Stick To Your Messaging, But Don’t Sound Like a Politician

With the GOP primary season in full swing, candidates are crisscrossing the early-primary states to introduce themselves to voters. Their movements are highly strategic and their words constantly scrutinized. One memorable misstep or slip of the tongue can effectively end a campaign. (Remember Howard Dean’s scream and Christine O’Donnell’s attempts to persuade people she’s not a witch?)

Politicians understand the importance of strong messaging. Extensive research helps them decide the best way to frame their position on certain issues. Sticking to the pre-determined messaging helps them put forth a consistent brand image and reinforce their beliefs and political personality in the minds of voters.

But sometimes politicians (and other spokespeople) go too far in sticking to their set talking points and forget to be spontaneous and conversational.

Recently, CNN’s Don Lemon criticized Michele Bachmann for her robot-like repetition of talking points and praised Sarah Palin for her openness and authentic tone with reporters. Shocking, right?

Sarah Palin is usually not credited for her media acumen or eloquent speech, but she definitely excels at appearing genuine, even though it sometimes backfires.

Successful spokespeople must combine Bachmann’s commitment to messaging with Palin’s candor. A simple tactic is to give short answers. Short answers are also much easier for reporters to use in their stories, whatever the medium.

Sometimes people get nervous in interviews and try to sound smart. These attempts often backfire and lead to long and confusing quotes that are impossible for a reporter to repurpose. Help them help you by keeping your answers short and to the point. Reporters think in terms of sound bytes, and so should you.

Although speaking to the media can be intimidating, if you know your message, keep it conversational and expect the unexpected, you will do well.