The disappearing executive spokesperson - Dooley Communications

Man being interviewed by multiple reportersDon’t go courting media attention if you’re not ready for it.

That seems pretty obvious, but it’s surprising how often companies aren’t ‘ready’ at all. Here’s a common problem we’ve encountered over the years.

The disappearing executive spokesperson.

Your news release has been crafted with a wicked news hook that is sure to get attention. The communications team queues it up for distribution. Everyone is ready. The local paper wants an interview by noon. TV wants to drop by for a visit by 11 a.m. A local radio station wants someone on the phone ASAP. But, suddenly, your spokesperson disappears.

We’ve heard just about every excuse from spokespeople in this kind of situation: executives who suddenly got too busy to attend to media calls; spokespeople who mysteriously couldn’t respond to repeated phone messages, texts, emails, etc. all asking “where the heck are you?”; management suddenly deciding after the fact that they’d rather not talk about this after all.

What can we say? It’s a waste of time and money to develop a media relations campaign and have no one available to speak to the media. It’s always best to be prepared.

  • Nail down who will be your spokesperson and when he or she will be available for interviews.
  • Nail down the best way to contact that person. How will you handle interviews on the phone, in person or remotely by video?
  • Make sure your spokesperson has practiced what she needs to say. An unrehearsed speaker can sound nervous, uncertain and even shifty. What are the key messages? What are her soundbites? How will she handle difficult questions?
  • Have a back up plan. Make sure you have someone who can stand in for interviews. And, like any good understudy, make sure he’s ready.

If you’re not ready for the media to call, the results can range from mild embarrassment to humiliation or worse. It’s one thing to have to apologize to reporters about your suddenly invisible CEO (most of those annoyed reporters will probably take your calls again, but no one likes their time wasted). It’s a much more serious thing if your company is in the middle of a crisis. Journalism loves conflict. Stories tend to be one side versus another. If you’re not going to speak up, then be prepared to have your competitor or adversary speak for you.

When we create media relations campaigns – whether they are highly localized here in Winnipeg, Manitoba or across Canada and the United States – we work hard to make sure our clients are ready. That means more than just writing a press release and hitting send. It means thinking carefully about your key messages, crafting sound bites that sing and delivering media training sessions when needed.

A positive news story about your organization can be invaluable. It’s an absolute shame when the opportunity is squandered.

If you’d like to review your PR readiness, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

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