Messaging for the Profession
It’s important for every athletic training organization to know its message. What is it we most want the media, the public, patients, coaches, parents, administrators and other health professionals to know about our profession? To be effective means to have a succinct, carefully crafted message – and to stick to it!
A good message will be invaluable in the legislative arena, when promoting the profession during National Athletic Training Month, when talking to the media, and generally when talking to outsiders about athletic training.
To help you develop your association’s message, read what an expert says about Staying on Message.
STAYING ON MESSAGE
By Andy Field FieldVision Productions ©2004
“It’s the economy, stupid!”
Just four simple words helped win an election - and if your politics live on the other wing – the other recent two term President had a similar mantra.
“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
The men delivering those messages never wavered - no matter what reporters asked.
It’s a simple, powerful… and profitable technique.
Staying on message is simply a matter of “grabbing the wheel” of an interview and steering it across the bridge. You “bridge” the interview from the question you don’t want to answer to the answer you want to give.
While you can’t tell a report what to ask, you can control YOUR answers. Politicians do it each day. They bridge tough, unwelcome questions with phrases that begin with.
“I can’t tell you that, but what I can tell you is…
“Lets put your question into perspective….”
“The real issue here is….
There are many roads that help you navigate your way from hostile question to an on-target message…AND you can deliver it with a smile without being evasive or combative.
“Message masters” perfect this the same way you get to Carnegie Hall…
Practice, Practice… … you know the rest.
Step One – Crafting Your Message
You can’t stay on message if you don’t have one. To insure you do, work with experienced media coach or public relations professional who can help you tell your story.
Watch the evening news and see which sound bites make the broadcast. They’re short. They use colorful analogies that explain something by comparing it to something else. The best message carriers use superlatives, tweak clichés, use sports, travel, medical references…. anything that paints a tight, 10 second word picture that sums up their message.
A jury selection expert explained on camera why it was best to just avoid a trial rather than find a perfect jury. She could have spent several paragraphs explaining why it’s risky, how jury selection is an inexact science, how slam dunk cases often aren’t. Instead she used a powerful, simple analogy that got her message on national television.
“We call going to trial…rolling the dice. How many of us would risk our lives on the roll of the dice.”
I’d wager she didn’t make that up on the spot. More likely, she and her media coach spent hours practicing her delivery, her body language, how she paused between “going to trial”…and then stretching out “rolling the dice” Quite a lot went into that 7 second sound bite.
Memorable messages don’t just materialize. Executives create, polish and rehearse them long before the interview.
It’s like preparing a debate…or a sales presentation. You wouldn’t face your best client without asking and answering every possible sales objection before trying to close the deal. Yet too many executives figure “how tough can this reporter interview be…I’ll just wing it.”
Winging it often leaves your wings clipped.
The morning talk show guest executives and politicians never wing it. Watch closely and you’ll see they walk in with a message and deliver it - no matter what the host asks.
Like a good quarterback, they take the field with a complete playbook.
If the host asks this, I run my message down the middle.
If they try tackling me with a tough issue, I fade back and pass.
The quarterback doesn’t just grab a hot dog and then run his plays…. he spends all week on the practice field.
You should too.
Step Two – You Are The Message
No one will hear your message unless you polish your delivery. Everything must work for you, from your body language and pacing to the clothes you wear. If one single element distracts the audience “boy those earrings are big” or “why does he look so stiff?”…your message is road kill. Steamrolled by poor practice and preparation.
Staying on message means avoiding verbal detours – those ums and ahs and little side trips that drive you off a cliff.
Always prepare for an interview as if it will be on television. The exacting time limitations for sound bites and appearance work as well on TV as they do in newspaper or radio interview.
You must learn to breath properly, focus and smile.
Combative, defense interview subjects scramble their message. Open, forthright spokespeople make certain it gets through.
And never buy in to a reporter’s negative question. If they say “Isn’t this going to ruin the environment? DON’T say, “No it won’t ruin the environment!
Never buy into a negative question!
Instead say. “In fact, we’ve gotten the Sierra Club’s seal of approval…we’ve set aside 100 acres to preserve park and wetlands. You can balance development and environment preservation."
Don’t give a reporter more than your message.
Don’t embellish or keep talking to fill the awkward silence. That’s the reporters job, not yours. You are message delivery system aimed at their TV or radio network, their newspaper or magazine.
Remember a good KISS is the best policy.
Keep It Short and Simple.
Presidential Candidate John Kerry knew he had a brevity problem, so he carried a stopwatch and timed every answer in mock debates. This is a terrific technique that sharpens your message.
And, as hard as this is to hear – style beats substance nearly every time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create a substantive message – just that how you package and deliver it matters more than most of us realize.
Using the proper body language, natural gestures, varying the tone and pitch of your voice and waving a flag over your most important points are crucial.
If your interviewer and viewers don’t like what they see, they won’t stick around to hear what you say.
Step Three – Don’t Forget Your Message
So many interview subjects want to please and help the reporter that they forget why they agreed to the interview.
You’re there for just one reason- to convey YOUR message.
If you forget to mention your product’s name or to sing your company’s praises, the reporter won’t do it for you.
Help him with phrases like, “If you remember one thing today it’s this, X Company’s widgets will solve this problem – fast quick and at a budget price…and here’s how…”
If a reporter wraps up the interview and says “is there anything else you’d like to add?” Well, that’s like a pitcher lobbing a fat slow pitch to a home run king. Just knock that one past the bleachers with your best message line. Something like:
“Well, we’re thrilled to open this one of a kind shop here in Peoria – There’s nothing like it on earth.”
Never miss a chance to deliver your message.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox didn’t just show up and win the World Series after 86 years – they did it with focus, preparation and practice. Following their lead will help insure it doesn’t take that long to hit your message out of the park on national radio and television.
©2004 Andy Field Field Vision Productions
Thanks to Andy Field for allowing NATA to include his advice in our StarTRACK Leadership Development Program!