We often are asked if the President/CEO/Executive Director needs to be the spokesperson for the company or organization during a crisis. The simple answer is no, it doesn’t have to be and in fact it often is not the best person.
There are three key ingredients every spokesperson you turn to during a time of crisis should posses.
1. The should be available
This is the primary reason the head of your company or organization can’t be the spokesperson. When there needs to be a briefing, teleconference, online interview or someone to answer questions for media, the spokesperson needs to be available. Often the leaders of a company are busy doing other work and can’t reasonably drop what they are doing to take a call from a newspaper or evening news.
2. Be able to bridge conversations
You’ll have already established your talking points and narrative for what you’d like to communicate. A good spokesperson will have the ability to bridge questions that are not aligned with the message you would like to share, back to that message. You’ll see poor examples of this in scenarios where the person asking the question will ask something similar to “I would like to know about this,” and the spokesperson will answer “I think a better question is actually about that.”
Yes it brings the conversation back to your narrative but it’s fairly thinly veiled and won’t do a great job of keeping people’s interest. Someone more skilled at bridging the conversation will use better tact and generally be quick on their feet, so to speak.
3. Be authentic
Think of times when you have been in crisis and were looking for answers. You wanted information from someone who knew what they were talking about. Often this is found in someone who has been with the company of organization for a time before the crisis began. Because there will be times when an intimate familiarity with the company is required, it’s difficult to hire a specialist or act as your spokesperson.