Your choice of words is critical, whether you are dealing with pubic, trade or media. Media training often has many opportunities for a cleverly turned phrase. If a journalist interviews three or four people for a story, the interviewees who will get quoted the most will be the ones who are most articulate. Does this mean that your spokesperson has to have the ability of Robin Williams to think on his or her feet?
(Actually, if the late Robin Williams were a spokesperson for one of our programs, I would be terrified. I would be laughing hysterically—but completely terrified. That kind of creativity is like a match in a dynamite factory. Who knows what will happen?!)
What is needed is enough media training for your spokesperson to understand how and when to introduce a few quotable comments in any interview. Rather than being recognized as the undisputed expert on a topic, your spokesperson should aim for a somewhat more attainable goal: a person who can explain the subject in a simple, clear, and memorable way.
Memorable is the key word here. I was once interviewed on NPR about the glut of wines on the market, and in a sidebar conversation, I was asked why there were so many different kinds of wines in the world. I pulled out an old line I had used from my wine education days, and explained that wines were like dinner guests. “Sometimes you want to have dinner with Dolly Parton, and sometimes you want to have dinner with Catherine Deneuve.” The interviewer laughed, and the rest of the conversation was both friendly and rewarding for us both.
I knew that the line was memorable. I also knew that it wasn’t exactly on topic for the larger story of the wine glut. But I was sure that when the rest of the interviews were edited out onto the radio station’s floor, this one quote would still be in the story. It was too good to leave out. It made people smile when they heard it, and it did capture that element of variety and choice that is so critical to understanding the wine market.
In the end, they interviewed about eight people for that story, and only three of us actually made it onto the air. The other quotes they used from me allowed me to get my key point across, but I am sure they had a number of other options. What won the day was that single, memorable quote.