PR Training

No Time for Coaching — How Can I Still Help My Busy Boss Get Ready for the Media? (Part II)

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[Part II of II]

Click here to read Part I


For the really resistant, brittle individual who is impervious to almost any suggestion that he or she could use some coaching, I’ve developed a brief self-coaching list. These 12 items often lead to good conversations, but this is something you send to the executive, ask for 10 minutes to review it, be turned down, but wait for the phone to ring.

Lukaszewski’s Twelve Quick Performance Tips for Spokespersons:

  1. Use positive declarative language. Avoid using negative words and phrases. They cause confusion, generate negative follow-up questions and make you feel defensive.
  2. Talk about the future rather than the past. Everyone remembers the past differently. Going there often causes confusion and disagreements.
  3. If you must talk about the past, speak only about the lessons you learned there that will help you build a better tomorrow. Generally, the past holds very few, if any, useful lessons for tomorrow.
  4. Be constructive. Make suggestions or give helpful advice rather than criticize. Criticism creates critics and victims and is remembered forever.
  5.  Stick to the script. The only way to have message consistency and the benefits that brings to those who support you, or want to support you, is to use approved, positive, constructive statements again and again and again.
  6. Repeat yourself. Even under optimal listening and hearing conditions, most individuals get every third word. Repeat important ideas and concepts at least three times.
  7. Check for understanding. Ask your audience or listeners, “Am I being clear?” “Is this understandable?” “Does this make sense?”.
  8. Limit your answers to 75 to 150 words. A 75-word answer is about 30 seconds speaking time (in English). Say less but make what you say more important. Always talk to time.
  9. Use small numbers in your answers, stories and verbal illustrations. This technique has great power to gain the attention of your listeners while simplifying very complex subjects. If you add an adjective to the number (i.e., parts, phases, stages, elements, pieces, ingredients, sections, groups, concepts, etc.), you can verbalize very powerful ideas and concepts that will be understandable and memorable. You can make people write things down using this technique. Keep the numbers small, usually three or lower.
  10. Be a storyteller. If you want people to remember you and what you talk about, as well as learn something that matters, tell a story. Remember, what sets the story apart from an anecdote is that stories have lessons, morals, self-evident truths, or punch lines. The more stories you tell, the fewer visuals you have to create or use. A story lets the listener create the right mental visual for themselves.
  11. Go easy on the data. The truth is about 15 percent data and facts, and 85 percent perception and emotion. Data is always debatable, and lots of data often starts fights or controversies. Combine some data with a good story and you will prevail every time.
  12. Reduce the production of critics and disagreement. Critics, naysayers, opponents and the offended survive forever and always come back to haunt you. Build respect and friends at every opportunity.

There are three rules for providing advice like this to executives:

  1. Make it sensible and positive.
  2. Keep the topics suggested relevant to what this manager or leader does.
  3. Avoid teaching public relations and communications, or about the news or reporters. They believe they know all of that already.

Give it a try. Let me know how it works.

By James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEP, chairman and president, The Lukaszewski Group Inc., is one of public relations most frequently quoted and prolific authors/crisis communication management consultants. He helps prepare spokespersons for crucial public appearances and local and network news interviews including “20-20,” “60 Minutes,” “Dateline NBC,” “Nightline,” financial analyst meetings, and legislative and congressional testimony. Sign up for Jim’s free Executive Action eNewsletter.


Join Lukaszewski for his teleseminars Media Training for Media Trainers: Improve Your Effectiveness and a Media Trainer and Coach and Building Community Relationships: Overcome Opposition and Gain Community Consent.

About the author

James Lukaszewski, APR, Fellow PRSA

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