Idia M. Martínez, Lic. RP28
Times have definitely changed. Being an executive nowadays is not what it used to be decades ago. As time goes by, topics that were once trending are now a challenging reality: employer-employee relationships, labor legislation, corporate social responsibility, globalization…These and other issues have changed, not only the way we conduct business, but also the way businesses should communicate and connect with their audiences.
In this sense, Public Relations have gained a leading role and the media remains an important channel though which these Communication professionals convey messages both quickly and simultaneously.
Managing media relations gives businesses the opportunity to inform diverse audiences about situations that affect the organization, or that are of public interest; shed light on an issue that could turn into a crisis if left unattended; share the organization’s achievements, or disclose its corporate social responsibility efforts, among other purposes.
Keep in mind that an encounter with the media can be beneficial just as it can be detrimental, depending on the way the encounter is managed. Beyond discussing key talking points, it is of utmost importance to determine who will convey the message and how the message should be transmitted. In other words, a successful spokesperson is someone who can convey a well-structured message that achieves the organization’s goals. These two elements (the who and the structure of the message) have the potential of distorting the message an organization wants to communicate. Unfortunately, it happens frequently.
First of all, when selecting a spokesperson, the organization must be aware that both the media and the public expect to hear the message from someone within the high ranks of the organization. Depending on the nature of the message, this person could be anyone from the president to a department manager. Regardless of the rank, the person must have thorough knowledge of the business and, of course, of the particular issue to be discussed.
Every spokesperson should receive a media training, regardless of his or her academic preparation and years of experience. This training should be provided by an expert in media affairs who’s also licensed to provide public relations services in Puerto Rico.
Even the most articulate and self-confident executive can seem insecure and transmit little credibility if he or she doesn’t know how to dominate his or her projection in each media outlet.
Diction, gestures, facial expression, the outfit…everything communicates; often much more than words can say.
On a radio interview, for example, is crucial to communicate the message in an energetic yet paused manner, because the listener won’t have a visual reference to understand the message. On television, on the other hand, non-verbal communication is more important. Therefore, using proper posture and even hand gestures will help accentuate the elements of the message that we want to emphasize.
It sounds simple, but there are so many details to attend to, that the message becomes effective only when it is studied, practiced, and analyzed.
The structure of the message is another important piece of the equation. When the spokesperson receives a media training, he or she learns to find a balance between transmitting certain ideas and satisfying the media’s need for information.
Having a role play exercise before meeting the press is important because it allows the spokesperson to anticipate the reporter’s need for information. It also equips the spokesperson with the knowledge that would allow him or her to provide proper answers, thus representing the organization adequately. It’s always of great help to develop three key points before the interview and to insert them when answering the different questions the reporters will make.
The strategy to manage the aforementioned points will also depend on the kind of media encounter the spokesperson will have. Dominating an interview is not the same as participating on an opinion roundtable, or successfully managing a press conference. Far less if any of those scenarios happens in the middle of a crisis.
Most importantly, the spokesperson must understand the significance of his or her role. The public perception of an organization could depend on the spokesperson’s performance before the media. Most certainly, that responsibility should not be taken lightly.
For information about media trainings offered by Upfront Communication, please call