Why a stand-up comedian is the spokesperson’s role model

The ability of spokespeople to deliver key messages in a way that stimulates the best quality coverage and engagement is an important part of any communications strategy but as companies and organisations are only too aware when creating their strategies, things change.

There are more and more opportunities to deliver consistent messages to targeted audiences, but an organisation will only be successful if they keep refining and evolving their messaging, and are prepared to engage both proactively and reactively.

This is why at MediaSmart we advocate that training of spokespeople should never just be a one-off that is never or rarely followed up.

Regular media coaching sessions that focus on reminding and updating them about all the things that could enhance or undermine their performance are essential to avoid spokespeople falling into a comfort zone that affects their ability to deliver their key messages in the most appropriate way for different audiences, platforms and channels.

We work with individual spokespeople to help test and refine corporate messaging, and focus on the news, stories, insight and opinion that will be most topical, relevant and compelling. We also provide them with a flexible script and proprietary processes that will anchor their performance.

They then need to add their own personality and expertise to the mix, remembering that the audience should always be able to name the organisation, company or brand they have heard or read about, rather than just the name of the person who said or wrote it.

Some media trainers use the analogy that being a spokesperson is very much like being an actor. The audience know you are acting a role and giving a performance based on a script that you have learnt. An accomplished actor should always be able to connect and establish a rapport with an audience more effectively than a ham actor, so media training is essentially about creating accomplished actors.

Whilst this makes sense, our view is that actors are not the best possible analogy, as they do not usually engage directly with an audience, and rarely vary their script according to context and circumstances.

Added to this, a good spokesperson also has to judge the mood and motivation of an interviewer or audience, and go ‘off piste’ whenever necessary in order to build or maintain credibility and interest, whilst still being on message.

The best stand-up comedians are perhaps a better example of how you can learn a script that needs to be updated and performed on a regular basis, gauge and respond to an audience and have the confidence to deal with whatever is thrown at them.

This does not mean that spokespeople should aspire to be great comedians (although the odd amusing anecdote or observation can be effective) but they can learn much from how the best professional performers are able to engage with and motivate an audience.