Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

'Deliver your key messages and you'll be okay.'


No, not okay. You need one more thing, and it's vital. Believability.  And it must be obvious in this new world of alternative facts that getting a nicely worded key message does not, by itself, give you believability. 

So what does?

For all types of media - look and sound as if you want to be there giving the interview.

Here's my rule of thumb. For an average public audience, only 10% of your impact is in the content. The rest, a whacking 90%, is in how you deliver the content. 

Impact? Think lasting impressions of you and your organisation. Walt Whitman put it perfectly when he said, "We convince by our presence."  Have you seen the pole vaulter Eliza McCartney give an interview? Most of us remember her for her presence even more than for her remarkable athletic abilities.  

Wait a minute. Won't those 10% 90% figures be different for say TV, compared to the print media? 

Maybe, but not in any way that matters, because even in a phone interview you're still talking to a human being, directly affecting the reporter who's about to write the article.

As a media trainer I have come across many subtle components of believability.  But we don't need to go into them because there is one simple and practical way to switch it on when you need it. Let me re-state the tip above. Ask yourself:

Do you want people to believe your message?  Okay, then show that desire as you speak.  Make it obvious. Get a little worked up. Get a bit of enthusiasm into your eyes, face and body language, and in your voice.

It makes an extraordinary difference. The average human mind cannot separate the message from the medium. So, when speaking the media, the medium that really counts is you. You have to be believable as well as your message.




Imagine this. You're walking past a shop with a sign Come on in! New customers welcome. There's a manager in the doorway trying to look welcoming. You point at the sign, and speak with a sceptical tone.

"I dont think so," you say. "I saw on TV that four of your customers just died in there."
The manager replies, "Here at Ace Services we take health and safety very seriously." Then he walks away.
You call questions after him, but he doesn't turn around and answer.

Are you reassured now? 

Of course not. And yet that bland, single-serve, meaningless reassurance is what many organisations issue when faced with a crisis. They send the mainstream media a statement with minimal relevance to the central issue, then make themselves unavailable for follow-up questions, hoping to starve the issue of oxygen. 

That's credibility suicide. It looks shifty. It looks as if you've been caught out doing something embarrassing and cannot look the public in the eye. If all you issue is that one bland statement, you can't blame the mainstream media for publishing it, nor social media for jumping right into attack mode.

Even when legal or procedural issues mean you can't yet comment on some details, you have to front up saying so. The question is not, do you front up. It's how you front up.  In a crisis get expert media consultant advice on what to say and when. In the meantime here are a few of my blogs that might help.

Now, what if it's not a crisis? Just something you think the public should know.  The short answer is that the same make-yourself-available principle applies - you're happy to give interviews to mainstream media and reputable bloggers, and you're happy to interact on social media. You're happy to be known. Obviously there is a longer answer, but that's for another time. 



Interested in a workshop on media skills for your team?





About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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