A smart CEO will make sure that there is always one employee appointed as the spokesperson. She will inform all employees that the sole person with permission to speak to the press, in any situation, is the spokesperson. Period. The appointed person should be a quick thinker, able to connect with people and withstand potentially uncomfortable levels of pressure.
Lucky you. You’re that person. So this is for you.
Members of the press are usually very personable. They’re friendly by design, because it makes you more likely to open up and potentially confide in them. Do yourself and your company a favor by keeping this solidly in mind. Journalists are doing their jobs, which is to obtain, film or write up material that will generate income for their employers. Newspapers and media outlets are profitable businesses; try to keep that at the forefront of your thought process. It is your job to divulge the information you wish to share, and in doing so, keep your company looking its best.
Before any event where you know your chances of meeting a member of the press are even slightly likely, have a meeting with the decision-makers of your company. Decide together on the message you want the public to receive. It should be just a point or two, short and easily deliverable (think sound bytes). Once you have this all-important message, work it over in your mind. Fit it into numerous scenarios, making sure you’re able to repeat it in many contexts throughout a conversation in order to increase your chances of the important material being quoted. Also take into account that anything you say is fair game for a quote. Be conscious of your word choice. Anything can be taken out of context or as half a sentence, potentially twisting your intended message.
Know your company’s history. Know past issues that have been dealt with in the public and private spheres. Know your firm’s relationship with local policies and politicians, if applicable. Know where the company is headed. Know what is and isn’t available for public knowledge. Heed that distinction, even in your sleep, as classified information leaks can be both embarrassing and damaging.
If you have a press appointment booked, be at your best.
- Dress well.
- Make sure you know all the issues involved, inside and out.
- Be up on current events, even if they’re totally unrelated. Some journalists will do anything to make you look like a fool, and if you respond to questions about the largest headlines with a large question mark across your face, this can and will be used to delegitimize you.
- Do your homework: research the journalists you plan to meet. Discover both their angle, and their publication’s angle. If you’re meeting one-on-one, speak specifically to the journalist’s (or his publication’s) interests.
- Get contact information from each person with whom you speak. This serves a few goals. Obviously, you’ll know how to track this person down in the event that the report is erroneous. The journalist knows that and is therefore just that bit more careful in making sure he records things accurately.
- Keep a running list of any problematic or specifically wonderful reporters. Everyone wants a scoop; reward it to those that showcase your company best.
- Most importantly – always ask for final quote approval. This will require the journalist to send you the quotes they plan to use prior to publication. This is the best way to ensure that anything attributed to you is honest, sincere, and well crafted.
Being a spokesperson is a tough position, frustrating at times, but intellectually rewarding. Doing the background footwork will make the work far, far easier, and building relationships with the press members of your choice will pay off manifold over the years. Enjoy your job!
Submitted by Aviela