Perfecting Your PR Messaging

Crafting the right messaging for public relations is like laying a strong foundation for a solid PR program. Whether your brand is strictly B2B or consumer, it’s worth spending the time to make sure core messages are bulletproof, easy to understand, and translatable in any format. This must hold true whether your team is speaking to media contacts, a room full of potential investors, or prospective customers. Here are our tips for perfecting your public relations messaging.

Maintain a “living and breathing” messaging document. When our team starts with a new client, we take a “deep dive” into the company’s background to capture its most important principles and develop a core narrative. The resulting document is key to guiding the PR team in every type of outreach as we tell the brand story. It also allows us to anticipate and answer questions from the media or public. Consider the document somewhat malleable, so the team can remain flexible and adjust to the company’s needs as they develop and change. It should contain the company’s founding story, provide an overview of what services or products are offered, and answer two crucial questions: “What sets you apart?” and “What difference will this make?”

Keep it short. Being concise can be challenging when there’s so much to say, but messaging needs to be short enough to be memorable and focused. Narrow the responses to the most important elements of the story, and edit again until the points are easy enough to commit to memory.

Steer clear of jargon. Buzzwords and jargon are the enemy of clear, concise messaging because they cloud the story with phrases that are either empty or unclear. Try testing the messages on friends and colleagues in the target audience who aren’t involved with the brand. They’ll be able to help you weed out jargon and empty words.

Tell a story that resonates. Messaging isn’t just about providing information about the product or services you offer, it’s also about tapping into ideas that resonate with listeners by getting them excited or engaged. Emotion is an important part of resonance, and so is familiarity with the stories we hear — the sense that the message ties into some broader theme we already know and love. We once wrote about the story types that repeat themselves over and over again in the news. Make it personal, when appropriate, and use compelling stories as part of your messaging to capture the listener’s imagination and keep them asking more about who you are and what you do.

Practice and perfect. Many company founders and spokespeople are completely at ease telling stories to media and the public, and some could use some practicing and polishing. Regardless of where you are, practice your elevator pitches and two-minute answers to the most important questions about the company or brand. Doing so not only builds confidence, but helps ensure that the most important points aren’t forgotten in the heat of the moment during a media interview or speech. Practice also helps you control the direction and focus of a media interview, by maintaining focus on what matters most.

PR Tips For The Big Media Interview

Successful media coverage is a defining component of a successful PR plan, and the most straightforward way to get it is a client interview. These opportunities come in all different shapes and sizes, from casual coffee shop background briefings to in-depth phoners. Though every interview may not carry the same clout as “O’Reilly-Obama,” that doesn’t mean your executive or spokesperson can afford to squander an opportunity to present and position themselves in the best possible light. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that they knock their interviews out of the park.

Prep. Start preparing your spokesperson by highlighting the story’s objective, the reporter’s background and outlet reach and focus. Gather as much information as you can, including what questions will be asked, how your client’s insight will be used and target audience details. This advance legwork will enable you to focus on appropriate messaging points and present them in a way that is relevant to the audience. Remember, interviews can always shift, but in-depth preparation helps maximize the chances of success.

Practice. The time leading up to a media interview is no time to just go through the motions. Suggest a (or multiple) face-to-face meeting in which you can provide constructive criticism and offer role-playing exercises along the way. Consider using video recording and playback to provide your client with a view of their media skills and areas for improvement.

Perfect the message. Once you have the interview details buttoned up, make sure your client is well-versed on the most relevant messages. Work to identify the top three aspects to highlight and flag for repeated mention during the interview; supporting them with facts, headlines and quotable language to establish your client as an expert in their given field.

Plan for the unexpected. Interviews can veer in any direction and thus may not always present the perfect opportunity to incorporate a point. Help your client keep in mind flagging techniques and phrases to bridge naturally to key points even when the opportunity isn’t obvious.

Person-to-person. Offer strategies to incorporate some of the “personal” into an interview to break the ice or establish some common ground. With advance organization and practice, they can relax a bit and inject an anecdote or ask questions without losing sight of the interview goal. After all, an interview is about relationship-building as much as anything.