Preparing your spokesperson is key

I took a rather large intake of breath last week when Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab claimed that the term ‘taking the knee’ was from ‘Game of Thrones. There is no better example than this as to what happens if you fail to prepare your media spokesperson.

If you are talking to the media in the midst of a global pandemic, then you must ensure your media spokesperson is fully prepared.  

It isn’t a ‘nice to have’ but an absolute essential. Consequently, the media had a field day in the following days! The saying ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ certainly rings true loud and clear in this situation. 

Research your topic in advance

Mr Raab got caught ‘on the hop’ and wasn’t prepared for any ‘off the cuff’ question. However, considering this had been top of the news agenda for a few days he should have done his research.

Similarly, Boris Johnson had made a gaff days earlier with Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend the free school meals initiative admitting he had only just become aware of it. Ouch – Marcus Rashford has spent much of lockdown raising £20 million to help end child poverty. I’m not sure how Mr Johnson missed that one!

This isn’t a dig at individuals but serves as a good lesson as what you should do when preparing for a media interview whether it’s you or one of your colleagues. I’ve put some handy media training tips together below to help get you started.

 A guide to how to prepare for a media interview

Depending on whether you have someone who looks after public relations for you or whether that rests entirely with you will depend on who the actions below: 

Research the publication and journalist you are meeting

Find out the target audience, look back at what they have been covering recently. Research the journalist – do they have any interests that you can bring into the conversation? What do they like to write about? Look at their past six articles so that you can paint a picture in advance of what their agenda is likely to be. 

Why are you being interviewed?

Find out what the journalist is likely to be asking you, is it an announcement that your company has made or is it to do with a topical news item. Prepare accordingly.   

What message do you want to get across?

Prepare in advance for what key points you want to get across in the interview, make a list and memorise them but remember they shouldn’t be sales driven. Are there some stats that you can include that make you memorable or perhaps you have a story that makes your message stronger? Your aim is to make the journalist’s life easy – if they can take away some interesting quotes then you are far more likely to appear in the story.

No buzzwords or jargon

Don’t fall into the trap of using industry lingo to illustrate you point so no sales patter or self-promotion either  

Prepare for off-topic questions

Just as Mr Raab wasn’t you need to be! A great way of being prepared for this is to have a frequently asked question document (FAQ). This should cover any possible questions about your company, your area of expertise. Someone in your company should take responsibility for keeping it up to date. There should also be a section at the end to cover any topical angles and it should be updated regularly.

Don’t ramble in your media interview! 

Keep your responses short and clear. Remember you are one of many spokespeople that the journalist interviews. Your aim is to be considered for future opportunities.

Practice with a mock media interview 

This should be part of your preparation. Have a couple of mock interviews with mock interview questions. If you have a PR pro supporting you then get them to ask you. If that’s not an option ask a colleague or a family member to step in.

I hope the above media training interview tips helpful. If you need any further guidance please do drop me a line at hello@zappcommunications.co.uk 

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