Over the past decade, I’ve media trained thousands of spokespersons. My first question is almost always the same: Can you tell me about your organization/company?
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the spokesperson will say something like:
“Well, the Association for the Advancement of Arkansas Education is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with 25 employees working in four statewide offices to improve elementary and secondary education in Arkansas.”
“Smith Toys is one of the leading companies in the United States making high-quality children’s toys in an affordable and sustainable manner.”
Did either of those statements grab you? I’m guessing probably not.
There’s a better way. When a reporter asks you a wide open question, such as “what do you do,” picture a wide open football field in front of you with no tacklers blocking your path to the end zone. But when you answer the question with a “what,” as in the above two examples, imagine you’ve just invited a few competitors onto the field to come tackle you, seriously undermining your ability to score.
Instead, begin with the “why” – the interesting context that makes your “what” more evocative. Imagine if the two spokespersons above had responded this way:
“Well, here in Arkansas, we’re 50th in the nation in education. That means our students are among the least prepared in the nation and the most likely to live in poverty. The Association for the Advancement of Arkansas Education is dedicating to changing that, and to making sure our students get the high-quality education they need to successfully compete and thrive in the global marketplace.”
“Whenever you buy children’s toys, you know how they always seem to cost too much and break within weeks of opening the box? Well, Smith Toys makes toys that aren’t going to break after you open the package – we guarantee it – and we’ve even figured out a way to make high-quality toys affordable and environmentally-friendly.”
Both statements are more compelling, right? Starting with the “why” does that – and it allows you to score points as you race to the end zone.
Next time you’re asked an open-ended question, ditch the bland organizational mission statement, and remember to start with the “why.”