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Top tips for becoming a valued media spokesperson

March, 2020

The media is constantly on the lookout for credible spokespeople to respond to enquiries, often resulting in interviews in print, on radio, and on television. Andrew Metcalf, Director at PR and marketing agency Maxim, offers some advice on becoming – and proving yourself – a valued spokesperson for the media.

Connecting yourself to the issue and explaining what it means for the country, an industry or local community, can be invaluable to building a business’ profile and reputation – at all times but particularly during a time of crisis.

However, before reaching for the phone and trying to persuade the media to interview you there are a number of issues you need to be consider:

Build your profile

The journalist needs to be able to have the confidence they are choosing the right person for interview, so in an ideal world you will already have built your profile ahead of the crisis – and be on their list of tried and tested interviewees.

Journalists will naturally select people for interview who have a credible track record and reputation in the industry, and who are able to comment from a position of authority.

Building your reputation and industry profile can be achieved by regular blog posts on your company website or LinkedIn, speaking slots at conferences or webinars. It’s also important to follow journalists and outlets on their social media channels and engage with them and their posts.

Briefing can build relations

Helping reporters by giving them background briefings on an issue can nurture trust and lay the foundations for future interviews – as well as immediate ones.

Rather than contact the reporter by phone, your PR agency can be an invaluable middle contact, helping to frame the story and providing introductions on both sides.

Are you an expert?

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a stack of academic letters after your name, but the media will need to know you have a good track record and industry credentials, such as working for a respected business.

Having an opinion on an issue isn’t the same as having the facts at your fingertips and will quickly get you caught out under scrutiny during the initial chat or worse still on-air during an interview.

Prepare for the unexpected

Interviews, while often based on a press release which sparked the journalist’s interest, can go off at a tangent and lead to a question you weren’t expecting. Do your research around the main subject matter, consider side issues and whether the story has moved on, and make sure you are able to tackle those difficult questions. But if you can’t, move on. Bluffing does no one any favours.

You’re the expert, but… know your audience

Finally, when talking to the media always speak in terms that are known and fully understood by them – and their audience.

With the exception of industry journalists, most members of the press can’t be expert on all issues or aspects of your business. Remember you are the expert, but you must translate that knowledge into language that’s easy to understand by the general public.

If speaking to the media use plain English, avoid using acronyms and technical jargon. Should an acronym slip into your speech, pause and explain it as this will help to maintain the audience’s interest.

Don’t say yes to every interview

While it might be tempting to say yes to a request for an interview, before agreeing, step back and ask yourself: “Am I the right person to speak on the topic?”

Becoming a trusted spokesperson is all about delivering. If you fail to provide a good live interview then your credibility with a journalist can be holed below the waterline and you might never be asked again.

Be helpful

The media is under constant pressure as the news agenda travels ever faster, requiring journalists to swiftly find credible interviewees too.

The aim is to become a go-to person for interview on an issue and requests for interviews can come at very short notice. Stepping up and helping out will be remembered after the crisis has passed – and lead to long lasting relations with the press that are important to your business.

...and finally

If you don't yet have a strong public profile, all is not lost. Engaging a trusted public relations agency to help you identify the themes and issues you are well placed to comment on is a great place to start.

We can help you identify who is suitable for media interviews and we can provide media training for those who might need a little extra help.

With 25 years of working with – and in – the media under our belts, we're trusted to introduce the most appropriate spokespeople to meet the needs of the media. You might not have the broadest of public profiles we can help you take those important first steps to building yours. Contact us to find out more.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Managing Director

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations, reputation management,

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