In a recent blog, we reviewed Argument #1: The CEO Should Always Be the Spokesperson.
Now we can review Argument #2: When Should the PR Person Be the Spokesperson?
The public relations person is an excellent choice as a spokesperson in the first hour of the crisis when media might be just arriving. But your PR guy or gal doesn’t need to be the spokesperson throughout an entire crisis, nor would I suggest they be your only long term spokesperson.
The best argument for using your public relations expert in the early hours of a crisis is because other members of the crisis management team are likely responding to and managing the crisis. Also, those other experts will rely on the PR team to provide them with the words, talking points, and key messages that need to be communicated.
In most cases, your public relations person has a natural gift for words, both spoken and written. These are usually natural gifts that other members of the crisis management team do not have. Usually the C-Suite is heavy on analytical thinkers who are better with numbers, facts, and figures than with words.
If you weigh your options and look at the variables, the senior member of your public relations team is a perfect first choice, especially when a spokesperson is needed in the first hour of the crisis.
Also, always make sure a PR person is on the crisis management team. Additionally, they should serve as leader of the crisis communications team.
Many companies are slow to communicate in a crisis because:
1) they wait until they know everything before they say anything
2) they are waiting for the CEO or a senior manager to free up long enough to speak
My best recommendation is that you should speak within the first hour of a crisis, even when only a few facts are known. You can tell the media what you know now and add more details later. A “First Critical Statement” is the document that I use in every crisis communications plan I write. It should be in your crisis communications plan also. To download your free copy of my First Critical Statement, use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.
When few facts are known, it allows the PR person to:
1) Acknowledge the crisis
2) Provide basic facts
3) Say something quotable, while promising more information at a future briefing
Our previous blog about speaking with one voice and relying on the CEO explains my belief that multiple spokespeople can speak on behalf of the company and SHOULD speak with one voice.
In our next blog on this topic, I’ll give you a third option as you decide how best to select the right spokesperson for your company.
By Gerard Braud