Whatever the size of your church, nonprofit, or business, you need a spokesperson. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with a crisis or disaster, but my advice is to always be ready. The question isn’t “if” a crisis will happen, but “when.” Even if you’re involved in assisting after natural disasters you’ll encounter the media on many levels, so it’s always good to put your best foot forward. So what makes a good spokesperson? Here’s what you need to consider:
1) They know how to deal with the outside media. Today, media interviews can be tough, and it’s not unusual for some media professionals to be deceptive in pursuit of a better story. So an inexperienced spokesperson can be a disaster of its own. If you don’t have anyone with media experience, consider media training, which can make a dramatic difference in his or her ability to perform well at a press conference or media interview.
2) They should be articulate and professional looking. You want them to represent you in a crisis, so they need to speak well, use good grammar, and be credible.
3) They need to know your organization. There’s nothing worse than a spokesperson who doesn’t have answers – especially if they don’t know your organization and it’s position, capabilities, or policies. If they’re not an in-house employee, take the time to teach them about your organization. If they don’t have answers, they’ll lose credibility quickly.
4) They need to express trust. If the media believes they aren’t telling the truth, or holding back for any reason, things won’t go well. They need to express confidence and credibility or the media will look elsewhere for answers.
5) They need to be ready quickly. In a crisis or disaster, the vast majority of everything happens in the first 24-48 hours. That’s when you have the media’s attention, it’s when the most fundraising happens after a disaster (people are impulse givers), and when most people are watching. Lose that window, and you lose your voice.
6) They are calm. During a crisis, everything hits the fan. Of all people, your media spokesperson needs to be calm, collected, and professional. If they lose their cool, you lose the trust of everyone. No matter how tense or hostile things get, you need a point person who looks in control.
You never know when a crisis will happen, so don’t be caught unaware. Start today looking for the right spokesperson for your organization. It can be the CEO, board member, a communications director, or outside consultant. Whoever it is, help them represent you as well as possible to the media. The value of an effective spokesperson can’t be calculated.