February 4, 2023

Who Speaks for Your Organization?

microphone

By Sheila Gibbons Hiebert
Communication Research Associates, Inc.

Choose Local

Summer’s approaching and work schedules will be shifting.  This is when school’s out, employees take off on vacation, and scheduling leave can get complicated. Many organizations operate with leaner staffing. So, who speaks for you – the boss – when inquiries about your operations come in and you’re on the far side of the moon? Do you have a plan that clearly states who’s authorized to talk to reporters, officials, and the public, and who isn’t?

One of the basic principles of effective corporate communication is making sure that individuals authorized to speak publicly on the company’s behalf are well prepared to discuss the organization and will speak with one voice. This is important even if Woodward and Bernstein never call. Whether they’re making remarks to a community or professional gathering where journalists (and bloggers) will be present, or taking a call from a reporter, a government official or member of the community, your designated spokesperson or persons must be able to convey information and provide context the way you would if you were there yourself.

Spokespersons act in the CEO’s stead. They generates news releases; respond to press inquiries about the company; arrange, and often sit in, on media interviews with high-ranking executives; and are the go-to guys and gals for information in a breaking-news situation.  It’s vital that the CEO and the spokesperson have a good relationship in which candor goes both ways.

Management needs to make sure all employees understand its policy about who speaks for the organization. Sometimes employees don’t get that message. During my years as the spokeswoman for a Fortune 500 company, I occasionally had to clean up behind employees who’d been contacted by reporters and fumbled their way through the call, having not been counseled to refer callers to our office for a response.  We then had to unwind the first conversation and restart it – not the best way to build credibility.

So this summer, and at all times, make sure you have a designated spokesperson in place because, as in all organizational communication, words matter. If you’re looking for support for your organizational communication needs, contact us at www.communication-research.org.

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