Your Organization’s Spokesperson: Choosing Well and Improving Interview Skills

Improve Interview Skills

Interview Skills

Will your organization be ready for your next media interview? Use the tips to find the right spokesperson and help improve interview skills.

There is an ancient saying that still rings true today:

Four things come not back:

  • The spoken word
  • The sped arrow
  • Time past
  • The neglected opportunity

    (The Saying of Omar Ibn Al Halif)

Especially in our current news environment, a key element of the public relations process is selecting and preparing spokesperson(s) to effectively handle critical interactions with the media.

Here are some tips to help you find the right person and improve interview skills.

It isn’t always the CEO

Some people think so, but the frequent choice—the CEO—isn’t always the best, as CEOs generally deal in strategic issues and are rarely deep enough in the trenches to communicate the specifics of any given project (with the exception of crisis situations). CEOs are best utilized for big picture or crisis communications scenarios.

Then what about the Senior Manager?

So, if the CEO isn’t the right person, you likely turn to the head of the department. This may or may not be the best choice. Remember, this person has probably been promoted on the basis of performance, not necessarily interview skills. If a manager is selected, make sure the person can speak in layperson’s languate and perspective of the ultimate audience.

Top Management Support

Sometimes it is best to select someone lower in the ranks if this person has better interview skills (just be sure the person’s superiors know about and endorse the selection).

Whoever your spokesperson is, make sure the person:

a.) has the support of top management;

b.) wants to do the interview;

c.) has deep knowledge of the issue; and

d.) has a solid understanding of the organization’s strategic goals.

Periodically Address Interview Skills

Executives have a variety of concerns when it comes to speaking to the media. From wondering if the overall story will come out correctly to the specific fear of being misquoted, concerns are often a legitimate part of the media relations process.

Proper and ongoing media training often alleviates common fears and helps the spokesperson put specific issues into perspective.

Provide a Bridge

The organization’s public relations staff is a key bridge between the spokesperson and the media.

The staff should provide:

a.) logistical support: making sure the interview happens when and where it is supposed to;

b.) background information: what type of story is the reporter working on, what have the reporter written in the past, are there any preconceived notions, what materials have already been provided; and

c.) message development: review of overall corporate key messages plus specific issues to address in the interview.

Coordinate Preparation

Review key messages, anticipate questions (especially the ones you hope don’t get asked) and prepare possible answers ahead of time. If the issue is sensitive, work with legal counsel.

Develop an Exit Strategy

Plan your exit strategy in advance. Utilize it whether the interview gets repetitive or just runs over the alloted time. Remember, the interview is still taking place whenever you are in the presence of the reporter.

Click here to view Hart & Partners media coaching services. Let us know how we can help improve your spokesperson’s interview skills.