Most companies assume that the CEO is the appropriate spokesperson in crisis.
But that's not always the case. Some CEOs make fantastic spokespeople. However, you don't have to look far to find examples of CEOs whose PR efforts have only succeeded in making the crisis worse.
Your crisis planning priority is to identify someone who is capable of clearly and accurately communicating your company's interests to the media and other interests. The personal charisma of your designated spokesperson can reinforce your company's message and mitigate the impact of negative publicity.
In the midst of a crisis, the media expects to hear from a senior company leader. Although your CEO could also serve as your crisis spokesperson, it might be more beneficial to designate someone else as your point person in a full-blown PR emergency. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a crisis PR spokesperson:
- Conduct PR/media training. Periodic media training events are multi-functional. Most of your leaders will see these events as an opportunity to brush up on their media skills. But while they're getting a refresher on media relations, you can use media training sessions to evaluate the crisis PR potential of other senior leaders.
- Consider multiple spokespeople. A one-size-fits-all approach usually isn't the best strategy for handling crisis PR. Every PR crisis has its own unique demands and challenges. Rather than designating a single leader to handle every crisis PR emergency, you might be better off designating different spokespeople for a handful of targeted crisis scenarios.
- Invest in your spokesperson. Media relations don't come naturally, even for senior leaders with charismatic personalities. Whether your designated spokesperson is your CEO or a department head, prepare them for crisis responsibilities with skills enhancement training, crisis plan preparation, and one-on-one coaching (if needed). If you have the resources, consider hiring a crisis PR firm for training and guidance.
- Alternate roles for CEOs. If you choose to designate someone else to be your corporate crisis spokesperson, your CEO may still play an important PR role in a crisis. These days, it's not uncommon for CEOs to serve as second-level spokespeople. At major turning points or when significant developments occur, the CEO can accompany the spokesperson to the podium to offer added gravitas or reassurance.