Most people think of spokespeople as the ones behind the podium or in front of the camera, but, when you work in PR, it’s often the work you do behind the scenes that earns those valuable column inches.
When you’re working directly with the media, you absolutely can’t afford to damage your credibility. So how do you ensure you’re seen as a reliable informant when you’re speaking on behalf of an organisation?
Here are my top tips:
1. Tell the truth
There will be times when you don’t have the answer to a question or have to withhold information for valid reasons but never, ever lie to the press. If you don’t know, say so and find out. If you can’t respond right away, make sure the moment you can, you inform those who have asked.
The quickest way to destroy your credibility is by making something up or twisting the truth. It’s simply not worth it.
2. Keep your promises
If you’ve told a journalist you’ll call them back, make sure you do. If you’ve promised to find out the answer to a question or get them a quote, keep them up-to-date with your progress before they have to chase you.
It’s likely they’ll be working to a horrendous deadline and won’t have time to keep calling for your information, so make their job that bit easier and they’re likely to come back to you for input in the future.
3. Know your stuff
We can’t be experts on all subjects but it goes a long way if you can talk confidently about your client, product or event and have the key facts to hand. Knowing your ‘stuff’ might also mean knowing who to call for the right answer or who to approach for the perfect quote.
You don’t have to know it all, you just have to know enough to be helpful.
It’s great to be the person with all the answers but it’s even better to be the person who goes over and above to make the story the best it can be. If you can offer complementary images, video footage or sources to a journalist, you’ll make their life a whole lot easier and earn yourself some serious PR points in the process.
They won’t always want what you have to offer – they may only have come to you out of courtesy or to plug a gap – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have resources at your fingertips. It could even expand the story from a quarter page to a significant feature.
5. Be passionate
If a journalist calls to ask a question about your organisation, you need to sound interested in the answer yourself. If you don’t sound engaged with the topic, they might find it hard to retain an interest themselves, meaning they don’t write about you again or find an alternative source.
The easiest way to achieve this is to find something that you truly believe in to promote. Do that and the rest is sure to follow.