Senior Manager of Communications, Aisha Dukule, discusses how to choose the right representatives for your company and avoiding a spokesperson crisis.
Jared Fogle Subway SXSW by Anna Hanks is licensed under CC by 2.0.
In recent years, we’ve seen company leaders, representatives, and spokespeople fall for a variety of reasons ranging from fibbing, to committing outright felonies. So how can you choose the right company representatives, proactively avoid a crisis, and handle the situation in the unfortunate event one does occur?
Choosing the right people
Just as an organization is careful properly vetting executives, officers, and even lower management, it must put the same amount of effort and attention strategically choosing a spokesperson. Afterall, the spokesperson manages one of the company’s most valuable assets: its brand.
Most organizations will need multiple representatives to answer for various media needs. When choosing representatives, ask the necessary and hard questions: What’s their background in your industry? Do they have enough nuanced expertise? What is their public speaking experience? How do they handle conflict? Are they likeable? How do they react to stress and pressure?
Representatives must both reflect the brand’s market positioning and its values. The public will not discern between your spokesperson’s professional and public life. How they treat staff when the cameras turn off is a reflection of your organization.
A thorough review of their public history is therefore crucial. That review should include an audit of social media activities, media appearances, and authored pieces. In many cases, potential issues can often be preemptively solved by a simple social media scrub. Those rudimentary steps can save a company thousands of dollars in future brand management costs and prevent unnecessary embarrassment.
In today’s news cycle, being well-spoken and charismatic doesn’t cut it anymore. Company leaders need to have professional media training to engage with reporters and handle the range of public activities associated with the position.
A comprehensive media training program can ensure that your leadership is ready to take on these challenges. Your media training should include elements like visual presentation preparation, how to pivot and avoid reporter traps, the development of key messages, and post-interview conduct. A properly trained representative will manage tough media interviews, provide memorable and concise messages, and leverage opportunities to uplift the organization’s brand.
Even with proper vetting and training, a crisis may still occur. In some cases, your primary spokesperson can no longer speak on behalf of the company. It is thus important to always have two or three individuals in your organization’s leadership that are immediately ready and capable of engaging with the media and community.
When crisis planning, time is of the essence. Brands that are heavily reliant on spokespeople must be prepared for the wide range of incidents and anticipated potential solutions. The basic tenets of crisis communication management remain the same: prepare, develop a plan, respond quickly, take responsibility, and find a resolution.
A gaffe by a spokesperson on a local station could be easily remedied with a short statement correcting the misstatement and investing in additional media training. A recording of your company leadership delivering a hate-speech rant may call for a series of apologies, reshuffling of leadership, charity donations, separation from the spokesperson, and a complete rehaul of your brand strategy. In all cases, the first step to solving any of these crises is preparation.
With proper preparation, vetting, and training, organizations can ensure they choose and create great representatives, and manage a crisis should one occur.
If you would like to discuss your organization’s spokesperson preparedness plan, please reach out to me at email@example.com.