Why You Need a Company Spokesperson

It may start out as something small — a single disgruntled customer who goes public with their grievance, or a false rumor started by a competitor. But when the media gets wind of a potential news story, it can quickly get out of hand. The lightning-fast pace of news today — with up-to-the-minute postings on Internet news websites and blogs — means a story can spread like wildfire. Journalists looking for a juicy story can severely damage your organization’s bottom line for years to come — unless you get proactive before an incident occurs.

The biggest source of news leaks to the media is often a current employee caught unaware who inadvertently spills the beans. That’s why you need to appoint a company spokesperson, and allow that person — and only that person — to speak to reporters.

The spokesperson doesn’t have to be a high level executive. They simply need to be calm, cool, competent, and extremely knowledgeable about the firm. Their task is to present a professional face and consistent message for the company to the media and the public at large.

The ideal spokesperson should also:

  • Be available. Don’t appoint someone in the organization who is constantly traveling or in meetings. If the media can’t reach that person, their frustration may lead them to portray your firm as being evasive.
  • Be personable. You want someone who is outgoing and able to get along with people — including hostile or aggressive reporters — and is also articulate.
  • Be concise. Articulate is one thing. “Talky” is another. A spokesperson should be able to summarize what they want to say about the company in one minute or less.
  • Be truthful. They should never say anything untrue of something they are not 100% sure about because it will come back to haunt them (and your company). If they aren’t sure of an answer to a question, they should tell the reporter they will call them back and then take time to research and prepare their response.
  • Think on their feet. The spokesperson should not only know your company inside and out, but also your entire industry. This will help them anticipate industry trend questions before they are asked.
  • Return phone calls. Whether it is ABC News or the Podunk Press calling, the spokesperson should treat each and every reporter with courtesy. That means returning phone calls in a reasonable amount of time. Anything more than 12 hours is excessive and makes your firm appear rude, unprofessional, or both.

Consider media training

Once you’ve selected your spokesperson, consider sending him or her to a media training session. Any kind of hesitation or lowered eyes can send the message that the person isn’t telling the truth. Media training — offered by outside public relations firms and professional associations — can assist in the areas of body language, tone of voice, and overall composure. A session or two of media training — in which PR professionals may play the part of reporters, firing questions at the spokesperson while videotaping the session — will give your spokesperson confidence on camera.

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