By Jennigay Coetzer

Media interviewsBeing a media spokesperson is often seen as a grudge role that gets in the way of priorities like dealing with customers. But with the right media training it can create a pull through for business.


For example, by broadening their understanding of the markets in which they operate to give good value in a media interview spokespeople will be able to feed this knowledge back into their customer base. Similarly, they can gather rich market intelligence while interacting with customers that will elevate them to the ranks of sort-after spokespeople.

During the media training workshops I run, I always stress how important it is for  spokespeople to support their viewpoints with key market statistics when discussing trends in media interviews. Journalists love statistics, because they quantify and give the audience a reference point, or measure that will enable them to judge for themselves whether a trend is significant to them or not.

It is not enough just to say “a few” or “most.” When I ask a six or seven people attending a media training workshop what figure comes to mind when they hear the word “most,” I get at least three or four different answers.  Some people even confuse “most” with “majority” and respond with “more than 51%.”

Ninety five percent of spokespeople are bad at providing statistics during media interviews, especially when it comes to the local market. All too often I get the response: “There are no local statistics available.” When this happens during the media training sessions I run, my next question is: “Are you telling me you don’t have any customers?”

I then suggest that if they take a sample of 10 or 15 top customers and 80% of them are making similar decisions about moving in a certain direction, follow similar buying patterns or have similar issues or expectations, this signifies a trend. Comparative trends can then be identified by taking a similar small or medium sized customers.

Similar statistics can be gleaned from any representative customer sample, without surveying the entire customer base.

When I suggest these approaches, in the Media Training Courses I run, the spokespeople attending will sometimes protest that as such a sample would have just been gleaned from their customer base, this information would not be broad-based enough.

But I know from 25 years experience as a journalist that if I ask four or five spokespeople from different companies the same question they will give me similar statistics.

If a spokesperson is still not comfortable making the statement that 80% of companies are moving in a certain direction based on feedback from their customer base, a qualified statement starting something like: “80% of our top customers are…..etc.,” would still be useful to a journalist looking for market feedback.

I provide other guidelines for adding value to customer interaction during the media training sessions and workshops I run. This training will also help sales people to interact more effectively with customers.

Examples are a powerful tool for spokespeople

Spokespeople also have a problem when I ask them to give me examples of the return on investment that can be achieved from the type of solutions they are trying to build a business case for during their interview sessions. I invariably get a response like: “That’s a bit like asking, how long is a piece of string,” which is no help to anyone.

I point out that surely their customers ask them this question before making purchasing decisions. As with statistics, this type of market intelligence can be gathered from the spokesperson’s company’s customer base, either directly or through customer facing staff.

During media training sessions, spokespeople often admit that after a sale is made they or their salespeople walk away and never go back and ask customers about the return on investment they achieved from the products and service they sold them. What a missed opportunity to gather market intelligence!

Even if spokespeople do not deal directly with customers, such as line managers, they can get their sales or support people to ask specific questions like this when their are interacting with customers.

Jennigay CoezerJennigay Coetzer is a freelance  journalist, corporate writer and trainer. Email her at jennigay@icon.co.za for more information about her writing skills workshops and media training workshops or connect with her on LinkedIn. An ebook version of her book A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing press releases, can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.zatogether with lots more writing tips.

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