Media training for Corporate Spokespersons

How often we have sat through an interview with our clients by a leading media to encounter the phrase “No Comments” during the conversation? Not very uncommon, many clients resort to this when they don’t want to answer something, are unaware of the answers, are dealing with something controversial topic, it might just be premature to talk about, or it might not fall within the ambit of their responsibilities to comment upon. However, saying “No Comments” is a bad approach, when you are dealing with the media who have great domain expertise, knowledge, and possibly some information that is non-public.

Clients often come from a varied professional background, exhibiting proven expertise in their line of business, sector, and their competitors. However, it is possible that many of them haven’t been exposed to media too frequently or might have had inadequate exposure. Something, that may give rise to a gap in communication between them and the media whom they are dealing with.

It’s pretty common practice with many good public relations consultancies to media train their clients, irrespective of how large or small corporates they are, how media-exposed they are. Media has always worked in a highly volatile and ever-changing scenario. Often there are developing stories, there are people movements, there are new media outlets opening, and few even closing down. Clients need to know and be aware of the other side, which will help them in communicating better. Whether it’s the presentation of facts, sharing the story of their side, or being empathic with the media persons on certain issues, it’s an art when it comes to managing media well.

Media can work for you brilliantly if the clients are able to present their perspectives, information, thoughts, ideas, and actions in a manner that is liked or appreciated by the media. A balance in expression, remaining in control, and clarity of thought process is usually helpful for clients in addressing the media well.

Of course, a well-versed understanding of media venues, having prepared primary messages well, appropriate statements for communicating the messages, availability of additionally supporting information, numbers, etc. always communicates authority and control on the domain knowledge of clients. Similarly, knowing and following certain journalists’ stories regularly can also aid a strong rapport building as well as remaining in full control for the clients’ spokespersons.

Next is to really control the interview, where clients can share information following a particular thought process and chronology that is set to answer all possible queries of the journalists as far as that specific interview is concerned. Sometimes, it’s quite possible that the interview slides away sideways, but if the spokesperson is in good control of the conversation, it is possible to bring the interaction back on track by sharing the meaningful things of the current context of discussions, without saying “No Comments” embarrassingly.

A smart spokesperson will always leave a cue while answering his previous question subtly prompting the journalist to as the next question, thereby driving the conversation in a controlled manner. And this works well for the media too, as it will help them remain focused and extract more and more information about the context of the conversation. Something, which many people miss out on despite having a great lengthy conversation.

Of course, there are many other nuances of what to wear, and how to sit and move while facing the camera. Sometimes these interviews may be pre-recorded and sometimes clients may go LIVE at a short notice. Consultancies have such media training programmes that are used to brief and train the clients in detail before going on an interview, something that can bring in a great deal of difference in clients’ presentation of their companies and spokespersons to the media.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Praveen Nagda
Praveen Nagda is the CEO of Peregrine Public Relations, a full-service corporate communications and public relations consultancy firm delivering a pan-India reach to its clients. He also heads White Coffee, an independent events & celebrity engagement company.

Praveen has been closely associated with many national and international events related to cinema for children, art and culture. He has a well-rounded experience that cuts across all key sectors of PR & Corporate Communications.

He started his career with URJA Communications, an advertising agency specialising in technology brands, where he was instrumental in developing the PR division. Post this, he had a stint with Horizons Porter Novelli, a global public relations consultancy. Thereafter, he was heading the IT & Telecom division at Clea PR, a leading Indian public relations and communications company followed by a fairly long stint with Omnicom Group agencies viz. TBWA\India and Brodeur India.

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