Would you be a good company spokesperson?
It is hard to believe, but I’m closing in on 20 years in this writing gig. Four different companies, but the same me. Media people have connected me with a variety of company spokespeople during those years. Some of them are CEOs, while some of them are technical people.
Sort of like my friend Jim Cahill of Emerson Automation introduced me to an “extroverted engineer—one who looks at your shoes when he talks”. I sympathize with that description.
Still, media relations people probably live in fear of the person who stumbles over words, forgets points, makes silly or offensive asides, and generally embarrasses them.
My friends at TREW Marketing wrote a handy blog post on the subject. I recommend reading it whether you are choosing your next spokesperson or whether you are preparing for the next step in your career.
Here is a taste of what you’ll see in the blog. I hope it’s enough to make you read the whole thing. It’s short and not painful.
1. Knows the Audience
When speaking to products, technologies and your expertise, it is important that you keep the audience in mind. While your wealth of knowledge is a key strength, it must be communicated effectively to be impactful.
2. Captures Attention
Companies (including your competitors) approach editors every day with coverage ideas, and editors must choose which ideas appeal most to their readers. To receive coverage in a publication, effective technical spokespeople must first capture the attention of the editor and draw them in to the story you’d like to tell.
3. Helps the Editor Draft His or Her Article
As an editor conducts a press meeting, they’re gathering information and often deciding if and how they’d like to cover it. Because of this, the way that you present information can have a huge impact on what is written, and how your story is presented. A great spokesperson crafts and presents his or her story in a way so the editor has written the headline and outlined the article by the end of the meeting.
As much as you think your story is great, sometimes people aren’t interested. At TREW, we have had editors be so uninterested, they have fall asleep! In this case, it is your challenge to adjust to make it even more interesting.
5. Speaks to the Industry
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.
6. 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. A great spokesperson comes prepared with real-world examples that support their key messages and are relevant to the audience.
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 restate your key messages and secure interest.
[Back to Gary]
TREW adds several tips for each point. They are valuable.
A couple of my points:
If you are briefing the press, discover expertise. I devoted seven years to selling automation. I went into plants with customers, climbed over machines, suggested solutions. When someone came in to talk to me, they could have asked about experience and jumped to the meat. I tried to get a CEO of a smaller company to skip to about slide 45 in his deck because he was covering stuff I knew. This was not making me feel like he was an expert; it made me feel like he was a jerk.
Software people especially—forget the vague “benefits” discussion rather than telling me what it is you’re pitching. Yes, I’m sure you improve Total Cost of Ownership. How? Tell me when the customer takes delivery, what does she get? How does she install it?
Tell me something about the industry I probably don’t know. You look prepared and you help me look smart. And I need all the help I can get.
I hope when I meet you next time that you’re prepared, smooth, and informative!