Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Selecting a spokesperson

Selecting a spokesperson

Every organisation needs a spokesperson – someone who is willing to stand up and enunciate your group's successes and achievements.

For most organisations, it is usually either the chairman/president or the CEO/Executive Director or in some cases both. Other groups will choose a senior manager who has the power and ability to get the message across.

A spokesperson, as the public face of your organisation, is often called upon to discuss other issues that may not be strictly relevant to your group.  Whilst it's important to set some limits on what your spokesperson can and can't say, you need a spokesperson who's an opinion leader and as such they are expected to have opinions on a wide range of issues.


Why have a spokesperson?

Having a designated spokesperson has benefits both for your group as well as for outside organisations (including the media) which deal with your group.

Some benefits for your group in have a spokesperson are:
  • Keeps your group in the public's eye through the generation of publicity.
  • Ensures your group gets the most positive media exposure possible.
  • Invaluable in promoting group events, requests, appeals, activities or needs.
  • Allows the group's opinion to be expressed on issues of the day, items being covered in the media or being discussed in society.
  • Provides a focal point for group members to refer inquiries.
  • Increases the visibility of your group and enhances the perception that it is a professional, well-run organisation.

Some benefits for outside organisations, including the media, for your group to be represented by a spokesperson are:
  • Provides a 'point-of-contact' for media and other inquiries to your group.
  • Makes it easier and more reliable for the media to contact your group for quotes or interviews because you have a designated voice.
  • Makes it more likely the media will approach you for quotes or opinions, which in turn raises your group's profile.
  • Provides a recognisable name and face to associate with your group –a walking "billboard" for your organisation at functions, events and activities.



Choosing a spokesperson

The reality for many community groups and organisations is that a senior group member, a chairperson, chief executive or board president/secretary is usually nominated as the spokesperson.

The reasons why it is often more convenient to have someone with some level of authority in your group speak publicly on its behalf are:

Knowledge about issues, activities or items that concern your group.
Familiarity with your group's attitudes and philosophies.
Authority, not only because of their position, but also about what your group's attitudes, reactions and opinions are on certain issues.
Credibility in that the person making the comments is also informing and deciding your group's policy.

However, if your group has people in these positions who don't wish to be spokespeople, you will need to find someone who has the necessary ability and desire to do the job, or utilize a media officer who can speak on behalf of the group.

Qualities for a good spokesperson include:
  • Eloquence or a "gift of the gab".  The ability to communicate knowledge and generate interest when talking about your group.
  • Having good judgement and being able to exercise restraint when needed.
  • Being a good listener with on-camera or photographic presence.
  • Being well-informed about your group's issues, activities, events and aims.
  • The ability to think quickly on your feet.
  • Being credible and able to develop a good rapport with those in the media.
  • Willingness to expand, practice and perfect media techniques, public speaking and presentation abilities.
  • Absolute clarity on when the opinions expressed are authorised by the organisation and when they're not.
  • Being intuitive enough to know when a reporter has an axe to grind, and being adept enough to know how to counteract that without looking defensive or ill-at-ease.
More information on aspects of being a spokesperson, as well as how to improve as a spokesperson, can be found in the help sheet Building a Media Team at the Media & Marketing Centre.



What if there are no obvious candidates for the job of spokesperson?

It may well be that your group doesn't have anybody fluent or confident enough to able to think on their feet. If this is the case, don't give up straight away, as your group's members, board or committee gain experience there might be individuals who grow into the role.

While your group has to be realistic about the capabilities of its human resources, it may only require encouragement and support to lift someone's confidence to a level where they can operate as an effective spokesperson for your group.

One example may be to organise external or internal training courses in handling the media in a spokesperson's role.



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