7 Deadly Media Spokesperson Blunders

Why are so many people intimidated by news media interviews? Maybe they are not prepared. Maybe they don’t know what to expect. These are both treacherous situations, but many times, people are afraid to make a mistake.

Whether you find yourself in the position of coaching someone to speak to the news media or you become the lucky spokesperson yourself, avoiding these blunders will help with a successful interview outcome. Several of these blunders result from an inappropriate attitude (a defense mechanism, perhaps) but I’ve encountered all of these scenarios as a media coach at one time or another.

Blunder #1:
“Don’t insult my intelligence.”

  • Spokesperson will not accept coaching on proper media interview or taping guidelines & recommendations.
  • Spokesperson becomes frustrated or offended when tips or suggestions are provided.
  • Spokesperson cannot speak in common “layman’s” terms to simplify explanations in non-industry terms.

Blunder #2:
“This is really inconvenient and I’m doing you a huge favor!”

  • Scheduling problems: lack of spokesperson appreciation for media deadlines cause you to miss a story (and sends the reporter straight to a competitor).
  • Preparation: spokesperson agrees to interview, but takes no time to prepare.
  • Inattentive: spokesperson agrees to interview, but is obviously rushed and thinking of other things during allotted interview time.

Blunder #3: No style!

  • Jabbermouth: doesn’t grasp the concept of “soundbite.” Is too longwinded and cannot provide simple, succinct answers.
  • Pottymouth: doesn’t maintain proper level of professionalism during the interview, allowing questionable language and stories to seep through.
  • Monotone: no voice inflection or enthusiasm (opposite: too animated/hyper).
  • Tech-speak: cannot avoid use of industry jargon and acronyms.

 Blunder #4: Dress Code Violation

  • Spokesperson unwilling to “look the part” to suit needs of desired portrayal.
  • “Pictures are worth 1,000 words,” so appearance is important.

Blunder #5: “I’m in charge here!”

  • Spokesperson dominates the interview and surrounding settings.
  • Spokesperson frustrates reporter by interupting.
  • Spokesperson will not accept advice from PR staff on do’s and don’ts of appropriate topic control, direction, positioning, & messaging.

Blunder #6: Me, me, me!!!

  • Spokespeople should represent their company/organization first and foremost and leave personal opinions out of their commentary.
  • Sometimes media interest is about individual accomplishments and skills, but spokespeople should appear humble yet confident.
  • Anyone overly arrogant or self-centered will not represent their company well and will loose credibility with the audience.

Blunder #7: Marking Your Territory

  • No understanding of PR process: PR department/agency pitches stories with specific experts in mind. The limelight must be shared. This should not become an internal political power struggle.
  • The goal is to portray balance & diversity across companies appropriate to each situation.
  • Uncooperative/Jealous/Offended: grown adults in high positions have been known to act like 5-year-olds and refuse opportunities because they were not chosen to participate in media interviews in the past!!

The bottom line is that public relations teams walk a fine line between giving news organizations what they’ve asked for and making sure their client/company is well-represented. Preparing a spokesperson properly is a huge component of any media relations program, so, in the interest of giving the best interview, be sure to avoid these seven spokesperson blunders and, of course, always be prepared.

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