Too often companies focus on getting information out but they stop short of true messaging that can put the information in context and enhance or reinforce the brand. They also overlook the step of preparing their message carriers to do their job. Whether in a high profile speaking forum or in front of a news camera, spokespersons must be able to get across the relevant or topical information expected, but also link this information to the company’s key messages. This is a skill that does not come naturally or easily to most people and it takes practice to get it right.
Getting the content right is not the only concern for spokespeople, however. The old adage “it’s not what you say but how you say it” holds an important nugget of truth. Certainly the information and messages a company needs to communicate are important, but the delivery is often the neglected piece. Spokespersons and other representatives who communicate on behalf of a company carry a great deal of responsibility with this role. They must be viewed at times as persuasive, empathetic or sympathetic, reassuring, honest and a host of other adjectives – but always credible. Some people have a natural ability to communicate, but even those who do need training to harness their raw abilities and make them work in a structured communications setting where there are high expectations by the audience.
The Gonsoulin Group trains spokespersons and other company communicators in how to maximize the communications opportunity through preparation strategies and delivery techniques. The approach is highly personalized and training curriculum is customized to the situation. While participants learn about principles of effective communications and understanding the media landscape, trainings primarily focus on real-world scenarios and incorporate role-playing and on-camera practice.
With formal communications training, spokespeople learn the skills and techniques that will enable them to successfully carry out this function, and positively and effectively represent their company over the long term. Moreover, what they learn can be applied in any communications setting – from meetings to informal conversations with colleagues and staff. However, in preparing for speaking engagements or media interviews, these spokespersons benefit greatly from a trained colleague who can provide coaching on the principles and practical lessons learned in the formal training session.
The Gonsoulin Group offers a program called Coach for public relations and corporate communications professionals who have a responsibility for preparing executives and other spokespersons for specific events or occasions. Participants learn how to:
- Craft topic-specific messages that align with corporate messaging
- Develop and conduct role-playing scenarios
- Address spokesperson nerves and problematic behaviors
- Provide constructive critiques with difficult personalities
- Staff media interviews
Preparation is the key to success for a spokesperson and having a trained partner in the process can exponentially improve their performance.