Don’t Set Up A Buffet Line For Reporters | Media Training

One of the most common concerns I hear from potential clients is that the person they want media trained says too much when speaking to reporters.

That’s true of many executives, who like to hold court, and many subject matter experts, who are loathe to leave out any detail.

The spokesperson who says too much gives reporters a greater number of options for potential quotes. I like to think of it this way: A verbose spokesperson is essentially working at a buffet line, serving reporters a little bit of many different dishes. The loquacious spokesperson gives reporters a touch of the pasta, a spot of lamb, a slice of beef tenderloin, a chicken leg, a dollop of potatoes, a few yams, a mound of salad, a spoonful of green beans almondine, a wedge of spinach pie, and a scoop of carrots.

As a result, the reporter may decide to quote something about the green beans even though the beef tenderloin was the spokesperson’s main dish. And whose fault is that?

waiter serving chinese chow mein
The more you say, the more you stray

The more a spokesperson says, the more likely it is that they’re straying from their top two or three messages into less pertinent secondary or tertiary messages—if, that is, they’re anywhere near their messages at all.
Some people say too much in an effort to boost their credibility—but they fail to realize that saying too much doesn’t prove how knowledgeable they are; it demonstrates that they’re a bit gluttonous.

Saying too much doesn’t make the reporter’s job any easier, either. Instead of walking away from the interview clear on the spokesperson’s most important points, the reporter is left trying to decipher the mountain of information the spokesperson laid at his or her feet.

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A disciplined spokesperson sticks close to their two or three messages and supports them through a combination of stories, anecdotes, case studies, examples, and statistics. They dispense with the buffet line and serve a neatly plated meal—a piece of meat, a nice starch, and a fresh vegetable.

The next time you see one of your spokespersons saying too much, remind them that their buffet line has 12 trays of food available—and that you’re going to insist they remove nine of them from the line.

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