Who’s Going To Speak For You During A Crisis?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 13, 2012 – 6:21 am

Many companies have a crisis communications plan in place that identifies the spokespersons they will use during a crisis, usually managers or executives.

That’s a good start, but it’s not enough.

That’s because during a crisis, the most credible voice may not belong to you. After all, the public expects that you’ll say things that are favorable to your cause. And after being lied to through the years by too many corporate spokespersons to count, the public may be skeptical of everything you say.

So who’s going to speak on your behalf? Have you identified and written down the names of third party surrogates from outside your organization who might help you defend your brand when a crisis strikes?

Who Should Speak For You?

The “right” person or people to speak on your behalf will likely differ depending on the crisis. Examples of good third party surrogates might include:

  1. 1. “Real” people – Customers, clients, and other users of your products or services who are both familiar with and enthusiastic about your work
  2. 2. Well-known activists who carry a high degree of public trust
  3. 3. Local leaders or politicians who don’t have a lot of public baggage
  4. 4. Other well-regarded businesses who can testify on behalf of your safe and responsible practices
  5. 5. Recipients of your charitable work

Coordinating With Third Parties

Companies in crisis often walk a fine line when they try to coordinate the testimonials of third party surrogates – if they look overly coordinated, you’ll lose whatever benefit the “outside” parties might have bestowed upon you.

Testimonials usually work best when they appear unsolicited. Still, it’s not unusual to coordinate with third parties, at least somewhat. The scale runs from almost no coordination at all, perhaps asking a person on your list to write a letter-to-the-editor on your behalf without you seeing it in advance, to signing joint statements together. The key is to make sure the third party testimony appears genuine and motivated by sincere belief, not obligation.

Exercise

Here’s your assignment: Write the names of six outside people you might ask for support when a crisis strikes. You won’t need an outside surrogate for every crisis – if your communications aren’t suffering from a trust deficit, you might not need one – but if you do, you’ll be glad you have your list standing by.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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