HOW TO DRIVE REPORTERS BATTY! Tips for Effective Speakers & Spokespersons

Knowing how to tell a compelling story can pay off for your brand and is a worthwhile investment! Every day talented storytellers hit home runs with journalists. They know how to cater to reporters’ criteria – and still remain human! Then, there are countless others who strike out and lose out on media opportunities. Journalists are constantly seeking newsworthy information and sources for their audiences, and those who meet reporters’ needs and criteria can score gold for their organizations.

With Halloween coming up, we decided to take a look at several things that drive reporters batty! We also offer up some solutions, so you can maintain rapport and build credibility with journalists. These tips are also helpful to any one who delivers presentations.

1. Rushing With Too Many Talking Points

Problem: Some spokespersons go to interviews so focused on cramming in all of their talking points that they forget to be human. When you forget to be human, your Credibility and Likability Factors drastically drop. Recently, NRA spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, was speaking with a journalist and she was so fixated on her talking points that the journalist had to “fight for airspace” at times. Loesch talked fast and this affected her breathing. Relaxed breathing helps the journalist relax; it makes it easier for them and their audience to hear you and your messages. Shallow or fast breathing can cause stress and tension in the neurology of the listener.

Solution: Breathe. Slow down. Focus on being human first. Talk “with” the reporter – not “at” the reporter! If you get all of your talking points in – great! If you don’t get them all in, it is okay! It is better to connect at a human level and get in just two talking points than to spew out ten talking points that are painful for the journalist and their audience to hear.

2. Too Much Repetition

Problem: If you have gotten some good media or public speaking coaching, you most likely know that repetition of key points is a good thing. This is true – to an extent. But, reporters do have brains, and they get it when you are obviously saying the same thing over and over and over. Too much self-serving repetition is insulting to the reporter and their audience. It hurts your credibility and likability, which hurts your organization’s media goals and image.

Solution: Be creative enough to find several evidence points that support each main point (concluding statement) you wish to make. With a range of varied evidence points, the reporter and their audience can easily identify your key talking points – instead of having to listen to you repeating your concluding statement over and over and over and over. (See the point?)

3. “Bridging” From Controversial Questions

Problem: Somewhere in the deep bowels of media consulting, someone decided it was a good idea to “bridge” to another topic whenever a reporter asks something you wish to avoid. I saw a famous politician use the bridging technique on a network morning news show. He was asked a question he obviously wanted to avoid like the plague, so he “bridged” by saying, “What voters are really interested in is X, and he quickly changed the topic to X – or at least he tried. The news anchor was so insulted that he spent several, painful on-air minutes arguing with the politician for avoiding the question. Today, you are seeing more insulted journalists call out spokespersons who try to bridge over troubled waters.

Solution: There are obviously times when you do not want to get in the “mud” with a question that is baited, off base or irrelevant. However, you have so many other good options that will maintain your credibility and likability with reporters and their audiences. If you have fully prepared for an interview, you know 99% of the negative or off-track questions that will come your way. The key is to use solution-oriented language to address negative questions, so you do not come across as defensive and running away from questions. Perhaps “bridging” should be renamed “running”!

There are numerous other ways you can reporters batty! They value sources that are well prepared and know how to meet their needs – and their audiences’ needs. When you know how to do this and remain human, you can reap great exposure and strengthen how people connect with your brand!