“Singing from the same hymn sheet”, “being on the same page”, “having your ducks in a row” – it doesn’t matter how you describe it (though it’s best to avoid these post-match clichés), company spokespeople need to abide by the sentiment: be consistent.
One of the key lessons to emerge when we run in-house media training is that delegates often can’t agree on a certain message or are simply unaware what that message should be.
Putting staff through a series of mock broadcast or print interviews can very quickly highlight such oversights or misunderstandings. For example, let’s say the head of marketing thinks his company is launching its latest tariff in the second quarter of next year; the head of sales tells another interviewer it will be launched in May 2016 and then the PR director goes a step further and says it’s all happening on May 4th.
Does it matter they all said something different?
Yes, because it either indicates a level of ignorance on the part of the marketing boss, or it shows the PR chief is giving too much away.
It’s so important for staff to know where the “lines in the sand” are before the interview – and then stay behind them, no matter how much the journalist tries to nudge them across those lines (and they will try!).
We had a prime example of this with one company earlier this year, when, during the print interview practice, they were asked about newspapers speculating about how one of their suppliers may have been doing something unethical.
Now, it’s the company’s policy not to name its suppliers, but because our trainer asked the question, “So is this sort of behaviour typical of your client XYZ?” the company spokesperson, thinking the “journalist” knew more than she did, replied along the lines of, “We’ve discussed the matter with them, but there’s no reason to take any further action for now” – effectively confirming the identity of their supplier.
So, if you have a company policy on not naming clients/suppliers or not discussing market share, everyone likely to be interviewed by the media has to know this and then stick to it.
At worst important information could be given away needlessly, perhaps at the cost of lost business or perhaps even legal action, and at best the company looks like one where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
And that idiom reminds me of how I began…and of how I must write a post on why you should avoid a cliché if you want to put your best foot forward…