4 characteristics your spokesperson needs in a crisis
HOW DO YOU PICK the right spokesperson during a crisis? It depends. Sometimes a C-suite leader makes sense simply because of his or her title. Other times topical knowledge trumps an impressive title.
Consider these four characteristics of a successful spokesperson:
A seasoned spokesperson is poised, can answer questions effectively and handle whatever arises with finesse. Occasionally a new, well-trained spokesperson can be just as effective, but there’s something to be said for having been there, done that.
Consider the topic. Who is knowledgeable about it? Choose someone who truly knows the ins and outs, history and future of the topic. They’ll look credible while speaking and will have what they need to answer questions.
The more serious the crisis, the more advanced the spokesperson’s role in the company should be. This means you don’t send the CEO out for a rumor and you also don’t use the PIO for a mass casualty situation. You may consider pairing a leadership-level person with a topic expert if the situation is both severe and has technical aspects.
Crises can be emotional, especially if someone has been hurt or killed.Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve so-to-speak, while others can look disconnected despite how they’re feeling. Choose someone who can express appropriate empathy during difficult times.
Choose your spokesperson and then practice, practice, practice! Brainstorm questions, formulate answers and practice them. Record him/her and watch it back – look for nervous habits, distracting gestures, and awkward glances into the camera. Have him/her practice with your organization’s talking points, ensuring they sound authentic and not memorized. A spokesperson that has practiced will look, sound and feel their best!
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