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The importance of training the corporate spokesperson

Idia M. Martínez, Lic. RP28
President
Upfront Communication

Times have definitely changed. Being an executive nowadays is not what it used to be decades ago. As time goes by, topics that were once trending are now a challenging reality: employer-employee relationships, labor legislation, corporate social responsibility, globalization…These and other issues have changed, not only the way we conduct business, but also the way businesses should communicate and connect with their audiences.

In this sense, Public Relations have gained a leading role and the media remains an important channel though which these Communication professionals convey messages both quickly and simultaneously.

Managing media relations gives businesses the opportunity to inform diverse audiences about situations that affect the organization, or that are of public interest; shed light on an issue that could turn into a crisis if left unattended; share the organization’s achievements, or disclose its corporate social responsibility efforts, among other purposes.

Keep in mind that an encounter with the media can be beneficial just as it can be detrimental, depending on the way the encounter is managed. Beyond discussing key talking points, it is of utmost importance to determine who will convey the message and how the message should be transmitted. In other words, a successful spokesperson is someone who can convey a well-structured message that achieves the organization’s goals. These two elements (the who and the structure of the message) have the potential of distorting the message an organization wants to communicate. Unfortunately, it happens frequently.


First of all, when selecting a spokesperson, the organization must be aware that both the media and the public expect to hear the message from someone within the high ranks of the organization. Depending on the nature of the message, this person could be anyone from the president to a department manager. Regardless of the rank, the person must have thorough knowledge of the business and, of course, of the particular issue to be discussed.

Every spokesperson should receive a media training, regardless of his or her academic preparation and years of experience. This training should be provided by an expert in media affairs who’s also licensed to provide public relations services in Puerto Rico.

Even the most articulate and self-confident executive can seem insecure and transmit little credibility if he or she doesn’t know how to dominate his or her projection in each media outlet.

Diction, gestures, facial expression, the outfit…everything communicates; often much more than words can say.

On a radio interview, for example, is crucial to communicate the message in an energetic yet paused manner, because the listener won’t have a visual reference to understand the message. On television, on the other hand, non-verbal communication is more important. Therefore, using proper posture and even hand gestures will help accentuate the elements of the message that we want to emphasize.

It sounds simple, but there are so many details to attend to, that the message becomes effective only when it is studied, practiced, and analyzed.

The structure of the message is another important piece of the equation. When the spokesperson receives a media training, he or she learns to find a balance between transmitting certain ideas and satisfying the media’s need for information.

Having a role play exercise before meeting the press is important because it allows the spokesperson to anticipate the reporter’s need for information. It also equips the spokesperson with the knowledge that would allow him or her to provide proper answers, thus representing the organization adequately. It’s always of great help to develop three key points before the interview and to insert them when answering the different questions the reporters will make.

The strategy to manage the aforementioned points will also depend on the kind of media encounter the spokesperson will have. Dominating an interview is not the same as participating on an opinion roundtable, or successfully managing a press conference. Far less if any of those scenarios happens in the middle of a crisis.

Most importantly, the spokesperson must understand the significance of his or her role. The public perception of an organization could depend on the spokesperson’s performance before the media. Most certainly, that responsibility should not be taken lightly.

For information about media trainings offered by Upfront Communication, please call
787-749-0226 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Strategic communication for business success

Idia M. Martínez, Lic. RP28
President, Upfront Communication

In times of economic challenge, multiple businesses focus their efforts in identifying ways to make adjustments that would reduce operating costs and strengthen sales. However, even after making these adjustments and having good products and services, many businesses don’t grow or flat out fail because they don’t integrate strategic communication into their business plan.


Managing communications in a proactive and efficient manner strengthens the business’ relationship with internal and external audiences. Earning their trust, gaining more loyalty to your brand and strengthening your market share are additional benefits of an effective communication plan; as is the ability to overcome crisis.
When we talk about communications, we refer to any initiative through which organizations establish a bond with diverse audiences. Some examples of such initiatives include branding, institutional advertising, events, presence in social media and other digital outlets, as well as exposure in traditional media (press). In short, it is anything and everything that conveys the identity of an organization and has an impact on the way its audiences perceive it.


