want to get across and the examples they will use to support that message.

They also need to be clear on the headlines they are hoping to generate from the interview and what they want the audience to do as a result of seeing the story.


Success breeds success

The more interesting and informative a journalist finds your spokesperson, the more likely they are to use them again in the future.

They will see them as someone who is willing to offer something meaningful and they will be keen to call upon their expertise again.


How do we prepare your media training course? 


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 bespoke journalist-led media training courses. Or book a place on our next media training open course


comments powered by Disqus

Get in touch to discuss your training needs
0118 918 0530 or or tell us how we can help