It is very possible to go from ‘Hero’ to ‘Zero’ in the space of five seconds flat.
The role of a spokesperson is to speak publicly on behalf of an organisation's brand, build relationships with the media, and be the representative in times of a crisis.
In a media landscape which now includes the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, and LinkedIn, we are increasingly seeing the effects that one off-the-cuff, or ill-thought through comment can have. One comment can descend their reputation (and their organisations' reputation) into a nosedive, and in some cases they are forcibly removed from the platform they were initially asked to speak on.
It seems the life of a spokesperson could easily be compared to a tightrope walker; with one false move, it could see them plummet to their death. Maybe spokespeople should be receiving danger money?!
That raises the question though, what best practice advice or guidelines are there to ensure not falling victim to being cancelled, while still communicating the truth and messaging for your organisation?
Here is our advice, and a quick checklist out of 6, that you can tick off as you go through.
1. Get media trained
We have seen countless spokespersons, CEOs and senior leaders get stuck on a sneaky question, say the very thing they were not meant to say, or keep speaking because of an awkward silence with a reporter. Media training equips spokespersons to be able to handle themselves confidently, with strong key messaging, and personable communication techniques. They learn what not to say, how to say what they need to, and how to come across clear and confident.
But, most importantly, we recommend repeating the process.
As the Navy Seals say: "Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training."
We now offer clients who have completed their initial media training with us, a practical interview, complete with a scorecard and feedback. We repeat these short practice interviews from time to time as necessary, and as new topics arise.
I have been media trained in the last year
I have a PR team I can call on for advice and tricky situations.
2. Be crisis prepared
Depending on the level of risk in your organisation, this could be as simple as key messaging on different topics, to scenario building exercises within your organisation.
I know the key risks to my organisation, and we have clear plans for worst case scenarios.
3. Create policies
Do you have a communications policy, and media policy? Do staff know what to do if they are contacted by a journalist, or they appear onsite? Policies should be current and best practice, especially in regards to social media and dealing with negative comments, reviews, and difficult questions that are asked on public forums.
There are clear media and social media policies and staff are aware of them.
4. Make it easy - (media kits, stats sheets, Q&As)
With the media being a fast-paced industry, the more accessible your key information is, the easier it will be for you to produce a prime, headlining story rather than a small mention of your company. It also helps to create consistent key messaging within your organisation. We have a blog all about online media kits and why you should have one, for more detail, you can check it out here.
I have access to a media kit, on hand press-ready photos, and stat sheets that I can give to journalists.
5. Build proactive relationships
“When it comes to media relations it’s not just about establishing a connection with a reporter. Maintaining a relationship over time will be the key to driving consistent results.” - Carol Lee, Tech Affect
Building proactive relationships with the media as a spokesperson increases the likelihood of journalists reaching out to you on important issues for stories they are writing, but also enables you to reach out to them as needed. A reciprocal relationship should be the desired outcome of any spokesperson and the media.
I have reciprocal relationships with journalists.
How'd you do?! 6/6?
The role of a spokesperson entails enormous responsibility, and sometimes that means having back up as needed. If you feel you could benefit from a PR support team, get in touch to arrange a call to see if we can help you. Contact us at [email protected] to find out more.