While the design of a strategic communication plan responds to the particular characteristics and needs of each business or organization, there are certain elements that must be considered nowadays:


• Grow your audience beyond the client or consumer.
• Redefine your message to focus on what people want to hear.
• Develop strategic alliances that strengthen your efforts and result in greater credibility.
• Have meaningful impact in through media exposure.
• Integrate non-traditional tactics.


Let’s develop each of these concepts briefly.


Grow your audience beyond the client or consumer
Directing communication efforts only towards the client is a big mistake. A business’ success or failure does not rely exclusively upon the fact that clients consume its product or service. Internal communication, for instance, is transcendental because, at times, lack of motivation and employee engagement can be the end of any business. For this reason, there has to be a communication strategy that supports the efforts of your Human Resources department.

Another perfect example is the immediate community. All too often we see the case where businesses of all sizes lack the acceptance and support of its neighboring residents who, in turn, become the organization’s main detractors. An operation may not be likeable for certain groups within the entire population. However, using open and sustained communication efforts, the situation can be turned around with favorable results.


Redefine your message to focus on what people want to hear
The advertising, press releases, webpages and social media networks of many businesses are plagued with messages that are of no interest to their audiences. It’s obvious that is necessary to communicate certain concepts. The key lies in finding a way that’s relevant to your audiences. For example, instead of focusing on highlighting the virtues of a product, we can focus on the benefits consumers will obtain from it.


When it comes to social media, we often see posts completely directed to sales. These messages are almost always rejected. However, a profile with information that’s relevant, valuable, interesting, educational, and original results in more followers and higher engagement.


Develop strategic alliances that strengthen your efforts and result in greater credibility
Always having the leading role is not necessarily good. Developing alliances with other businesses and organizations can be beneficial, particularly in times of economic adversity. Alliances allow us to share expenses or resources, give us more access to interest groups, and bring more credibility to your initiatives and the business as a whole. Plus, the allies can mutually benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience.
A public relations campaign in health care, for instance, often results more reliable when there are multiple groups of health care professionals or government entities involved.


Beyond impacting the consumer, alliances are also beneficial in advocacy situations, where parties need support to approve, amend or repeal legislative measures. Alliances validate the old adage: “Strength is in numbers”.


Have meaningful impact in through media exposure
As news outlets continue closing, opportunities to spread non-paid material are fewer. That’s not the end of the world, though.
Previously, the effectiveness of a public relations plan or campaign was measured, mainly, according to the amount of press coverage it got. This has changed because, now, the quality of the material published in the media is what determines the impact. A press release published in three media outlets, which generates little or no readership interest—or which reached readers who are not in our target audience—is less effective than a release published in just one media outlet, but which reached our audience and was convincing.


Therefore, success lies in developing adequate messages, preparing the speakers to maximize their performance, and identifying the media outlets in which we should focus. All of this should happen hand in hand with content development that’s interesting or pertinent to the media, because that’s the key to getting published.


Integrate non-traditional tactics
Communication plans cannot depend on what has always been done, because the results will remain the same. To grow a business or maintain its stability, one must develop new ways to communicate.


It’s a noisy, competitive world out there. On a daily basis, we are constantly bombarded with messages on mass media, social networks, and mobile phone. Therefore, it is crucial to create new stimuli. It’s not about discarding traditional media, but about developing creative elements that awaken the audience’s interest in what we do or what we market.


These and other ideas can be adapted to your business. Remember, however, that it’s important to plan your communication efforts; hence the term strategic communication. A professional in this field can help you develop and execute the ideal plan for your business or organization.

 

Ready to celebrate 20 years of service

2015 will be no ordinary for Upfront Communication, as it will celebrate 20 years of providing public relations and integrated communication services in Puerto Rico. The staff is working on the final details of this celebration, which consists of several events throughout the year. Since opening its doors in 1995, Upfront Communication has provided effective solutions to its client’s needs. Mindful that reputation are an organization’s most important assets, Upfront remains strongly committed to providing a superior level of service that combines expertise, professionalism, and reliability. These three pillars have been key to the firm’s success throughout the year. Celebration’s schedule of events and activities will be posted soon. Stay tuned here for details!