As the old adage runs, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. All the same, people do judge by appearances – and your company will be judged on the face it presents to the outside world.
With this in mind, it is vital to take care when choosing the company spokesperson: fronting media campaigns, authoring written articles, interviewing with journalists, and presenting at industry events.
Your spokesperson is likely to be conflated, in the minds of your audience, with the company they represent – and as such, they need to embody the values of your business, and be able to articulate these values – as well as to comment on the market – clearly and engagingly.
However, while being a good spokesperson is often thought of as an inherent trait, this is simply not true. With the proper media training and support, anybody can develop their media skill-set to be a great spokesperson for your company.
Myths about choosing a company spokesperson
The idea that a good spokesperson must exhibit a set of inherent characteristics – such as charisma and assertiveness – is outdated. There are many more misconceptions around this topic but here are the top 4:
1. A spokesperson must be an executive
People often believe that the spokesperson must be the most important person in the business – usually the CEO. However, while your spokesperson should be able to talk with authority, both on the company and the wider market, asking your CEO to be spokesperson comes with its own challenges.
For example, a busy schedule and focus on running the business may leave little time for media relations, as other things are prioritised. In addition, the CEO’s unrivalled oversight of the business as a whole is often counterbalanced by a lack of visibility on day-to-day operations. If you are looking to profile expert knowledge and experience of the company’s work ‘on the ground’, an accomplished specialist within the business may prove a suitable choice.
Having a CEO or other executive as company spokesperson often works very well. But it’s almost never the only option to consider.
2. A spokesperson must have an assertive manner
Some people have a commanding presence and exude authority. However, in an interview situation, it’s important to strike a balance between assertiveness and modesty.
Come across as over-confident and this may be mistaken for arrogance or even obfuscation. Come across as timid and your answers may not gain the traction they merit.
More often than not, your best spokespeople are the ones who remain calmly confident and reliably unflappable in all manner of situations, whether coaching a junior one-to-one or presenting to shareholders en masse.
3. A spokesperson must know everything
When considering who is best placed to give voice to your business and its activities, it’s tempting to opt for the person with the deepest knowledge. After all, they’re the person who can answer the most questions, right?
Wrong. An interview is not a school examination! It’s not just the content of the answer that matters, it’s the delivery too. Without the right delivery, your audience simply won’t hear what you’re telling them – your A* answers will be graded E!
With the right preparation, your spokesperson can ensure they enter an interview situation with the necessary level of knowledge in the areas most likely to arise. There may be colleagues who know far more, but are they as adept at getting their point across?
4. You must choose only one spokesperson
In most organisations, it makes great sense to have a pool of spokespeople to draw from. Besides sharing the workload and mitigating against illness, holiday and career moves away, this approach also helps your business make the most of its interviews.
Your reputational stock will rise among stakeholders, from customers to prospective partners, with a depth and breadth of talent on show. The journalists you work with, and by extension their audiences, will welcome your company’s ability to pick the right horse for each course. Your marketing team will feel empowered to take advantage of a greater number of opportunities to put the business under the spotlight, and your sales team will be glad of the extra leads this generates.
To summarise, anybody can be a spokesperson, with the right support. Ignore the myths about what a spokesperson should look like and consider instead what it is that you are seeking to achieve.
Choosing a spokesperson – or spokespeople – is one of the most important things you will do when implementing a communications strategy. Each interview represents an opportunity to enhance the reputation of your business through consistency, competency, expertise, inspiration and warmth. It’s worth doing your homework!