Spitfire Strategies

How to be a Rock Star Spokesperson

What do most rock stars have in common?

They have a passion for their craft, a level of comfort with the spotlight, and strive to be the star of the show.

Being a rock star is a lot like being a spokesperson. If done well, a strong spokesperson can spread an organization’s message far and wide and the exposure can have incredible impact.

Think of every outreach opportunity in front of you as your big moment on the stage at Madison Square Garden with 20,000 screaming fans, all eyes on you.

Mastering a few simple tips for success will help you shine in any interview and use the opportunity to support your goals. Neither Beyoncé nor Axl Rose would ever perform at the Garden without the training and confidence needed to perform well – and neither should you.

Preparation makes perfect.    
Familiarize yourself with the journalist who will be interviewing you. Be on the lookout for patterns in the reporter’s point of view, bias or angle on your issue. Try to get your hands on a story from the reporter in which the reporter interviewed a spokesperson that is working on your issue or a similar issue. This will give you a good indication of the kind of questions to expect. Tip: most journalists have active Twitter profiles with links to their recent work and insight into their interests.

Know the lyrics.
Before any media interview, identify three to four main message points you want to convey to your audience (any more than that and you risk losing control of what gets published). Think of these message points as the lyrics to the song you will sing on stage. For print and call-in radio interviews, you can even write down these “must say” message points and keep the piece of paper by your side during the interview. Before television and in-studio radio interviews, commit these points to memory.

Anticipate the situation.
Before the interview, check the news for recent events that could impact your remarks and the reporter’s questions. During the interview, accept that there are some things you cannot control and prepare for tough or off-topic questions from the reporter that have the potential to throw you off message. Bridging is a technique to help you pivot back to what you want to convey in an interview regardless of what is thrown at you. It allows you to redirect a question to your message and remain in control. Phrases like “That is a good question; however, what people should know is…” or “That is not my area of expertise, but what I’d like you to know is…” or “What I think you mean to ask is…” are all examples of strong bridging phrases.

Know when to stop talking.
When you ramble to a reporter you inevitably go off message. If you think you’ve answered a question adequately, don’t feel compelled to keep talking to fill the silence. If you are satisfied with your response to a reporter’s question and have delivered your talking point, sit in silence. The reporter will ask you another question.

Becoming a strong spokesperson does not happen overnight. But with practice and the right guidance, you will gain the confidence and skill to really wow an audience.

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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