Would you call yourself a good spokesperson? Is it something you relish – when your PR team calls up with a broadcast media opportunity, do you clear your diary to make the most of it?
Are you secretly pleased with opportunities to be video’ed for company meetings or marketing campaigns? Unsurprisingly not many people say yes to any of these questions. And it’s a problem.
It’s well known that to achieve perfection takes time. Learning a particular skill, refining it and then practising it – whether it’s learning to play golf, get that perfect pitch when singing or public speaking – not many people are ‘naturals’. And as every organisation embraces the digital era and PR advocates the increasing importance of communications and video in particular, the pressure is on spokespeople – usually senior leaders in the business – to perform.
And frankly, it’s not always their strength – they may be brilliant at business, a dab hand at developing new products or services and inspiring when leading a team, but to be honest, it doesn’t mean they are effective spokespeople. This doesn’t make for a pleasant experience for anyone when people are so out of their comfort zone.
However, more importantly, it affects the effectiveness and impact of PR – if spokespeople aren’t able to communicate the news of the day succinctly, or their corporate story, when it counts, it’s not going to cut through the noise. Journalists simply won’t write about it, event attendees will switch off and videos won’t be watched. Worse still, the spokesperson will just decline opportunities – to the frustration of the PR team who has worked relentlessly to capture the interest of the media, analyst, industry body, event organiser etc.
So what, you might ask? Your business message just won’t reach target audiences and you’ll miss that opportunity to engage with your customer, employee or prospect. At worse, it impacts reputation – the spokesperson’s credibility is reduced and the overall brand can actually be damaged. We won’t be harsh enough to mention the many examples of awful performances on radio or TV, where people have fumbled, stumbled and actually said just too much, in the wrong way. They’ve already been well reported.
Training to be a good spokesperson isn’t hard. There are techniques to be learnt, tricks to make it easier and tips to help spokespeople practice. It does take a little time – but not much. To get to good, there needs to be an appetite to listen and learn – but it’s not rocket science.
In an age where change is constant and time is precious, some things remain the same – the need to make sure your organisation’s message is compelling and the need to communicate it to the right audience. As impactful as the written word can be, there’s nothing better than a great spokesperson who captivates his or her audience – and there’s nothing faster than a one minute video at getting this across. Practice to get this right and you’ll find it can be used elsewhere – the hackneyed ‘elevator pitch’ may have evolved but is still required.
So do yourself a favour – get some help. If you’re the marketing person stuck with a spokesperson who just doesn’t cut it, make it an integral part of PR which isn’t an optional extra. If you’re the spokesperson wanting some support, you should (hopefully) see your PR team as your ‘mentor’, who can help you – confidentially if required – to get to at least good.
Because let’s be honest, whether it’s speaking at conferences or YouTube videos, online visual content hangs around a long time these days – often longer than your tenure at a particular organisation. If people are Googling your name, make sure they’re impressed when the results come up.
Firework has dedicated trainers who are ex (or current) journalists – as well as its core team members – that can provide one-to-one coaching, team sessions and simple hints and tips sessions. We pull in journalists who provide real-life experiences – which can be recorded and deleted ☺ – as you learn the ropes. So get in touch for some training and overcome those spokesperson demons.
Director & Co-Owner of Firework PR
Follow Firework PR on Twitter @fireworkpr