Look Who’s Talking
No ... this isn't a review of a now-30-year-old movie. (Man, how did that happen?!!!)
No, this is much more banal. Yep, I said banal (it was Bruce Willis voicing that baby, remember? I can't beat that).
Anyway, I was just reading a post on a message board asking for help identifying appropriate organizational spokespeople or “thought leaders.”
The poster was really asking: “Who should speak for us?”
There are seemingly obvious answers to this question, like the company CEO, an agency Director, or the dedicated spokesperson. But here’s the thing: You do not need to limit those who speak for your organization if your team is properly prepared to respond. The public and the media usually do not want to hear from the CEO (unless he or she is personally at the center of a scandal and that's a whole other ball of wax there!), and even more often, they don’t want to hear from an “official” spokesperson. Oooooohhhhh an official official! (Did I mention I was one of those for a while?)
Here's your takeaway ... Do your organization a favor, and allow the public behind the curtain to see your human side. When you have the chance, show off your passionate staff and allow them to show off work that they do. It builds credibility and engenders ownership.
Your spokesperson can exist at any level.
We, your audience, want to hear from real people. We (usually) want to hear from the in-the-field expert or person closest to a situation. The scientist who is taking samples or the cop on the scene. This person can often provide the details a C-suite individual, the police chief, or the governor cannot. This person tends to have the story. Their hands still get a bit dirty.
O.K. … I know not everybody wants to be called upon (“I don’t trust reporters.” “I look terrible on camera.” “I’ll freeze!”) and not everybody is up to the challenge of speaking publicly about an issue. But then again, many haven't been given the chance. As the saying goes, your people are your biggest asset.
Things to consider when identifying organization representatives:
Think about offering media training for those in your organization that come across as confident and credible. Take note of team members who are both personable and can think on their feet. People (reporters), it turns out, like talking to people not talking heads.
Ask yourself, does this person evoke our brand?
Vet the stories. Ask your new spokespeople to walk through the major bullet points of a story and adjust them with help from managers and your communications staff.
Prepare to respond to likely requests. Did a new study just come out that related somehow to your work? This is a perfect opportunity to pitch media with your poised representative.
Is there a company project that needs positive coverage (i.e., a product launch or completion)?
Is the person who led the project charismatic? Can they be coached? Use them.
If the media asks your organization to respond to an issue with a level of controversy attached to it, lean back on that “official” spokesperson or well-prepared CEO to address this in the short term.
Need help preparing your team for primetime? GoBrevi will customize a workshop just for you! Check out http://gobrevi.com.