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 which it presents to the outside world.
With this in mind, it is vital to take care when choosing the company spokesperson who will be the ‘face’ of your brand: fronting media campaigns, authoring written articles, interviewing with journalists, and attending industry events.
Your spokesperson is likely to be conflated, in the minds of your audience, with the company they are representing – 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idea that a good spokesperson must exhibit a set of inherent characteristics – such as charisma and assertiveness – is outdated.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 6:
1. A spokesperson must be important
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 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.
The weight given to these considerations will depend on your business, your PR team’s vision, and many other factors – and there is no doubt that, with commitment from all sides and providing that the issues above are understood and mitigated, having a CEO as company spokesperson can work very well.
2. A spokesperson must have an inherent charm
Naturally, a spokesperson should be engaging, likeable and comfortable in front of a journalist. However, while charisma is often thought to be an inherent trait, it just as often comes as a result of hard work. Being comfortable in front of people comes with practice, and the ability to engage an audience is largely a matter of preparing interesting and well consolidated points.
Your PR team can help with both of these aspects, offering media training to give your spokesperson the tools to complete an engaging interview, as well as providing briefing documents and helping to assemble a bank of relevant and interesting market insights and information for an interview.
3. A spokesperson must have an assertive manner
It is often thought that a spokesperson must have a commanding presence and exude authority. However, if not properly controlled, this could come across as overconfidence or even arrogance. It is therefore important to make sure that your spokesperson strikes a balance between assertiveness and modesty.
If a potential representative comes across as under-confident, this too can be helped by media training from your PR team. Advice from, and preparation by, a team of experts can do wonders to alleviate the initial nerves of someone unused to media engagement.
4. A spokesperson must be knowledgeable
A good spokesperson will of course be successful in their field, and able to explain and discuss their work with journalists. However, don’t expect them to be rattling off statistics and imparting market wisdom whenever you catch them by the water-cooler.
A good spokesperson will be prepared to read up on, and prepare for, media opportunities and public-facing events. Nobody is ‘on’ all the time – and as long as your spokesperson can prepare for, and apply their knowledge during, interviews, that’s all that matters.
5. A spokesperson must draw attention
Naturally, a spokesperson is likely to be in the spotlight a lot of the time, representing your company at industry events and in engagement with the media. However, there is no reason why a quiet, unassuming person can’t fulfil the role well.
The very nature of media engagement during a PR campaign, including interviews and speaking slots at industry events, will bestow attention on your spokesperson without requiring them to court it – and a quiet, yet confident and capable representative is likely to garner respect for your company far more than someone who may attract more attention, but for all the wrong reasons.
6. You must choose only one spokesperson
Although this blog post, with its multiple references to ‘your spokesperson’, has thus far appeared to endorse this myth, it is in fact unnecessary – and may even be unwise – to place sole responsibility for media relations on the shoulders of one spokesperson.
Aside from the practical considerations – what happens when your spokesperson becomes ill, goes on holiday, or leaves the business? – the designation of multiple spokespeople would more effectively communicate to the media that your company possesses not only depth, but also breadth, of expertise.
Having multiple spokespeople also ensures that media opportunities can be offered to the person with the most relevant experience and knowledge, thereby profiling your company’s expertise to the optimum degree. For example, for a journalist interested in the developing Jordanian solar market, an introduction to your company’s Middle East specialist is likely to offer the most benefit to both parties.
It is worth noting that spokespeople can also be designated on a more ‘ad hoc’ basis, depending on the interests of the journalist or the topic of the opportunity. While nominating one or two people to be ‘leading’ spokespeople can be valuable in cementing their profile in the media, it is also useful to have a wide range of company members who can be approached to cover a range of specialist topics.
What to look for when choosing a spokesperson for your business
When deciding on a company spokesperson – or people – bear these 5 myths in mind and try to broaden your consideration. Rather than looking for characteristics such as charisma and assertiveness – both of which can, to some degree, be learned and developed – it may be helpful to prioritise other considerations.
For example, consider your spokesperson’s position in the business. Ideally, they may be of a mid-high level, with a good overview of the company’s operations, and able to keep abreast of – and comment intelligently on – market developments. Perhaps they are already a regular on the conference circuit, or are keen to attend industry events?
Also think about their area of work; a Business Development executive would be a good fit for a PR strategy targeted at raising the profile of the business with new audiences, for example.
Ultimately, one of the most important traits in a spokesperson is enthusiasm; something which cannot be taught. A company representative needs to ‘buy in’ to your PR team and strategy, and an eagerness to engage with the media and be a forward-facing representative for your company is vital.
From a practical point of view, it’s also helpful to remember that building the reputation of a company is all about ‘playing the long game’. As such, it would be wise to choose a company representative who is genuinely invested in the business, and who is likely to stick around. A business which changes its spokespeople every year is likely to confuse, and perhaps struggle to gain traction in, the media – and the value of a regular and consistent presence over a number of years in building up market awareness of your business cannot be overstated.
To summarise: 1) anybody can be a spokesperson, with the right support 2) Myths abound about what a spokesperson ‘should’ look like. Ignore them. 3) However, do make sure to consider other things – such as the position of your spokesperson in the business, their enthusiasm for PR, and the longevity of your media relations campaign.
Choosing a spokesperson – or spokespeople – is one of the most important things you will do when implementing a PR strategy, and getting it right will ensure that your company’s image in the media is one of stability, consistency and competency. Essentially, this is one worth doing your homework on.