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The first step in being an effective spokesperson is preparation. Never take media calls cold – even if the reporter is on deadline. Instead, find out why they are calling, determine their deadline and call back after you’ve prepared for the discussion.

  1. Know the medium. Different outlets have different requirements, interview formats and deadlines.

    Radio

    Television

    Print/Web

    In-studio or over the phone (landline, no cell phones)

    In person

    Usually over the phone

    Notes and resources are accessible to you

    Limited or no access to notes or resources

    Notes and resources are accessible to you

    Silence is deadly; speak clearly

    Appearance and attire are important

    Danger of sounding stilted if reading notes word-for-word

    May be live or taped (edited)

    May be live or taped (edited)

    Reporter is taking notes and may paraphrase; speak slowly

    Deadlines:
    • Usually 1-2 days

    Deadlines:
    • Same day for breaking news
    • 1-2 days for features

    Deadlines:
    • Dailies – 1 to 2 days
    • Magazines – 1 to 2 weeks

  2. Anticipate the questions. If you know the topics to be covered, you can anticipate the questions in advance, and prepare your answers accordingly. The key is to know your messages and concentrate on delivering them, not just answering the specific question asked. Only your answers will make it into the story, not the reporter’s questions, so focus on communicating your messages.

  3. Keep in mind that addressing the reporter’s question can be as easy as saying “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know that, but what I can tell you is…” then bridging to the message YOU want to deliver.

  4. Update yourself on the issues. The talking points and their links to supporting content are designed to help you do that.

  5. Prepare your answers. Good answers always begin with a general statement – this should be a key message. Next, find relevant talking points to support the key message. Finally, use an example from your own experience to add color and depth to your answer.

For example, here’s how you might answer a question on the value of owning a home:

  • Key Message:
    Homeownership is an investment in your future.

  • Talking Points:
    Home owners have a vested interest in their communities, which helps prevent crime, improve childhood education and support neighborhood upkeep. Owning a home is a good long-term investment, too. Over the past three decades, home values have risen an average of more than 5 percent per year.

  • Example:
    Several years ago I helped a young couple buy their first home for $225,000. Just this week I helped them sell their home for nearly $300,000, so they could buy a larger home with more space for their growing family.