New Media Landscape Gives Spokespeople More Control Over Messaging


When was the last time you read an article online without at least one URL to click on for more information about the topic? For that matter, doesn’t almost every TV or radio news program remind the listener or viewer “go to our Web site for the full interview with…”?
In essence, the news outlets are telling us that not all details of the story will be found in the official report, but that most of the supporting facts are only a click or two away. This means that the reporter is more interested in capturing the gist of the story and then supplying the consumer with a means of finding out more information online.

This “click factor” is generally good news for the spokesperson; if you are in an interview or prepping someone, this change in how news is presented creates an opportunity to focus on the bigger picture messages and fewer details.
But first, don’t be mistaken: Facts are critical for any story and are a necessary part of the process. A certain number of facts are table stakes. But the point is that you don’t have to spend all the time in the actual interview answering basic questions that amount to just filling in facts. To maximize your “on-air” time, then, consider these tips:

•    Give the reporter some content in the right context. Send the reporter a fact sheet before the interview or direct the reporter to a specific Web site to do his/her homework beforehand.

•    Direct the interviewer and listener/reader/viewer to additional resources. Before, during and/or after the interview, having already established your credibility by naming a few facts, direct the reporter to a place where more information can be found; ask him/her to include the URL to the information in the coverage. If possible, include the URL in your commentary so listeners can go directly to the source.

•    Focus on the meat of the story. If you’ve provided the reporter with the background information needed to shape the story ahead of time, then you can spend the bulk of the interview talking about your messages, framing statements and giving perspective, all of which tell more of your story.

Here is another fact to consider: With shrinking publications and fewer reporters covering more beats, media is relying on spokespersons to shape the story for them. So, if too much of your interview is spent on answering basic questions and confirming details, you may be not taking advantage of the click factor. With that in mind, here are a couple of strategies for framing the actual interview.

â–¶ Take control up front. The most aggressive way to start an interview goes something like this: “I know you have plenty of questions for me. However, I just came back from a customer presentation and we spent about 45 minutes on just two critical slides. How about if I walk you through those slides and you can ask me questions as we go? At the end, if you have additional questions, I’ll take those.”
That’s an example of taking control and framing the interview. One expert who uses this approach claims that eight out of 10 reporters are happy to have him explain a complicated technical subject in this manner—definitely a good batting average.

â–¶ Be subtle, but direct. A slightly less assertive approach is for the spokesperson to ask what the reporter wants to cover. The spokesperson then responds: “Thanks. I think I can answer most or all of those questions. If there is an area where I am not the expert, I’ll refer you back to media relations for the right contact. However, in addition to what you want to know, there are a couple of topics that I want to make sure we explore. And, of course, there is plenty of background at our Web site: www.goodfacts.com.”

Regardless of the approach you take, the trend of reporters pointing their readers/viewers to a Web site for more information—the click factor—can be used to your advantage. To maximize this click factor:

•    Have fact sheets to e-mail or fax to the reporter;
•    Know the URL that you want the reporter to click on/refer to;
•    Develop companion video and audio materials;
•    Frame the discussion at the start of the interview; and,
•    Take advantage of the last question and summarize or put the interview in context. PRN

This article was written by Andrew Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group. He can be reached at agilman@commcoreconsulting.com.




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