We love working with our clients’ subject matter experts.

Our engineers and PR experts talk to our clients’ engineers and subject matter experts and disseminate their insights to the media in the form of press releases, web stories, and social media posts, to help educate and influence target audiences.

Usually, everything runs smoothly. However, we sometimes find that experts can unintentionally increase the cost of a project or reduce the outputs, particularly if they’re new to the process of… editing.

The challenge for a CMO is that this can have a big impact on budget and outputs.

Being a spokesperson is a skill in itself and as experts climb the career ladder, companies invest in their skills with broadcast media training and public speaking courses. Not all spokespeople need this level of training, especially if they’re just starting out.

Instead, we often distribute the guidance below, to help them navigate the world of PR and communications.

What to expect as a new spokesperson working with a PR consultancy

When your marketing team asks us to support your project, often our first step is to arrange a briefing call with you.

Usually, we’ll do some background research beforehand and will provide a list of questions.

Talking through these questions with you on a call will give us four things:

  1. A good understanding of your project, its objectives and what you want the market to know
  2. Facts and figures, proof points and important details that set you aside from the competition
  3. Insight into the way you talk, including phrases and industry jargon that you use
  4. An opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

During the call, we might stray onto sensitive topics or ask difficult questions. However, when you’re talking to PR consultants, you’re in control, as you will get the opportunity to review and approve anything we write. That is not the case when talking with a journalist – so think of this kind of PR briefing as a safe way to develop your skills as a media spokesperson.

We’ll always try to use your time wisely by having just one briefing call and then reworking the same story as many times as we can. This will help raise your profile without it taking too much of your time. We will ask for your feedback every time we write a new piece of content. But because we learn a bit more about you every time you respond, it should become quicker to review content over time.

A quick introduction to different types of PR content

We write different types of content to meet different objectives. Each one needs a different approach, for example using less formality or a particular structure. However, we’ll always get better results if we have a great photo to illustrate whatever we’re talking about (this includes decent headshots)!

  • Press releases – these are to raise awareness via the media. They should only be used for big news announcements that will have a broad reach because it can be pitched to multiple titles and exclusivity isn’t an issue.
  • Byliner – often known as a contributed article or an op-ed or opinion piece. It will normally appear in a trade/sector specialist magazine. They can be seen as the opposite of a press release as they are narrow but deep. They are great for thought leadership your and explaining complex concepts. To make the most of your budget, we won’t draft a byliner until an editor has accepted our pitch and we’re certain we have a home for it.
  • Blog – usually, these will appear on your own website/social media profile and your marketing team will probably share this content via marketing campaigns. Your SEO team will also be keen on this content.
  • White paper – an in-depth report that draws together your research and opinions with data, theory and market trends. White papers are often used in gated content campaigns: campaigns to help your marketing team gather data about potential customers, including marketing qualified leads that need to be nurtured by business development units. They are also used as raw material for other types of content e.g. a whitepaper could be serialised into blogs with calls to action in the blog content designed to get a target audience to download the original whitepaper.

A final tip…

Check that you know how to use track changes and edits in Word! Using track changes in Word is second nature to people who work in marketing so it’s easy to forget that subject matter experts may not be aware of the tool, especially if they are in customer-facing roles, in the field, or work primarily with spreadsheets and specialist software.

Knowing how to edit using track changes in a document will save everyone’s time. For example, showing ‘all markup’ shows every edit (and who made it) but this can feel overwhelming. You can switch to see a clean version by choosing to view the document as a ‘simple markup’ instead.

If you’re not sure, watch this video from Microsoft to check how to track changes – it’s 81 seconds well spent!

Written by: Elaine Cobb, Senior Comms Consultant (and mechanical engineer) at Definition.