We could cut this blog post very short by saying, “Anyone who speaks for or may speak for your organization.” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple – and getting the right people trained is vitally important to effective communication.
How to Answer This Important Question
First, notice that the headline doesn’t ask about MEDIA training. Reporters are only one of many audiences with whom your spokespeople may engage. Others include customers, which may include student, patients or others depending on the nature of your organization; public officials such as regulators and legislators; employees; neighbors; and the general public.
Here’s how to answer the question posed in the headline of this post:
- Make a list of audiences with whom you expect to engage, either on a regular, ongoing basis or in unique situations such as crises.
- Think about which person in your organization should take the lead in communicating with each audience. In some cases, this may be the same person; indeed, for smaller organizations, they all may be the responsibility of your CEO (or the equivalent).
- Identify backups. If a crisis strikes, it’s possible that your chosen spokesperson won’t be available because he or she is on vacation, ill or otherwise unavailable. While this is easier for larger organizations, it’s important to designate backup spokespeople who can step in when necessary.
Once you’ve thought this all through, you should have a complete list of the people within your organization who need formal spokesperson training.
Remember that All Employees Are Spokespeople
Every one of your employees is a potential spokesperson for your organization – especially if a crisis strikes. They act as spokespeople all the time when they talk about their jobs with their significant others, families, friends and neighbors. That’s not something you really can, or should, control. But if something goes wrong, those audiences are going to turn to your employees with questions and maybe even concerns and complaints.
Not every employee needs formal media training to prepare for that eventuality, but they all need to be informed. Sometimes, it’s as simple as letting them know that they should not communicate about a crisis with anyone – especially reporters, who may congregate at facility entrances and try to interview employees as they come and go. In that case, provide them with contact information for someone who is authorized to engage.
If you are comfortable allowing employees to speak, arm them with messages and talking points that will help them tell your story in an honest, compelling and appropriate way. And make sure they know whom to contact if they themselves have questions or if they run into questions that they can’t answer.
AKCG provides media and spokesperson training at all levels and for any contingency. If you need help preparing your spokespeople, give us a call.