What Makes A Great Media Spokesperson?
Hugo Barra. Ratan Tata. Vijay Shekhar Sharma. K Ganesh. Shraddha Sharma. Five very different, people; five very different companies. These spokespeople have become icons, just as famous as the companies they represent(ed) or have founded. The spokesperson brings alive the values that a company represent, he/she is an extension of the business.
However, the strength of a spokesperson makes a significant difference in how a company is covered by the press, and in some instances, whether it’s covered at all. So, if you are the spokesperson for your company, here are the six traits that will transform you from a founder or CXO to a great media spokesperson.
1. Know your Audience
When speaking about your company, technology, product or your expertise, it is important to keep your audience in mind. While your wealth of knowledge is a key strength, it must be communicated effectively to be impactful.
Some ways that you can tailor your messages in accordance with your audience include:
- For editors who are not from the similar industry that you are operating: Spend more time explaining why a product specification, feature or a service will be important to users, how it (product, approach, application, etc.) has been done before, and why your new way is better
- For editors with strong background in your industry: Prepare for more questions about competitors, product specifications and comparisons to alternatives
- For publications that reach key verticals (renewable energy, logistics, etc.): Share customer examples from the industry covered that are relevant to their reader (e.g., if you’re talking to a editor from B2B logistics magazine, talk about the companies who implemented your service and how it helped them to achieve their objectives or solved a problem for them.)
Members of the press come from both technical and non-technical backgrounds, and their readers represent a variety of knowledge levels. Because of this, it is important that you tailor discussion based on their knowledge level and don’t assume they know what you are talking about.
2. Capture Attention
Companies (including your competitors) approach editors everyday with coverage ideas, and editors must choose which ideas appeal most to their readers. To receive coverage in a publication, effective spokespeople must first capture the attention of the editor and draw them in to the story you’d like to tell.
- Start out by telling the editor exactly what you will cover in the next 30 minutes
- Get to a product demo (if applicable) within about 10 minutes of your conversation — less powerpoint and more demonstration/discussion
- Use case studies to illustrate your points versus just stating them
- Demonstrate your own passion for the topic
- Involve the editor by asking questions about their knowledge or thoughts on the topic
- Share the relevant research, data, facts & figures
Think like a reporter when you approach media interactions. You should consider which aspect of your information would be of most interest to not only the reporter, but also the readers or viewers of that media outlet.
Some tips for adjusting include:
- Ask the editor if they’ve had experience with the product/ technology/ service you’re discussing
- Ask the editor what they’re seeing in industry
- Relate what you’re talking about to past articles the editor has written. This requires researching his or her past related articles, which is always a smart idea
- Ask the editor if he or she is working on any article ideas related to your topic
4. Provide thought leadership
It is not enough to simply focus on your company — the media needs to understand how what you’re sharing applies to the general public. It is also important for you to have an informed opinion of you own, as effective spokespeople don’t simply relay opinions of others.
Editors serve as a trusted, third-party source of information to their readers, and they take this seriously. They want to create content that is helpful and impactful to their readers, and this often means addressing industry challenges from a broad viewpoint.
- Know — and have an opinion — about the trends in your industry
- Be aware of what your competitors are doing and don’t be afraid to acknowledge it, if their activity supports your message
- It is OK to talk about your competitors — the editors are following them too; you can speak about competitors and differentiate your offerings or stance on trends without bad-mouthing them, which is never a good idea
- Avoid jargon or terms that are specific to your company, unless your company is working to emphasize a specific term to assert thought leadership
- Finally, reporters need to have quotable information. You should consider how what you say could appear in print and which concise and interesting statements would make for good quotes. This doesn’t mean being sensational, but rather thinking in sound bites with the goal of delivering information in an interesting and relatable manner.
5. Use Real-World Examples
One of the best ways to validate your main message is by providing real-world examples. An example can be used as a bullet point in a story or as the meat. As a great spokesperson, you should come prepared with real-world examples that support your key messages and are relevant to the audience.
- Real-world examples can be sourced from your customers, Big companies or “media darlings” — companies often covered by the press, Industry trends
- Un-named, generic example use cases based on real customer examples
- Other vendors
Finally, a great spokesperson closes. After you’ve captured the attention of your press audience, outlined the article, provided examples and proven yourself to be a trusted resource, you should reaffirm your key messages and secure interest. You should not be afraid to end a meeting by asking:
- Was this information helpful? Which news shared was most interesting to you?
- Is this something you think you will cover?
- Are there any additional materials I can supply for your article, such as product or application images?
- Will you be at XYZ event? If so, can we set up a time for you to come by the booth or meet my other co-founder/team?
Check out the videos from some of my favorite spokespersons.
Chief Trouble Maker, seriously! Hitendra knows how to add humor element to such serious industry. He always bought fresh talk-points to every media interview and he made refurbished products industry so much easier to understand with examples and analogies.
Rana is a great story teller and in his videos it will look like that story telling comes to him naturally. Which is also true and it is one of the most important traits of a good spokesperson.
The best part while working with Sumit was that he used to ask us the hard question before every interview which also means he was always prepared to talk about any subject which might come up during an interview. For eg: he would always be equipped with latest data from CommonFloor research about how any market is performing, how is industry shaping up etc.
Here is a Cheers to the great spokespersons out there and to the works in progress. You make the work of a PR person (like myself) look wonderful and make our jobs so much easier.