Help! My Spokesperson is a Dud.

What can/should PR leaders/communication professionals do when their “go-to” spokesperson is a dud? It could be the CEO or a leading expert in a particular field. It could be someone who, politically, just has to be the one.

Reporter, health care marketing magazine

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By Jim Sweeney & Jennifer Manocchio

Let’s start first by defining what a “dud” is for each type of media. If we are talking about print media, then content is king and only the information can be a dud, so messaging and the ability to convey it successfully (especially in phone interview situations) are critical.

If we are talking radio, then voice is critical (strong, confident, sincere) along with the message.  For TV, we add a whole other dimension.  Let’s face it; these are all entertainment media, but none more so than TV.  So our spokesperson must look attractive in some way, must have nerves of steel or natural on-camera speaking ability and must say all the right things (messaging).  Before the Nixon-Kennedy debates, no one really cared what our corporate or political leaders looked like.  Since the debates, that’s all we care about.

Messaging, delivery, personality, appearance (in that order) are important for spokespersons.  We can work on the first two, but the last two are out of our control… other than to replace the dud with better looking, more adept speakers.

If you feel a spokesperson will improve by conducting training on messaging and delivery, consider conducting media training that includes interviewing and videotaping the individual.  Also, consider incorporating a second spokesperson or potential spokesperson who is stronger in areas your current spokesperson is lacking.

We have actually experienced this challenge with a client who had one spokesperson that fell flat with delivery and another who had challenges staying on point.  It was an excellent strategy to have both these individuals watch and learn from each other, and actually see themselves and each other on television when we played back their mock interviews.  We were able to achieve a balance between the two that wouldn’t have been accomplished if they had not conducted the training together or seen themselves on television.

If your spokesperson doesn’t improve with training or is not willing to step aside for the better of the organization, it is completely acceptable for an organization to have more than one spokesperson.  You can often find experts within an organization who can address different topics with the media.  One way to accomplish this is to develop a matrix of experts in your organization, interview/screen these experts and train them so you don’t end up with another ineffective spokesperson.

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