Designate a Spokesperson

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Appoint Spokesperson and Backup

  • Designated one individual as the primary spokesperson to represent the organization, make official statements and answer media questions throughout the crisis.
  • Identify a back-up to the designated spokesperson to fill the position in the event that the primary spokesperson is unavailable.
  • Outsource this position (or team) to an external agency to serve as the organization’s primary spokesperson during the crisis or work closely with your spokesperson.

An organisation should always have a back-up spokesperson if the primary figure is unavailable. If you frequently respond to inquiries by saying “I’m sorry, Mr. Lily Tay is not available right now,” reporters will think they are getting the run-around and will likely file the story without your organization’s input. It is also critical that whoever you designate as a spokesperson be fully informed of all developments, or else he or she will be weak and ineffective.

These are the guidelines to be kept in mind when selecting a spokesperson

  • Have some level of media training.
  • Be comfortable in front of a TV camera and with reporters.
  • Have necessary skills in handling media, skilled in directing responses to another topic, skilled in identifying key points.
  • Able to speak without using jargon and respecting the role of the reporter.
  • Is knowledgeable about the organization and has a good gasp of the crisis at hand.
  • Match the tone to the sensitivity and content of the messages.
    • For example, if it is important to convey sympathy or concern, choose a spokesperson who can effectively communicate those emotions.
  • Provide information and serve as an official point-of-contact for the media.
  • Be professional by understanding the role that the media plays, and understand what they may or may not discuss.
  • Able to establish credibility with the media.
  • Able to project confidence to the audience, suitable in regard to diction, appearance and charisma, sincere, straightforward and believable.
  • Is accessible by the media and to internal communications personnel who will facilitate media interviews.
  • Able to remain calm in stressful situations.
  • Able to utilize the CEO or president in those cases where it is important to demonstrate that the top executive in your program is in command, is taking responsibility, or that you take the issue very seriously.
    • Note that the use of executive management can elevate an issue if this person is not usually high-profile.

In addition to the designated spokesperson and backup, it can be anticipated that other parties involved in the crisis; police, fire department, health officials, etc., will also have a spokesperson. It is important to obtain the identity of that individual as early as possible so all statements and contacts with the media can be coordinated between the two individuals and their organizations/interests whenever possible.