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How Many Spokespersons?

By Al Rothstein

The last thing we want is to communicate a mixed message to our public. That is why some organizations have only one spokesperson. But in many cases this practice can be dangerous, leading to a lack of credibility. Take the following scenario and apply it to your organization: at a regional medical centre, a reporter starts digging for information about why a certain medication is missing.

The reporter finds out that a former patient is the lead suspect. The reporter wants to interview the medical centre's CEO and the chief of security. Instead, the medical centre has designated the public relations director as the only spokesperson.

If you had a family member being treated at this facility, who would you rather see on the news answering questions? If only the public relations director speaks, the public may think the medical centre is hiding something or has brushed the incident off. The public relations director should only be the spokesperson as a last resort.
Sure, there will be pressure to put on the public relations director to "do the talking, after all, that's what we hired you for!" However, the best way to win over the public is for the real sources of information to show their faces.

The most seasoned PR pros know that even though they may give effective media interviews, a key to maximizing media coverage is to help reporters get to the source. The bottom line is that if you are responsible for the image of your organization, I recommend encouraging the experts to be available.

If those who have information are not available, reporters will try to find another expert opinion, possibly from another organization. That means a lost opportunity to tell your side of the story. Speaking with one voice means your spokespersons should deliver the same message. It does not mean use only one spokesperson. If the news media representative knows your experts are available and reliable, you are more likely to be called and more importantly, to be believed.

Picking The Right Spokespersons

1. Who is the real expert?
2. Are they available?
3. Can they speak in simple terms?
4. Can they carry your message?
5. Can they handle hard questions?

Courtesy of Al Rothstein Media Services, Inc., specialists in spokesperson training and media relations seminars.
Phone: 1-800-453-6352. E-mail:

For a handy tip sheet on choosing contact persons for your Sources listing click here.