An untrained spokesperson is a ticking time bomb for your brand.
These people are the voice and personification of your brand, and it’s important that they are informed, prepared and knowledgeable. Your organization’s point people should understand their role and be ready for what the responsibility brings.
When it comes to best practices for media relations, consider these seven tips:
1. Prepare in advance.
If you are listed as the contact on a news release, begin by knowing that the news release has gone out and by coming up with answers to any possible questions journalists might have.
This role is often in place to field inquiries for experts within your organization, so it’s important to have a list of names to give reporters. If you are routing inquiries, equip yourself with your spokesperson’s calendar and a means for tracking incoming calls.
Also, provide a “media brief”—a short but detailed document that includes the date, time, location, call information, reporter’s name, photo and social media handles, links to past articles on similar issues, potential angles to pursue and key messages to share.
2. Be professional.
Experts speaking on behalf of your organization—from project leads to scientists and senior executives—should to be prepared for anything. Practicing responses ahead of time can help with this.
From confidently handling an awkward pause to knowing what to do with their hands while talking, your spokespeople should ensure that all their responses seem natural and quotable.
3. Be available.
Make sure the contacts listed on your news release are available to take calls.
This sounds obvious, but it’s a common mistake. PR team members are usually very busy on announcement days, and they play a number of roles related to the release. They might not be checking their phones continually.
Book time in various experts’ schedules prior to the announcement day to ensure their availability.
Your CEO or head of product development may not view an interview with a local reporter with the same level of priority that you do, so take time in advance to get them on board.
4. Reinforce your message.
Brad Phillips, author of the book, “The Media Training Bible” says an organization’s message is the most important point to emphasize.
Jot down three key messages or talking points to help your experts stay on message.
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Without repeating the same words over and over, encourage your spokespeople to reinforce your message and include one key point in every answer.
5. Speak in everyday language.
If you offer your representatives what seems to be a superior and intellectual answer, it’s probably just going to create confusion. If your spokespeople don’t understand your message, they can’t relay it accurately—and neither can the journalists they’re “informing.”
Think about making your story easy for someone else to retell. Cut the legal and industry jargon, and speak in clear, simple language instead.
6. Never lie.
Journalists are experts at lie detecting. They will probably do background research on your story that involves fact-checking and talking to other people. They will surely find out if your facts don’t add up.
If your organization is in the midst of a crisis or scandal, a sure way to exacerbate the issue is for your spokesperson to blatantly lie or knowingly mislead a reporter or journalist. This is often the work of a panicky spokesperson. The media brief you prepare should contain messages to help your spokespeople field unpleasant inquiries with language that demonstrates your brand’s willingness to share information when more is known.
7. Know when to shut up.
After making your point, stop talking. Trying to over-answer a question can be as off-putting as not having answered at all.
An article from Marketing Profs, say using the phrase “no comment” is the worst thing you can do as a spokesperson. Instead, answer with, “I am not the right person to provide that information,” or, “I’m not at liberty to speak about the matter at this time.”
Amy-Louise Tracey is a communications consultant for Canada NewsWire . Follow the company on Twitter: @CNWGroup . A version of this article originally appeared on Beyond the Wire.