Whether you’ve donned your red cap and are cheering him on, or watching – horrified – through your fingers, there’s no denying that Donald Trump can generate a headline. For those who stand by the old PR catchphrase that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’, Trump and his team are playing a clever game. For the comms professionals who have a lot of sympathy for Trump’s press officers, there might be some merit to the conspiracy theory that he was quarantined mainly for damage limitation purposes – frankly, to get him out of the spotlight in the run up to the election.
Whatever your political persuasion, it did get us thinking about the relationship between communications executives and their spokesperson. Who is really speaking and what do they want to achieve? Does it really matter if there is a disconnect between the ‘official’ narrative and the opinion of the speaker?
We’ve shared a few thoughts about keeping things on track:
- There are likely to be important, even legal, reasons to remain on message, especially in a crisis situation. Speaking out of turn could cause some serious issues. Pressing this point with everyone and anyone involved in a communications situation during a crisis, drawing up a formal protocol approved by the senior team to keep everyone in line, is imperative.
- Remember when Prue Leith accidentally announced the winner of the Great British Bake Off on Twitter? Hardly a crisis, but not ideal for Channel 4 who were preparing for their big reveal. Timing can be important for a communications strategy, not least if you have a national journalist to whom you’ve promised an exclusive. It’s important to ensure everyone is on board from the outset, fully briefed on the roll-out strategy and that they buy into the rationale. This understanding goes a long way.
- We’re big believers in media training in whatever form – whether that’s by way of a briefing note, a script, a group rehearsal or role-play. The more you know your content, the less likely you are to get side-tracked or deviate from the core message. Unless they are very, very good and know their stuff inside out, make sure your speakers rehearse!
- We don’t believe in hiding behind your comms team. It might be the best way to generate a word-perfect, polished response (after all, they wrote it!) but it is indirect and unhelpful to the journalists and influencers covering the story – they want to hear from the decision makers, not a third party even if acting on your behalf.
- A bit of personality can go a long way. We don’t believe in writing script responses for spokespeople – not only can it feel over-rehearsed and robotic, but it makes it harder to remember the message, not easier. Key takeaways in bullet form leave room for the spokesperson to speak naturally and comfortably and the format makes for easy information retention.
If you want to discuss your communications programme with PHM, get in touch!
By Lisa Flounders, Director, Property House Marketing