How To Bond With Executive Spokespeople

At its core, media training prepares a spokesperson for an interaction with a reporter for print, broadcast or Web interviews. In groups or one-on-ones, the session is usually conducted before a specific event such as a product launch, feature interview, industry conference or challenging story; it can also be part of a general skills development session for the individual.

In a proactive session, the spokesperson can own the message, add stories to the message track that’s been developed and take advantage of rehearsal to improve any interview.

In the reactive session, the spokesperson gets a chance to sharpen and focus the message, use fewer words and practice to avoid reporter “tricks and traps.” And, make no mistake, those are often reasons enough to conduct a session.

However, in today’s multi-tasking world, with crazy calendars and the desire to maximize resources, media training can accomplish a good deal more.

With both primary and secondary goals in mind, the training session becomes more dynamic and a better investment of time for both the spokesperson and the PR or communications professional.

Here are five ways a good training session can help your organization, your spokesperson and you:

1. Develop teamwork with the spokesperson. We get to test our messages, provide skills to the spokesperson and collaboratively come up with better answers to questions before we get grilled. Just as important, the training session is a crucible in which we learn a lot about the spokesperson and how he or she thinks and how we can better work with the person.

2. Better pitching. Reporters live for stories. A good media training session teases out sound bites and stories that support the messages. Of course, these are the sound bites that a spokesperson will deliver to the reporter or say on camera. But they are also great fodder when the PR team is prepping a reporter. It’s great when an agency exec or internal PR person can say: “When you talk to Lois, make sure that you ask about____. Or: “John, told me a great story about _____. I think you’ll find it interesting.”

3. Use a media training sessions to think about the best messages and how to get them in. The better the teamwork that is a by-product of the training session, the more you can guide the spokesperson to “bridge,” or even change the subject to a key message. When a mind map is used in training, the PR pro can simply point to a topic on the map and guide the spokesperson to the other subject.

Even when PR is on the phone from a remote location, you can send a quick text message or email to remind the spokesperson to transition to a topic.

The better the trust level between PR and the spokesperson, the easier it is to use the tools and techniques learned in media training to “bridge.”

4. Devise the multi-media parts of the interview. Once you settle on the sound bites, start thinking of other ways to produce them than just a verbal answer that a reporter will write down on a tablet or laptop.

For a print interview, develop infographics that support the sound bites and key messages. Or, after the initial interview, record one of the good answers on a Flip or mobile phone camera and email it to the reporter so that the publication has a good quote for the text and a possible video answer for the video portion of the website. For emailed interviews, the same tactics apply. For radio, provide graphics and video for the station’s Web page. For TV interviews, provide your own video and a graphic that can run on a split screen.

5. Develop your own content strategies. If one of the big ideas in PR these days is content creation, what better place than media training to create the content? Again, don’t forget the primary purpose of the session: to present the best case for the brand when speaking with a journalist. At the same time, keep an ear out in the session for a message that will play well with employees, customers, shareholders and regulators.

Then figure out ways you need to calibrate and target these messages for these other audiences. Use the media training video, or one just after the session, to capture these messages while the spokesperson is “in the moment.”

By the middle or end of a media training session, the spokesperson has gained momentum and the interview answers can be captured for a number of purposes that save time and money, and cement the bond between you as the PR pro, and the executive spokesperson. PRN


Andy Gilman headshotAndrew Gilman is president-CEO of CommCore Consulting. He can be reached at



This story originally ran in the Jan. 27, 2014 issue of PR News.