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Get the Most Out of Your Communications Efforts

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on August 12, 2009

Whether the medium is Twitter, Facebook, a podcast, or a corporate blog, there have never been more outlets available to companies looking to engage in dialogue with their stakeholders.

In the midst of this proliferation, it is worth asking how today’s busy executives can best ready themselves to communicate with maximum effect. Surprisingly, the answer might lie in the rigors associated with preparing for a distinctly non-new media activity—the good old-fashioned press briefing. The measures taken to groom yourself or your spokespeople for an interview with a flesh-and-blood member of the media cover much of the same ground needed to effectively engage in any form of outbound communication.

Here are five imperatives to help you train for a phone or face-to-face press briefing that will leave you in fighting shape for any communications program you may pursue.

1. Prepare. This point cannot be overemphasized. Don’t just memorize; internalize your key messages. Read the publications and brush up on the media with whom you expect to engage. Most important, set aside time before the briefing to put on your game face. A press interview, video shoot, or podcast isn’t another internal marketing meeting and shouldn’t be treated as such.

2. Own the interview. While you must be truthful under all circumstances, a briefing is not an interrogation, nor are you on the witness stand. Still, many people slip into a passive mode by allowing the reporter to lead the interview. Take charge of your story. The reporter is there to hear from you and expects you to pursue your agenda, even if he or she may challenge it.

3. Be concise. Pick one but not more than three points of emphasis. If you prepare for the interview and you exercise brevity, chances are that you will have another opportunity to speak with the reporter in the future. So pack your communications bag for an overnight trip, not a week-long vacation. The lessons learned here are just as relevant to blogging and tweeting, maybe more so.

4. Speak visually. Use muscular verbiage. Develop sound bites. Use well-crafted metaphors and similes. Be interesting. Most reporters will not share your singular subject-matter expertise, so liken what you are doing to something they (and their readers) can relate to. The more colorful the narrative, the more broadly it can be used across varied social media channels.

5. Smile and engage. Your physical demeanor tells your audience whether you are passionate about your subject. Lean into the conversation. Be expressive. A smile can be detected even during a podcast.

In addition to these steps, you should strongly consider enrolling in some form of media training with a qualified instructor. Aside from helping you master the verbal and physical aspects of media engagement, media training provides the perfect proving ground on which to test and hone your messages. Once you "own" the message you’ll have that much more confidence and latitude to tell it well.

Andrew MacLellan
Porter Novelli

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