Not everyone can be a spokesperson.
Not everyone should be the spokesperson of an organisation.
The primary spokesperson of any company is typically their CEO. Having a single spokesperson for media interviews is any day better than having different voices or perspectives represent an organisation. Multiple spokespeople make sense only when the company is confident they have the right people to elaborate on specific functions.
There are times when the CEO is inaccessible the journalist tends to reach out to “anonymous” sources, which could be any employee who may have decent insight into the inner workings of the company. That is never good for the company because such “anonymous” sources will misrepresent and definitely speak from meagre context.
I want to highlight three reasons why organisations need a spokesperson;
The best person to speak for an organisation is its CEO. Why? Only she has the 360 degree view of the organisation’s health. Every other leader in the organisation reports into the CEO which makes her the best person to provide a holistic perspective. An organisation can have other spokespeople apart from the CEO, but they will be specialised representatives for their respective departments. For e.g. an HR Head would talk about hiring, learning & development, culture, etc. the Finance Head, the numbers guru, would stay focused on talking about the financial performance of the organisation. Sometimes specialists from core (e.g. engineering) teams are called in to respond on technical details, along with the CEO. The CEO is almost always the primary spokesperson for any organisation, be it a Corporate or Nonprofit.
At small-medium nonprofits or in grassroot organisations, the leader tends to be the sole spokesperson. Since the teams are smaller and are focused on execution, the strategy, planning and budgeting is mostly done by the CEO of the nonprofit. She will be the best person to highlight impact, based on actual resources, the organisation set out to achieve.
The Voice of an organisation ensures consistent messaging across media platforms, offline or online. Consistent messaging involves both form and sequence. What I mean by form is, ensuring that the message shared with different media on a given topic is in line with the overall messaging. No two different media should have disparate views on the same topic from the same organisation.
When we work with journalists over a long period of time for regular features, the cascade of information must not be repetitive. Only the key spokesperson is fully aware of what was said earlier to ensure the messaging flow is sequential and follows a timeline. This is useful for the publication as they look for updated inputs for their stories.
In times of crisis, every organisation will need to respond immediately to inform, educate and empower with critical messaging internally or externally. Or even when there is an opportunity for an organisation to be part of a larger feature story that positively highlights its positioning. Media stories often require insights from organisations who are well versed with a particular industry or Cause. Being part of those stories help positioning the company as an expert, building trust and confidence.
COVID19 has kept PR professionals alert like never before. Working over-time ensuring their spokespeople reflect their hard work in the background.
“Speaking with one voice is paramount in crisis communications. Countless times officials have needed to contradict or re-explain the president’s miscommunication. The president has sought to blame China for the virus and previous presidents for a lack of preparedness. He’s also bashed the press repeatedly and said at times the Democrats were to blame.” – Excerpt from an article on PR News.
Training spokespeople is critical, not everyone is media savvy. Then there are those who do their own despite all the training. Preparing a spokesperson before any media interview is a necessary exercise. It doesn’t matter how good they are; experts have known to drown in swimming pools too.
It does not have to always be the CEO all the time. It’s also not necessary that every CEO makes for a good spokesperson. It takes dedicated PR professionals to identify the right spokespeople for media interviews.
If you are a nonprofit or a small business in need of free consultation on how to get started with PR for your organisation, please get in touch via the Contact page.