We’ve all seen it – someone being interviewed on the TV on behalf of a company who should be impressing us with their knowledge and calm persona but is actually making us laugh out loud or inwardly cringe. Those same brand representatives are often wheeled out for all sorts of public engagements – sitting on conference panels, delivering new business pitches and handing over a big cheque after a fundraiser. So, how do you go about choosing the right spokesperson for your business – someone who raises up the brand rather than, despite their best intentions, devalues it?
We have five must-haves for your spokesperson…
Someone who will stick around
First off, choosing a spokesperson for your business – and getting them recognisable as such – takes time. You don’t want someone who is looking for the next rung on the ladder and will be gone in a flash with one sniff of a salary increase elsewhere. What you do want is someone who lives and breathes your company values. It’s likely that your staff would pick them out as a brand ambassador – someone smart yet accessible.
You never know when you’ll need to call on your spokesperson, so they also need to be willing to make themselves available at the drop of a hat. That means being aware of your crisis comms process and responding quickly to requests, even on a weekend.
Someone willing to take feedback
A spokesperson will tend to be someone from the senior management team or a shareholder in the business but they need to be someone who will take advice from their colleagues. Will your spokesperson listen when you say they need media training, will they make time for you in their diary to go through a media briefing, and are they willing to put aside their own agendas to communicate those of the brand?
Someone who values having a PR professional at strategic level
Yes, you might be thinking, “Of course a blog by a PR agency is going to say this!” but the best leaders not only hire those smarter than themselves, they also hire people who will challenge them. Your PR professional will have run scenarios on how all your stakeholders will respond to a new product, a news item or a company crisis, not just your customers or your staff or your shareholders who may be the focus of other members of your board.
Someone who looks the part
We’re not just talking about their appearance here – not every brand requires their spokesperson to be suited and booted, clean-shaven or have perfectly blow-dried hair. Have you considered their ability to share genuine facial expressions? Someone with emotional intelligence can read situations well and respond with confidence and compassion, whichever the situation requires – not to look the part but because it’s the natural and right thing to do.
Someone who doesn’t panic
This is easier said than done! When the camera or microphone is turned on and you’re asked to answer a question, the panic can set in. That’s where media training is invaluable. A spokesperson should be chosen on their ability to speak about the brand and, if they know their stuff, then they shouldn’t be afraid of being asked any question.
Your spokesperson should also be prepared for dealing with a crisis when it hits the media. There is media training specifically for this – you’ll know if your company is more likely to be open to challenging situations. The customer is always right, even if they have caused themselves harm by misusing your product, you won’t get away with a flippant response. If your spokesperson can take time to evaluate the situation, accept advice and stay level headed, you’ve got the building blocks of a great brand ambassador.
And if YOU are the spokesperson…
If you’re a small business where you are the spokesperson and the business owner and the HR manager (you know where we’re going with this), then when it’s time for you to step in to the limelight, these five must-haves still hold true. If you don’t have a PR professional to turn to, take the time to consider all your stakeholders including those who might influence them – what might their reaction be to your news, advice or comment? It should give you a strong foundation to become a trusted voice of your brand.