Newsworthy Narratives: Who’s Doing the Talking?

Written by Renee Sanchez

12 April 2024


With insights from my colleagues, this blog series offers tips, anecdotes and best practices from a former journalist who has seen the world of PR from both sides. In this edition, we look at some do’s and don’ts of deciding who will represent your message.

One of the most important decisions your organization can make when preparing to talk to the media is to pick the right spokesperson. When I was a reporter, interviewing a good spokesperson usually made my job easier because I was more likely to “strike gold” and come away with an interesting interview that included good soundbites. Now that I am in PR, I understand how a communications firm can help you find and coach the right spokesperson to get your message across.

Depending on the situation, the CEO is not always the best spokesperson. Sometimes you want the head of the company to reassure your audience, and other times you want members of your organization to speak about the specific work they are doing. When I was a reporter, I sought out people who were heavily involved with the topic or event I was covering so they could give first-hand impressions and share anecdotes. The best kind of stories are those that can be personalized.

If you are unsure who the right spokesperson is within your organization for a particular topic, a good place to start is to find out who is already talking about it. In business today, leaders are posting on social media about their work, so they already know what to share with the public.

Someone within your organization might not seem like an obvious choice or they may be reluctant to be interviewed. However, they understand the products or services inside and out. Sometimes it is the reluctant spokesperson who winds up being the best fit. Media training can help your spokesperson maintain composure and handle reporters’ questions with confidence.

When I was a reporter, I always appreciated it when a spokesperson kept their answers short and conversational, as if they were explaining their work to an acquaintance at a BBQ. If you are the spokesperson, come to the interview with some talking points, anecdotes and use cases, but then be open to letting the conversation flow. Even though you are speaking as an expert, you still want to avoid using jargon and complicated language.

Answer questions to the best of your ability, and if you cannot answer a specific question, say so. Tell the journalist that you will find the answer and follow up after the interview. Do not feel pressure to fill silences, so if you believe you have answered the question comprehensively, do not feel compelled to keep talking if there appears to be a lull in the conversation.

Respect the reporter’s time. Reporters are ruled by the clock and resources are stretched among media outlets. If you are lucky enough to get a reporter’s attention, don’t blow it by not being readily available. It is a good idea to have a team of spokespeople for various topics, so you will always have someone who can meet a reporter’s deadline.

Learn by doing. It is always a good idea to discuss what worked and what areas can be improved after you do an interview. This is where a PR firm can help. With some media training, the right spokesperson can be a key component in spreading your brand narrative in an impactful way.