PR Training

What This Late Night Segment With Tom Hanks Reminds Us About Prepping for Media Appearances

What would you do if your client pulled out a sheet of talking points during a live interview? If you’re like many PR pros, then you’d likely be in a state of panic.

That’s exactly what Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks did while promoting “Toy Story 4” on a recent episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” During the interview, Hanks whipped out a stack of key messages that Disney had prepared for him — jokingly referring to them as “Gutenberg Bible stuff.” The live audience reacted with laughter and applause.

Of course, an immensely likable star like Hanks can pull this off. But if someone else did? It probably wouldn’t be met with the same thundering applause. 

Though his antics here may make PR pros feel a bit nervous, we should actually be grateful for Hanks’ bit. Not only did he prove that talking points are necessary; he also showed the world that even superstars need a solid PR team to help them prep for media appearances.

If you’re trying to prepare your spokesperson for a big interview, then follow these tips to creating perfect talking points.

Keep it simple.

Because you don’t want your spokesperson referring to their talking points as “Gutenberg Bible stuff,” you need to keep them short and simple. If the messaging document is cluttered with extraneous information, they may miss their key points — or worse, go off script entirely. Keeping talking points to the most important information ensures that the face of your brand will know exactly what they need to get across during the interview.

Use bullets points.

When your spokesperson is answering a question on-camera, the added pressure of the blinking red light makes it easy for their mind to draw a blank. Having a document with short, bulleted talking points will help them retain what they need to say, while ensuring audience members understand the message.

Make messages memorable.

Journalists are always looking for strong soundbites for their stories. Crafting key messages that are as memorable as they are simple will set your talking points apart. Not only will reporters appreciate the newsworthy quotes, your spokesperson will thank you for helping them look and sound polished.

Plan prep time.

Most people won’t study their talking points over breakfast like Tom Hanks. Take interview prep to the next level by putting time on your spokesperson’s calendar to rehearse in person.

During this time, you can help your talent review on-camera etiquette and practice bridging techniques that will allow them to direct the flow of questions. It’s also a good opportunity to prepare them for the unexpected by asking the difficult questions they could encounter.

Pro tip: Setting up a mock, on-camera interview is a great way to see how your spokesperson performs under pressure. You’ll be able to record their answers and play back their responses to help evaluate their performance.

If Tom Hanks taught us anything, then it’s that even seasoned pros need our help to feel comfortable on camera. Follow these tips when you create talking points. And then sit back, relax and watch as your spokesperson nail their media appearances.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge

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