Uncomfortable talking to the press? Let’s do some media training…
Talking to journalists, speaking at round table events and on panel discussions on behalf of your business can seem daunting at first, but it’s a skill you can pick up very quickly with a bit of practise and, if you are a show-off, it can even be fun.
The first step to confidently representing your business in the public eye is to learn a few techniques that you can use to provide a structure to the way you approach what you are going to say.
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
The first, and most important step in speaking to journalists or at events is having a solid knowledge of your business and market and a clear idea of the messages that you want to communicate.
Most spokespeople are selected because of their excellent knowledge of the business. It is rarer to have a clear idea of the messages that you want to communicate, so ahead of speaking to any journalists, take the time to prepare a handful of messages that you want to get across. These may be the standard business position, but you should be able to articulate the messages in your own words (not corporate jargon) so that it sounds authentic.
There is no set number of messages that you need to have, but you should try to keep it concise as people generally only have the ability to process a limited amount of information. If in doubt, go for 3.
So, what messages do you want to communicate?
As part of laying the foundations, you should also be clear about the topics you do not want to talk about so that you can recognise these approaching and use techniques so that you don’t get caught out saying something you wish you hadn’t.
SOUND NATURAL BUT REMEMBER IT’S NOT AN INFORMAL CHAT
This is one of the hardest bits for some people to master, but it’s also probably the main thing that really improves with practise. Being too slick is off-putting, but at the same time you need to maintain focus on the things you want to talk about and steer the conversation rather than being drawn off-piste. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you should aim for achieving a balance.
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT QUESTIONS
This tends to be people’s biggest fear about speaking to journalists, but there is a simple technique that can be used to deal with difficult questions and also make it easier for you to integrate your key messages into your answers.
Acknowledge the question
Bridge to your safe ground – the questions you do want to answer
Communicate your key messages
Identify some phrases that you are happy to use as a way of bridging. There are lots of standard phrases, but if they are not the sort of thing you would ordinarily say, this technique can seem clunky and you could lose credibility. It’s most effective when it sounds natural, so find an approach that suits you.
Some common phrases that can be used to bridge are:
I see that, but … (key message)
I can’t comment on that. What I would like to say is …
I’d also like to add that …
It’s important to …
I can’t agree with you
To put this in context…
What you’re talking about isn’t my area of expertise, what I can say is…
That’s very interesting, but what I believe is …
I cannot speak for xxx, you should address issues to them specifically. What I can say is …
I’m sorry, I don’t have the precise details. I will come back to you on that.
I’m sorry, I don’t know. However, what I can say is …
If you would like further help with getting your messages across to the press, please get in touch.