Who’s Your Company Spokesperson?

DSC_0083The other day I read a post by Shel Holtz, who wrote about an employee being fired after doing an interview with Advertising Age. Titled, “Jill Rowley’s dismissal could be a case of misguided adherence to 20th-century spokesperson policies“, Shel shared his opinion regarding authorized reps for speaking to journalists. Is it an archaic practice as he stated, or is it a practice that is dependent upon the company and its culture?

Does trying to control its brand/image require large companies to be strict in requiring employees to direct all media inquiries to the public relations (PR) group?

Or is it easier to for smaller companies to be stricter or more flexible?

Lots of questions that I invite you to weigh in on – please!

Here are my initial thoughts on this topic, but please be mindful I’m coming at this from experience in an industry-specific (such as Oil & Gas) example:

  • There should be a defined media policy for any company, regardless of its size
  • In-house PR should be the first contact for media (or an agency on record if you’re outsourcing)
  • With that said, it used to be that the only employees who were put through media training were executives. Today, media training should be expanded to as many employees as it can, anyone who may come into contact with the media. Take the time to select which ones should actually interact with the journalists, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), versus someone who is at a conference for a different reason, such as a graphic designer (I’m not being mean).
  • Due to social media, trade shows, industry groups, etc., journalists now interact with company employees at varying levels. It’s not always the CEO an industry journalist wants to speak with, especially regarding new products, services and technologies. They want the SME. In my experience, they want to speak to the person who knows the product inside and out, not just at a high level.
  • This leads to the fact that SMEs should be media trained so they can speak to a reporter if approached at a tradeshow, via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • With that said, the SME should notify the PR group and his/her manager ASAP, both as a professional courtesy and to keep them in the loop. You have to consider opportunities for follow-ups, requests for pictures or videos, etc., that the SME may not be able to get to because of travel schedules.
  • And, suggest the SME to always share the PR contact information with the reporter as well, again to increase ease of communication for follow-up questions, etc.

Jill Rowley commented on Shel’s post, reminding us that “…with the web, EVERYONE is a reporter”.

I concur, and urge companies to learn this quickly if they have not already.

What are your thoughts?

This post originally appeared on “Fumbling Towards Epiphany”.
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Susan Cellura CEO of E. Marketing Communications, Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience.  She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.
Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Susan

Susan Cellura is a marketing communications professional with over 20 years of experience. She is a dynamic communications professional and enthusiastic team-builder, with a progressive history of success in designing and implementing communications programs for global organizations. A strategic thinker with the ability to understand the needs of multiple audiences and deliver solutions, Susan is a results-oriented problem-solver with exceptional interpersonal and negotiation abilities. Having worked in a variety of global industries, she has grown business communications in her current position via a strong mixture of strategic resources, including social media.

2 thoughts on “Who’s Your Company Spokesperson?”

  1. Hi, Susan! You raise an excellent topic with even better proof points about the archaic practice of PR handling all media relations. While I still fully agree with this practice, it’s near impossible to expect this will or can happen in the age of social marketing.

    There are way too many astute journos creating relationships with peeps alongside company marketing/PR departments to get scoop. How do you monitor that?

    Unless employees are strictly forbidden to tweet about a company (customary) and they adhere to that legally, it will be a challenge to keep the news quiet.

    1. Hey Jayme! Thank you! Yes, it’s a moving target. Some companies were lucky (or smart) enough to see this early on, and proactively adopted social media policies. They then, (gasp!) COMMUNICATED and TRAINED their employees.

      For the most part, though, I see many employees that think they know what they are doing and do not.

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