Recently, President of Phillips Media Relations and author of The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips, joined the Richmond PRSA to instruct PR pros on preparing themselves and their spokespeople for media interviews. Below I’ve outlined highlights from the class.
Three is the magic number
Brad recommends that speakers develop three main messages when going into an interview or preparing for a speech. Speakers should either focus on one main theme supported by three ideas, or three main concepts supported by interesting data and examples. There is no perfect answer as to why this is the best strategy, but our brains seem to like organizing information into bits of 3. For example: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; red, yellow, and green); and small, medium, and large. When an audience is given too many points, they tend to lose interest. On the flipside, too few points or messages can lead to redundancy.
The three-legged stool of messaging
Keeping the number 3 in mind, when constructing a solid message, a helpful visual is the three-legged support stool. Imagine a three-legged stool, with each leg representing support for your message: stories, statistics and sound bites. To put this into action, first, envision your message. You want to put it into context, so you tell a story. To support your story, you then cite statistics. It’s important to keep in mind that numbers tend to not stick with an audience unless they are unexpected or shocking. Lastly there are sound bites: what key piece of information do you want your audience to take away? Think of superlatives or extremes to give your audience to drive your point home. For example, “This is the biggest technology advancement in 50 years” – using an impressive superlative will keep your audience’s attention and hopefully stick with them after you’re done speaking.
Body Language do’s and don’ts
When giving a speech or being interviewed, it might be easy to focus only on the words you are saying and forget about your motions/actions.. As body language can make or break an interview or speech, Brad provided a few tips for proper body language. First off, the use of gestures is a good thing. Some people say the contrary, but as we are naturally expressive to some degree when we speak, we shouldn’t fight it when the spotlight is on us. Fidgeting and quick movements are distracting, however, and should be avoided. Additionally, gestures actually improve listener comprehension, which many people don’t know. If sitting while speaking, lean slightly forward to show engagement. This also makes it easier to gesture and be expressive while speaking. Last, think about hand placement. It can be easy to fidget and not know where to place your hands when you are nervous. Get used to either resting your hands in your lap when sitting, or clasped in front of you if standing, or even keeping them by your sides when standing.
The power of tone
Maintaining a proper tone in speech is vital when all eyes are on you. Though this may be obvious, it can easily be forgotten when under pressure. When speaking, think about a topic you are passionate about and speak as if you’re discussing that. If asked a tough question, never sound defensive. Instead, say something like, “Thank you for asking that question,” and move on with your point. Maintain an upbeat attitude even when being put on the spot or stumped. It may be beneficial to practice having someone ask you tough questions and see how you react.
Brad’s tips on preparation for speeches and interviews, in conjunction with his website, http://www.mrmediatraining.com/, provide PR professionals with an arsenal to prepare themselves and their spokespeople for media success.