Top Five Mistakes SMT Spokespersons Make

I have been producing satellite media tours since 1996 and by and large, most of the spokespersons I have worked with whether industry experts or celebrities, have done a great job. However, there are many mistakes that even a good spokesperson makes.

1. Not making good eye contact with camera. This should seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how even celebrity spokespersons fail to make good eye contact with the camera. Especially for actors, direct eye contact with the camera does not necessarily feel natural. They are used to having their performances filmed with no regard to looking at the camera. Some actors may succeed at establishing good eye contact with the camera directly but have a tendency to look up when they are thinking about a response. That does not look good on-camera. If it happens once within an interview it’s okay, but when it happens over and over again it doesn’t feel right to the viewer.

For live interviews via satellite media tours or live shots, establishing eye contact with the camera as though it is the person you are talking to (because theoretically it is) is one of the most important aspects of being a good spokesperson.

2. Weak or Hesitant Vocal Tone. A spokesperson must deliver the message points with passion. If they do not have energy behind what they are saying, then they won’t seem believable. That does not mean they should give an over the top delivery of message points, but they should have high energy and enthusiasm. When there is even a slight hesitation or weakness in a vocal tone when delivering message points, the audience picks up that the spokesperson is not 100% on board with what they’re saying. This is a primary reason for media training since a hesitant tone will be present when a spokesperson is not confident and well trained on the message.

3. Over Commercializing the Message. Sometimes the spokesperson does not understand that the message cannot be “over commercialized” and they will say a product name numerous times within the interview or turn the interview into a commercial. Stations get very annoyed by this and it can be “deadly” for taped interviews since producers may decide not to air the interview or completely edit out the client message. There is no reason that if the spokesperson is media trained correctly that they cannot learn subtle ways to deliver product message points.

4. Using the Word “Try.” Hearing a spokesperson or expert in a television or radio interview say, “Well, what were trying to do is raise awareness on XYZ,” is a big mistake and a reflection of poor media training. There is no commitment in the word “try.” You either do or you do not do.

The word “try” is very lame when it comes to presenting your message since it indicates an attempt versus a commitment. What the spokesperson should say is, “We want to raise awareness on XYZ,” or “We are working toward raising awareness on XYZ.” Keep this in mind when you are forming message points. It is also imperative that you educate your spokesperson on the importance of avoiding the use of the word “try.”

5. Thinking a Spokesperson Doesn’t Need Media Traiing. If you think a high paid celebrity spokesperson can “wing it” without proper media training then you’re setting them up for an epic fail. I’ve worked with everyone from A-listers to D-listers and it doesn’t matter how famous they are, how talented they are, or how articulate they are, if they are not media trained appropriately on your particular message points, they will not be strong in an interview to get your message across.

Clients are often intimidated to require media training in the contract when working with celebrities (or perhaps an agent suggests that it is not necessary). As the producer, it’s my job to help the on-air spokesperson look and perform their best and media training is how you guarantee it.

When you enter into a contract with the celebrity spokesperson, it should include a minimum of a two-to-three hour media training session regarding the exact Q&A they will be required to address in their interviews. Particularly if you’re dealing with an actor, it is important that they know and rehearse their exact message points (keeping in mind that memorizing a script is NOT a good idea). Reassure the actor and their representatives that the reason this media training is required is to ensure that the celebrity will give their best performance on the air. This is a reasonable request, since most actors are aware they must rehearse their lines for a show or movie before they actually shoot the scene. Also, they don’t want to damage their professional credibility by appearing unprepared.

When spokespersons try to “wing” their message points after a brief review of what’s expected of them, you will find that they deliver interviews full of “and ah, ahs and umms.” They may try to convince you that their delivery will feel more “organic,’ but it will only come off as “messy” with a lack of conviction in what they are saying This is often interpreted by viewers (or radio listeners) as a lack of belief in what the spokesperson is saying. Never assume that a spokesperson can have minimal training and hit the message points out of the park.


So avoid these five mistakes and your SMT will be a success, plus here’s one final tip…..

Number One Tip for Spokesperson Success in Satellite Media Tours: Structure a two-to-three minute message point script with a suggested Q&A that you provide to all TV and radio stations prior to the interview. CMP Media Cafe does this for all of our broadcast projects and we find that reporters use our scripts verbatim 85% of the time. We include a Suggested Anchor Lead and Suggested Anchor Tag for the producers and media train our spokesperson to prepare them when anchors take the interview off script.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Follow us on Twitter:  @CMP_MediaCafe

Copyright (c) 2014. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.










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