Want a great story? Prepare a great spokesperson

Theodore Roosevelt once said: "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” My interpretation, and one we preach in our media training sessions, is that if you talk with passion and conviction, you will be remembered. 

Of course substance is important, too and our experience has proven the majority of spokespeople don't have an issue with the subject matter - it's more about the way they tell their story. Do they believe in their story enough to convince the listener they should take notice and find out more?

In a recent media training session it struck me that all four participants were absolute experts on their specific topics yet lacked the experience to tell their story in a way that made others really care. During the session, we were able to shift gears quickly and focus on the art of story-telling. By fielding journalists come PR Pros in our sessions, we were able to share insights that enabled the spokespeople to tell their story through the eyes of the reporter.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you want to express your passion and be remembered:

  • Solid succinct points are more memorable than aimless rambling. Journalists can feel overwhelmed and sometimes neglect your key points if you barrage them with too much information. Rather, make sure your responses lead with your key point, followed by supporting messages - after you make the points you want, don't be afraid to stop talking.
  •  Don't underestimate the importance of enthusiasm. Reporters believe what you are doing is important if they've taken the time to speak to with you - build on this belief, don't take away from it.
  • When faced with a question that you do not want to answer or aren't sure about - don't lose your cool and don't say ‘no comment.' The problem with ‘no comment' is, it essentially renders you invisible and lets others tell your story. Rather than focusing on what you can't say, think about what you can say.
  • Go beyond a transactional relationship with the reporter. Too many sources are only interested in providing reporters with stories that will benefit them. To be a truly memorable source, be available to the reporter even for stories that might not feature you or your company. Offer to give them background on a topic they aren't familiar with or put them in touch with experts they should know.

Cheryl Gale is managing partner of March Communications.

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