Media Training: The art of speaking to your audiences

Spokespersons Training, one of the most important communication tactics

Hector m. meza 1 August , 2014
La Medición de la Comunicación y su Estandarización en la Ciudad Condal

At some point in our lives, one of the greatest fears we face as professionals is public speaking; whether at a family gathering; a school or office presentation; responding to an interview or give a speech. Even the most confident performers can suffer from stage fright. Stage fright is common for everyone from actors to professional presenters. If you have stage fright, then you may start to feel nervous, shaky, or even completely debilitated at the thought of performing in front of an audience and even sometimes not being able to articulate words and ideas.

During my university days, I was invited to talk about Mexico and its traditions in a church in a small town near Sherman, Texas. When I stood up to speak, I was speechless, my heart pounding out of my chest, after a few speechless moments, I looked into the audience´s compassionate eyes, and could not utter a single word! I still remember the sound of silence of that experience. Then, after training and constant practice, by requirements of my job, I began to speak more fluidly and consistently to different audiences, no matter if it was at the office, meeting with clients or giving speeches at fairs, exhibitions and conferences in various industries.

The end of any Media Training is to identify and prepare spokespersons to sustain effective communication relations with their Stakeholders.

The fast-paced world of information we witness today and where we also are participants, requires from companies, government institutions and civil organizations to be always prepared to act and respond promptly to the constant flow of messages and questions traveling through the various communication channels.

Regardless if you are in a public and private organization; government institution; NGO; religious group, media outlet, pressure groups; etc., you need to have in your ranks trained spokespersons to share the vision and establish a relationship of trust with your Stakeholders. As the Spanish writer Baltasar Gracian - a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher - said:Lo bien dicho se dice presto.("What's well said is quickly said.") , so a spokesperson represents the personage; the personality, the character, the presence and the voice of an organization; being a reliable source of information and a good communicator.

With this challenge in front of organizations, Media Training has become one of the communication tactics that has gained great relevance. Although today some CEOs still have doubts on the benefits of this tool, especially when it comes to justifying budgets, many organizations have already realized the importance and benefits of properly training their spokespersons to stand up and address their target audiences, since they are part of the company´s Branding.

While it is true that the end of any Media Training is to identify and prepare spokespersons to maintain an effective contact with Stakeholders-customers, press, employees, communities, etc., - so that they can communicate positive and focused messages about the company and its products/services; it is also a fact, that it is not just knowing what to say, and say it; just because someone recommended us to say it. It is important to go further.

Set your goals

An essential part to the success of Media Training is not only knowing what to say; you have to set the goals to be achieved, whether personal or for the business; always seeking to answer the questions of our target audiences and achieve the impact you want to be reflected on your organization.  This is one of the reasons why many companies do not see a tangible or quantifiable investment in this tool, much less in media encounters or with other target audiences.

If there are no goals defined as to what you want to communicate, surely it will be very easy to make mistakes communicating your messages, impacting the success of your encounters.

Some basic goals to consider:

  • Clear, consistent and concise key messages: You cannot afford in a meeting with your key constituencies, not to communicate the strengths and differentiators of the organization, which allows telling the story of your brand in a targeted manner, gives consistency and personality, as well as creates awareness and positioning among key constituencies by its constant repetition.

  • Building the reputation: Meetings with key constituencies should help build good personal, corporate and brand reputation; which helps attract and retain customers and generate higher levels of satisfaction and commitment and loyalty to your brand.

  • Develop empathy: Make the audience feel at ease; make them feel comfortable, so that they go back to the brand as a reliable source of information and, above all, as a visionary in certain subject.

  • Know your company’s sensitive issues: As a spokesperson of an organization you should know situations of external and /or internal vulnerability that if they were to become public domain, can affect its image. Give true answers adhering to the company official position, protecting its reputation.

  • Reply following your company’s Communications Policy: There are certain guidelines established by each organization which serve as a guide during the contact of the spokesperson and its Target Audiences. If you do not have them, approach an expert to support you in defining a practical set of guidelines tailored to your organization.

  • Public image: If the meeting is recorded or videotaped, you should look comfortable, sure of yourself and relaxed as to be perceived as who you are, what you do and what position you have within an organization.

  • Call to action: This is perhaps the great goal of all good spokespersons, because you must ensure that those who read, hear or see your comments, trigger the actions that you and your company expect; i.e. buy a product, a service contract, make an investment, etc.

Often Media Training and the resulting media coverage and the visibility obtained among key audiences, dazzle us and make us forget the primary goal; therefore, it is imperative to remember that all our efforts at every speaking opportunity should be focused on a specific goal: to touch the hearts and minds of our target audiences.

So, if not have not yet defined your communication goals you want to accomplish through this communication tactic, stop for a moment and think what you as a spokesperson or your company want to achieve. The primary goal must be: “it is not worth talking, if it is not clear what should be spoken”.  Not surprisingly, the Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist and humorist Lucius Annaeus Seneca said: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable”.

A good spokesperson has good qualities when speaking, but no one was born knowing, it is experience and constant contact with audiences that makes the spokesperson. Once you have been identified as the voice of the organization, your work is 24x7x365, so having the necessary tools to accomplish this task , combining verbal and nonverbal elements, will make every encounter successful, communicating at every opportunity the strengths and differentiators of your company with valuable information.

And …have you experienced the benefits of Media Training?

About the author: Hector worked for IBM Mexico for more than 30 years, managing different functions and areas: Marketing and Commercial – Channel Sales, Manufacturing, External Relations, Human Resources, Legal, Education, IT, Foreign Trade and Security. During his career at IBM, he had two international assignments in charge of Marketing and Sales for Latin America. After his retirement as IBM's Executive Vice-President, he took the position as President and Corporate Director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for Motorola Mexico; he was also Vice-President for Motorola Corporation.

Hector has a college degree in Business Administration from Texas A&I University, and a Master's degree in Economics from Trinity University. He has also received intensive training in advanced business management, corporate strategies and international trade at IPADE; Pittsburgh University, IBM La Hulpe in Belgium, IBM Executive Institute in N.Y. and Motorola University.

Hector is also an Independent Consultant for Management, Strategic Planning, Human Resources and Marketing Communications and is a  columnist for Forbes Mexico, Alto Nivel  and Dialogo Ejecutivo. He may be contacted vía: Twitter: @HectorMezaC; Facebook: Héctor M. Meza; LinkedIn: Héctor M. Meza Curiel.