What makes a great media spokesperson

Over the years, between us, we’ve worked with hundreds of organisations and their spokespeople. From CEOs to product managers and entrepreneurs, people put themselves forwards to communicate their businesses’ vision.

Some people will have had lots of media and journalist experience, others not so much and some none at all. As PR people whose job it is to help manage an organisation’s reputation, we will always recommended media training, whether as a refresher for those who have been interviewed before or for those that haven’t.

But if you ask a journalist, particular a broadcast journalist, what makes a good spokesperson they would say someone that’s not been media trained.

With more PR people than journalists in the UK now, the possibility of finding a large company spokesperson that has not been media trained is becoming more difficult. This presents an opportunity for smaller companies and those spokespeople who are not highly polished orators or wannabe MPs.

Journalists we talk do say it makes for a more interesting interview if the interviewee isn’t trained but regardless want they look for is people who:

  • who show a bit of personality
  • enthuse about the subject they are talking about (if appropriate)
  • provide engaging conversation to entertain or inform their listeners or viewers
  • are honest and frank and tackle all questions head on

Most media interviews aren’t Paxman-style encounters where the interviewee is cooked over hot coals from beginning to end. They are often unrecorded telephone interviews where the journalist is working to a deadline, has to find images to accompany the story, get video content if possible, post to various social channels and try and gain the right information from a decent interview.

In this case a great spokesperson would:

  • speak in terms an educated 11 year old can understand or so your /dad could tell their friends your news
  • not use jargon, acronyms or too much technical language
  • know your stuff inside out
  • relate what you are saying to a personal anecdote, it humanises you and your point
  • be honest, whether answering a personal question or asked about business stats
  • be yourself and show some personality
  • use humour if you can, it makes for a more relaxed and entertaining interview
  • answer any question as best you can but remember the key points you want to make
  • speak in threes – make points in threes as people remember things in threes
  • say what you are going to say, say it and say what you’ve said

People like people so the main thing to remember is be human. We all like humans…well most of us.