The spokesman’s booklet
It is first useful to the institution’s spokesman / representative / president / director, but also to anybody who is in the situation of representing the institution in a certain moment. It may comprise various pieces of advice, like:
- Plan the interviews, never try to bluff.
- Answer politely to naïve questions. If the interviewer asks something simple is because the TV viewers or listeners would like to ask the same.
- There are many ways of telling the truth, but avoid the wrong representations.
- Listen carefully to what the interviewer says.
- If it is necessary to contradict a supposition (“Many people think …”), you must do it firmly but politely, using proofs if possible: ”I understand that you believe this, but our statistics show that 80% of the public …”.
- You must adequately prepare what the spokesman has to declare. Don’t count on a spontaneous speaker.
- Concentrate on the good news and avoid the temptation of justifying.
- Don’t allow the interviewer to take control of the situation. Be calm and concentrate on the essential. Don’t let yourself distracted.
- Learn to transform the technical terms in a simple language. Avoid slang.
- Don’t say anything during or after the show that you may regret later.
- Keep a summary of the main problems that you want to cover.
- Think about interesting ways of illustrating your point of view.
- Stay enthusiastic. Talk, through the interviewer, to the audience.
- Don’t allow being interrupted.
- Correct any mistake from the questions.
Keep the “off the record” comments to an absolute minimum. Don’t forget that “who gossips with you, also gossips about you”. If you can avoid saying something off the record, it will be a great advantage because the chances to be understood wrong are minimized. In other words, suppose that the journalist will use every word you say. Never use expressions such as “you can quote me about that” – they are pretentious and a sign of dilettantism. Let the journalist decide if he needs to quote or not.
- Never complain to journalists who criticize you; never thank them if they praise you – just be accessible and friendly all the time.
- Never lie a journalist, any journalist. Always remember that journalists have a job to do – try to help them do their job.
- Always correct the factual errors, either by the right to reply or by a letter to the publication or by a direct personal note to the interested journalist.
- In Public Relations it is all about perception. If the perception about your organization or about you is simply bad, you must adopt a long-term vision to correct it. It could take you years to change attitudes – you must continue with your own message, again and again.
- Remember that journalists are not different than you and they cannot keep secrets.