What I've Learned As A Spokesperson: Starr Million Baker
Editor’s Note: This is the third in an ongoing series of readers sharing what they’ve learned as media spokespersons. Would you like to submit your own article? Click here to learn more about how to submit a piece for the “What I’ve Learned as a Media Spokesperson” series. Today’s post is by Starr Million Baker, owner and president of INK Public Relations.
As an agency owner I’ve had the opportunity to serve on both sides of the spokesperson fence – speaking on behalf of my own business and those of my clients, and training my clients to speak to the media themselves. Working with the media can be a “you win some, you lose some” situation. But if you want to win more than you lose, do these three things:
1. Be Real: I cannot stress enough – use real language. Don’t speak in the jargon of your industry. Even if you’re speaking to a reporter that covers your industry it’s just, well, boring. Have you ever seen a quote that describes the process for making dog food? No, and you never will – stuff like that goes into the “background” file in the reporter’s head, if it even makes it that far.
To get quoted you have to be interesting: include analogies, bold words, emotion, examples. Think about it this way – a reporter is supposed to be objective, so he can’t say “this is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” but you can (well, I wouldn’t actually recommend being that over-the-top as it will come across insincere – seriously, what is better than sliced bread? – but you get my drift).
2. Be Prepared: I had a client once who, simply put, was better in the afternoon. After he warmed up, he had more energy, better analogies and examples – he was a better storyteller and presenter of his information.
Frankly, he sucked when he wasn’t prepared.
Knowing this, we scheduled media interviews for the afternoon and we prepped with him verbally (I played reporter, he played himself) prior to the meeting. When he was prepared, his interview-to-coverage ratio was easily 80 percent. When not prepared, he was literally never quoted. Know your audience, know what you want to say, and spend time thinking about (or talking about) how (see point above) you’ll say it.
When not prepared, you’ll slip into the jargon that you know like an old sweater on a cold day. You’re also more likely to not have the information you need for the angle the reporter is taking, or to share false information as you try to "wing it."
3. Be In Control: The best advice a media trainer once gave me, and that I pass on to all of my clients, is this: media interviews are presentations, NOT conversations. This isn’t intrapersonal communication, folks – nodding along as a reporter asks a question denotes agreement, not the usual “I hear ya” you might convey in a conversation among friends.
You are in control of what comes out of your mouth, so know what you want to say (see a trend here?), and stick to it. Sure, answer the question that was asked (briefly), but don’t let a question lead you off on a tangent – get back to your point.
More times than not, speaking with the media is one of the best things you’ll ever do – for your company, your product or service, your client. And don’t let a bad experience taint your view of the process – after all, you have as much of a role in creating that experience as the reporter. Be real, be prepared, be in control, and you’ll win.
Starr Million Baker, APR, is the owner and president of INK Public Relations, an Austin-based boutique public relations firm. She has been in PR since childhood, and has been getting paid for it for 17 years.
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