Company Spokespeople to Get New Scrutiny
SpokesComm Launches to Assess Spokesperson Skills
LONDON – 23 June 2006 -- They hold the corporate reputation in their hands, and one slip of the tongue can send the share price tumbling or incur the wrath of regulators. Yet according to a recent survey the average corporate media spokesperson has undergone only four hours of training for the role, more than ten years ago.
Whether it’s the CEO or a mid-level technical expert, public relations practitioners often depend on someone else to deliver the organization’s message to the media. With so much riding on the capabilities of the media spokesperson, it’s surprising that so little attention is paid by most companies to assess and develop those capabilities.
That may change, thanks to the launch this month of SpokesComm, a media spokesperson assessment and development consultancy founded by PR veteran Barbara Gibson.
“I developed the idea to solve a problem I was facing,” explains Gibson. “I had just come into a corporate PR role, inheriting a number of media spokespeople, all of whom had been media-trained at some point, and all of whom were confident of their spokesperson abilities. Our agency was doing a great job of pitching and securing interviews, but the ratio of articles to interviews was well below what I would have expected. Looking into it further revealed that some of the spokespeople had some serious weaknesses, but since they didn’t see a problem, they weren’t terribly open to coaching, and certainly would have resisted going through media training again.”
So Gibson turned to media trainers she had worked with in the past, to see if any provided some sort of formal spokesperson assessment that could be followed by advanced training. Finding nothing to fit the bill, she decided to develop it herself. A former journalist and television presenter herself, with more than 18 years’ experience in corporate and agency PR, she researched and developed a list of 12 key attributes that combine to make an effective media spokesperson. She then developed a method and tool for objectively assessing those abilities, to arrive at a Spokesperson Competency Level (SCL), which provides the basis for recommendations for further development. This can range from one-on-one coaching to advanced media training.
“I thought the big advantage of doing the assessments was going to be in providing information to me as the PR person to help me choose which spokesperson to use, and give me ammunition if I had to decide to discontinue using anyone. But the biggest benefit turned out to be the impact on the spokespeople. Where previously, they had been cavalier and even arrogant about their abilities, after receiving specific, objective feedback, they became very open to coaching, really wanting to improve,” said Gibson.
The more she tested the programme, the more Gibson knew that she’d hit on something that would be valuable to other companies, so she decided to leave her corporate job to launch SpokesComm and plans to serve clients worldwide.
SpokesComm will work in partnership with PR agencies and media trainers, as well as directly with in-house PR departments. Assessments are provided on-site at the client’s facility. Each individual assessment takes approximately one hour of the spokesperson’s time, and multiple assessments can be grouped into half-day and full-day sessions for cost-effectiveness.
Headquartered in the United Kingdom, SpokesComm works with companies worldwide to assess and improve the effectiveness of their media spokespeople. For more information, please visit http://spokescomm.com.
For additional information, contact:
+44 (0)20 81338829