How to take your first steps as a media spokesperson
With the Women’s Engineering Society celebrating its centenary, Elaine Cobb, our specialist in STEM PR consultancy at Definition, offers a few insights to women who want to up their profile by becoming a media spokesperson for their company. Being a spokesperson is a great tactic to boost your profile and demonstrate your leadership potential.
What is a media spokesperson and why is it worth being one?
Spokespeople act as the face of the companies they work for. They typically represent a particular range of products or services that they specialise in and in many cases the spokespeople have responsibility for sales – and that’s what prompted them to become a spokesperson.
For professional engineers, the role will typically involve being interviewed for trade and technical magazines. Editors of trade magazines and news websites are interested in technology as news – for example new applications, new solutions to problems or new ways to improve processes, how new technology is being applied and examples of your work for customers.
Being a media spokesperson has obvious benefits to engineers in a sales role as it helps them explain the benefits of their technology and how it solves problems, saves money or time, and improves quality or safety. Ultimately, this helps them reach out to customers and meet sales targets.
But a media-friendly engineer will also raise awareness of a company as a prospective employer and as a technology leader. And from a personal perspective, the role will help your prominence and raise your profile.
What should I do to prepare?
A first step is to update your LinkedIn profile to make sure it reflects your role and experience and that it includes an overview of your experience, areas of expertise and your objectives. In most cases, you’ll also need to get buy-in from your line manager and so you’ll need to know what you want to personally achieve and how it will benefit the team.
Getting buy-in from the relevant person in your marketing team or press office is also essential. You’ll need to explain to them what you want to achieve and how it can help them raise the company’s profile. It may be worth suggesting that they put your name forward to be interviewed in their target trade magazines for International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2019. As the day approaches, a lot of editors are planning features to celebrate – and want to find women engineers who are willing to appear, so now is a good time for women engineers at all stages of their careers to catch attention.
Your press office may also want to offer you as the author of ‘byline articles’ in trade magazines. This will give you the chance to show off your company’s expertise in a friendly publication.
Another thing that will help is getting a good photo. Ideally, it should be taken by a professional photographer, but if not, then ask a trusted friend or colleague to take a photo outdoors with a neutral or industry-specific background and where the lighting is diffuse.
Share, share and share again
Once you’ve appeared in a magazine, make sure you share it with your immediate colleagues, your wider network on social sites like LinkedIn and via your company’s PR and communications channels.
Once you’ve established yourself as a spokesperson, your press office and editors will remember and will come back to you for future opportunities.
It’s worth preparing for potential challenges. For example, if you want to share an example of your work for a customer, you will need to have approval in place from the customer’s press office before you identify them.
It’s likely that you will be expected to react quickly and at short notice to requests from the media – for example, to review draft articles before they are published or to answer a few questions. This can draw your attention from your day job – and that’s why it’s so important to get your line manager’s buy-in from the outset. It’s also worth keeping some bullet point notes to hand to make sure you hit all the right points if you have to give an interview.
Also, others may be envious and challenge you with unexpected questions. So it’s worth keeping your closest colleagues informed at your team meetings and being ready to explain how your activity is indirectly helping meet your company’s wider objectives.
With a bit of foresight and planning, you can make the most of working with the trade and technical media – and once they know that you have something interesting to say, they will come back to you for future opportunities.