Regardless of job title, all spokespeople must possess the same basic qualities. In addition to being authorised to represent the organisation, a spokesperson should:
• Resonate with your audience
• Project a good visual presence
• Possess good quality of voice (particularly when speaking live, or on radio and television)
• Maintain a good rapport with journalists
• Remain readily accessible to the media
Although some of these qualities directly reflect the individual's personality, others can be learned and refined over time. Therefore, regardless of the spokesperson's level of experience, proper media training is essential. Conveying key messages and being savvy about how to avoid missteps are skills that can be learned.
A little training can go a long way
A good spokesperson knows how to be interviewed and is aware of what journalists want. Here are just a few points to consider when training your representative to be an effective spokesperson:
Image. How you look can and will affect audience perception. Visual perception accounts for at least 60 percent of how audiences take in messages. At least another 30 percent is auditory, while the remaining is the actual message or what the audience believes is the message (The Spin Project, Broadcast Media and Spokesperson Skills, 2008).
Rehearsal. Practicing before hand helps prevent stumbling and mumbling during the real interview or appearance and helps perpetuate a sense of confidence and authority.
Sound bites. Sometimes all you have is a moment to punctuate key messages, or perhaps a journalist needs only one quote or phrase to set the tone for the entire piece. Your spokesperson should be prepared with snippets.
Control. You may not be able to direct a journalist's line of questioning. However, you can still maintain control of the answers by transitioning them in a way that reinforces the key messages you want to convey.