It is by far one of the most critical aspects of corporate communications — putting the right person forward to tell your story. But what a company and the media each look for in ‘the right person’ is, to put it bluntly, poles apart.
Companies obviously prefer someone who can stick to key messages, is a safe pair of hands and can handle difficult questions should they arise. As such, we’re often preparing executives, rightly, for worst case scenarios. But in my two years in Singapore I haven’t yet come across anything within punting range of a tough interview. Preparing an executive for a grilling often isn’t the best idea, which led me to the conclusion that the current media landscape is suited to certain types of spokespersons. I have seen many good spokespersons and many average ones, but what journalists are looking for, particularly in a region where there are so many emerging economies, is a person who can tell them why this all matters to a global audience.
That particular type of person needs the following key attributes:
1. Expertise and news knowledge
Being invited to talk on TV means you’re going to be asked about your company and its workings. But you have to put your company into the context of the news cycle, so you have to be a standalone expert and someone who knows what is going on regionally and globally. A good global spokesperson will have a 360-degree perspective on his business, the market and where both sit in the global news cycle at any given moment.
2. Humour and humility
A massively undervalued couple of assets, but I have seen global spokespersons control interviews from the off with charm and humour, which they adapt to questions appropriately. Journalists do respond well to people that they like: likeability should be the currency of a global spokesperson.
3. Confidence and accessibility
One journalist I spoke to told me that “briefings without expectations” were a good way to fill in gaps in stories they were working on. The benefits of being able to open up and engage with the media are hugely valuable, but there are still a lot of companies uncertain about taking this step. A good global spokesperson shouldn’t have a problem with this – see points 1 and 2 .
4. Insightful and social
A senior producer shared this: “We like it if our guests are open and transparent and happy to share his/ her knowledge rather than focusing on their key messages. We look for people who are frank and open and can offer genuine insights.” Companies and PR prepare executives a certain way, which means ‘genuine insights’ are not always forthcoming. Therefore they are at a premium for journalists. A global spokesperson will be able to go above and beyond any brief and can talk outside of company messaging. Of course, it goes without saying that a ‘social’ global spokesperson – one that is prominent on all social media platforms – is the full package.
Rob O’Brien is media specialist, Singapore, at Weber Shandwick