Many of us in the public relations field coach others on how to be effective spokespeople but never have the opportunity to actually be a spokesperson ourselves. And for those of you who are facing the transition, it is not as easy as one would think. Teaching and being are not one in the same.
The following six steps will help you become a point person for the media and will help you make the transition effectively.
Research your industry, company and programs/products. You may have been training others, but now it is your turn to become intimately familiar with the industry, your organization’s subject matter and the latest programs, innovations, and/or products. You should be able to speak to all topics, even if you intend to use internal experts as a secondary source. Most importantly, brush up on all research reports created and/or used by your company.
Practice interviewing. You may either want to hire a coach or have a member of your media team run you through a series of interviews – broadcast, phone interviews, audio – until you are comfortable with the subject matter and are able to deliver the company’s key messages smoothly and professionally.
Cultivate relationships with key journalists. Remember that it is a two-way street. They are looking for a story and you are guiding the story with the intent of conveying your messages to the wider public. Have your talking points prepared and be familiar with the journalist’s story coverage and interests before the interview. Target your messages to address those interests.
Be a source for information. If you are not one, recommend another individual at another organization. Realize that the journalist has an editor and that story will not see the light of day unless the editor approves it. Help them out. You want to see that story get out there just as much as the journalist does. Both of your jobs depend on it.
Ensure they understand your subject area. Reporters are often generalists. You will need to take the time to ensure you provide them with a full understanding of the issues without talking down to them. This may include scheduling internal expert interviews, recommending other experts to interview along with research and reports. And make sure those research and reports are at your fingertips for easy access during the interview and for quick follow-up with the reporter.
If you need time to prepare, ask for that time by scheduling the interview. Always consider what the angle could possibly be and run through those scenarios. Ask the journalist what the angle is and what potential interview questions they may have. Most importantly, make sure your messages are ready and can be conveyed in your responses.