Making Your Financial Services Spokesperson a Better Interviewee

Let’s be honest – the intricacies of the 2,300 page Restoring Financial Stability Act are challenging to digest. Even as a financial public relations professional, the task of tracking the ongoing developments of the financial reform while also developing strategic thought leadership for our spokespeople has been daunting – to say the least. However, the need to work closely with spokespeople to help translate their insights on complex financial issues into comprehensible, interesting and differentiating thought leadership is exactly what makes financial services public relations rewarding.

Like many media relations enthusiasts, I crave the opportunity to really sink my teeth into a story and bring our spokespeople’s strategic thought leadership to life. In the case of financial reform, it is essential to investigate the media coverage around the issue and work closely with spokespeople to make sure they offer not only compelling insights during an interview, but also that they present their point of view in a way that is digestible for the media – and in turn, their potential clients and the media’s audience.

Oftentimes, a spokesperson’s success during an interview depends upon your ability to effectively support thought leadership development as well as offer media training tips. Here are a few things you can do to strengthen pitches and help your spokesperson be a better interviewee:

1)      Regularly “Checking-In” is Key. Remember to talk to each spokesperson on an ongoing basis – especially if your financial services account relies heavily on media relations. This may seem like a “no-brainer” but it is something that can be neglected as media relations specialists work at a fast pace. Remember, your spokesperson’s insights add color to your pitches, so “check yourself before your wreck yourself” especially when pitching complex financial related issues. If time is of the essence, run the pitch by the spokesperson at the very least. But for pitches with longer lead times, its best to speak with the spokesperson to verify the content of the pitch and learn any additional – and hopefully new and different – points you can use to promote their expertise/thought leadership. 

2)      Focus on the big picture. Even high-level executives like Mad Men’s Don Draper need media training. In the case of financial services, many bank, insurance and asset management spokespeople possess such a wealth of knowledge that it becomes difficult for them to drill down to the four main points. Remind them that they only have five-ten minutes to speak with journalists so it’s important to avoid getting bogged down by the technical details. Asking questions can help so… 

3)      Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Offering probing questions helps the spokesperson focus on the most important aspects of an issue while enabling you to learn the key points you need to develop a thoughtful pitch. For example, questions you may ask a spokesperson about a topic like financial reform could be “What are the major provisions of the bill and why? What is missing from the bill? What will the passing of the bill mean for investors, businesses and consumers?”

4)      Pepper the pitch with sound bites. Examine the points the spokesperson makes and highlight the main takeaways in sound bites throughout the pitch. More importantly, share the final pitch with the spokesperson – this will further their understanding of what points you consider to be the most media-friendly. Further, the pitch can serve as notes that will sharpen their focus during the actual interviews.  

How do you help spokespeople be better interviews on complex issues? What resources do you use to strengthen your pitches on complex financial topics?


To reach Rachel:

Phone:  212.840.5476
Twitter: @RachelBethG
LinkedIn: Rachel Gerber