So, You Want to Be a Startup Spokesperson?

Media training advice for startup spokespeople, who are looking to elevate their startup. 10 tips...


russell weigandt

3 years ago | 4 min read

10 Lessons from a Public Relations Pro

Photo by Aryan Singh on Unsplash

Congratulations. You’ve just been chosen to be the next spokesperson for your startup.

Don’t squander this chance to elevate your company’s reputation.

Before you march out into the line of fire to get peppered with questions, let’s make sure that you have the basics nailed down first, yes?

Media Training 101

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1. Do your homework, be prepared

Your communications team should be able to help you with this, but it’s always a good idea to read the reporter’s recent pieces to get a sense for their reporting style and their stance on particular industry issues. Also make sure that you’re intimately familiar with the publication’s audience; this is who you’re really trying to reach.

The worst interview experiences that I’ve moderated have been when the spokesperson is “coming in hot,” after several back-to-back meetings. That’s a bad baseline to start with.

Give yourself a buffer before the interview to focus and mentally prepare yourself. A buffer on the back end can also be useful in case you run over.

Advice: If you’re calm, cool, collected and fully briefed, you’ll be able to give it your full attention. Avoid distractions to achieve the best results.

2. Don’t treat an interview like a conversation

It can be natural to consider an interview as just another pleasant exchange between polite professionals— a conversation where you want to help out the other person by giving them everything they need.

This is a dangerous move. If you get too comfortable, you might let something unintentional slip or you might not be ready when they hit you with the hard questions.

Anything you say can and will be used against you. You can assert some control over the interview if you think of the reporter’s questions as opportunities to deliver your key messages.

Advice: Treat it like a deposition. You don’t need to give them everything under the sun. Use the questions as platforms to share only what you want to share.

3. Stick to your subject

Just because you’re a spokesperson doesn’t mean you’re supposed to know everything.

You’ll likely get questions about a topic that’s unfamiliar. Fight the urge to make something up or give a ballpark answer. When in doubt, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable with what you’re about to say being on the cover of the New York Times. If not, don’t say it.

Advice: Don’t overextend yourself and start making things up. If you don’t know an answer, tell the reporter that you need to check with a colleague and that you’ll get back to them.

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4. Stay on message

It’s best to go into any interview with three main points that you want to drive home. These are your key messages, and they tend to ladder up to your startup’s core narrative about why the company was developed, its purpose and how it will deliver vaule to customers (your comms team can help you).

Having three messages keeps everything simple and ensures that you stay on track. Any more points than that and the conversation can veer off course quite quickly. The reporter might walk away not certain what your primary points were.

Advice: Work with your communications team to develop three primary points that you want to get across. Have them on hand to refer to, but don’t just read scripted statements during the interview.

5. Give real-life examples; help the reader understand

This is storytelling 101. In order to effectively convey a message, it helps to use concrete examples that are relatable.

Not only do examples serve as proof points that validate your core messages, they also give readers points of reference in their lives and helps the message to stick. For example, I once worked with executives at a large enterprise technology company. Their spokespeople were very smart, but they spoke in abstractions and concepts.

They had the vision and trajectory of an entire industry nailed, but they couldn’t speak to actual customer paint points, much less speak the language of the rank and file. As a result, their quotes were frequently cut from stories. See, I just gave you a real-life example with consequences to help articulate my message.

Advice: In addition to preparing examples to back up your points, it always helps to think about who the audience is. As I said before, you’re not talking to the reporter. You’re helping the reporter talk to their readers.

Photo by Silviu Beniamin Tofan on Unsplash

6. Tap into broader trends and current events

Reporters will often ask you to relate the topic of the interview to broader market trends. This is an attempt to make the piece newsworthy and topical.

If you are able to do it, I highly recommend this. As a spokesperson, the more capable and equipped you are to broaden the lens, the more interviews you will likely get (because you can speak to more things).

Paying attention to the broader market is always a good policy if you’re a spokesperson because you never fully know what the reporter could ask.

When you address broader market trends, you are also building rapport with the reporter by helping them round out their story and make it more relevant to their audience. Moves like this can lay the ground work for a long-term relationship that pays recurring dividends over time.

Advice: Be sure to glance at the headlines the morning of your interview and do some research into any breaking news that might be relevant to the focus of your conversation.

For the rest of the story, please visit the original source here at The Startup on Medium.


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russell weigandt

Russell Weigandt is a former senior vice president at top public relations agencies, where he managed corporate reputation for Fortune 500 and startup clients.







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