20 Jan How to Choose the Right Spokesperson in a Crisis
Crises happen and take on many forms, like: natural catastrophes, manufacturing disasters, cyber-attack, leadership malfeasance, sabotage, fraud, employee violence, sexual harassment, breach of ethics…
With over 3 billion people on the internet, the demands for selecting the right spokesperson have changed.
How do you select the best spokesperson to guide your organization through a crisis?
The #1 issue that has to be conveyed by the spokesperson is empathy. #2 is trust. #3 is an accurate and honest real-time account of the crisis.
It is important to note that if the crisis is catastrophic and lives have been lost, the media and public will expect at least one of the spokespeople to be the CEO. Most CEOs are not especially gifted with empathetic communication skills, so it is essential they share the responsibility with another spokesperson.
Here are 5 tips to select the best spokesperson in a crisis. They must:
- Be high-ranking, calm, empathetic, self-disciplined and well trusted by employees, colleagues and stakeholders.
- Have the knowledge and authority to keep all stakeholders and the media engaged with real time, relevant information.
- Have previous online and traditional media relations experience – spokespersons should be well-groomed and authentic, believable, transparent and instinctive communicators. (Media training is important, but overly ‘coached’ spokespersons look fake.)
- Be honest. Be open and vulnerable. Be able to admit if a mistake has been made and be accountable for the outcomes.
- Manage stress well. Understand that the organization’s entire brand is at risk and the world is watching. Be aware of immediate and long-term consequences of the crisis management strategies.
Choosing the right spokesperson in a crisis is the first step to recovery.
Public Relations specialist Bridget Paverd is a founding partner of GillespieHall. The firm is retained by global organizations to manage their reputation and enhance their relevance. A recognized crisis communications strategist, Paverd has led GillespieHall to become the most awarded and influential Public Relations firm in the region. Paverd also teaches crisis media management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy Delaware Business Times