Thursday, June 1, 2017

Crisis Communications: Role of the Spokesperson - Sean Spicer

The role of a spokesperson is not easy and Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, will definitely attest to that.

role of spokesperson in a crisis

Since taking on the role as White House Press Secretary, Sean has had to be many things to many people. To the White House, he needs to be the face of Government and to communicate what is in their best interest. To the public at large, Spicer has been expected to tell the whole truth even if it is not in the best interest of the White House. And to the media, Sean Spicer is supposed to be their first-hand source of information about what is going.

The recent “covfefe” Tweet by President Trump is a good case in point. For a spokesperson to do his job well, the spokesperson must firstly be aware of what is actually happening. Unfortunately, in this instance (although there are many other examples), Sean seems totally oblivious to what is going on. When asked what “covfefe” meant, Spicer could only reply that "the President and a small group of people know exactly what it means ". This literally confirms that Sean (and the White House communications team) is not aware of what is going on in their own White House.

Why this matters is that Sean Spicer’s credibility as a spokesperson is all but destroyed. If a spokesperson for an organization is seen to be unaware of what is going on, he essentially cannot be trusted. And once the trust is lost, nothing that he or she says will mean anything to anyone.

This is the conundrum facing many crisis managers. Tell the spokesperson too much, and there is a risk of information being leaked. However, tell the crisis manager too little and the spokesperson will look inept and lose credibility. It is definitely a delicate balance.

Our Advice

As a spokesperson, remember that your role is to help communicate information on behalf of your organization. To do this, your credibility as a source of information is essential for you to perform this role effectively. This then means that you need to be honest in what you communicate. If you do not have the information, say so. Providing misleading information will undermine your credibility and make your ineffective as a spokesperson. As I have mentioned earlier, your value to your organization is as an effective communicator of information. As such, your first duty to your organization is to protect your credibility – at all costs.

Being a spokesperson is not easy and you will often be conflicted. However, if you remember that you were hired to communicate and to communicate effectively, you will be better able to navigate the many demands of your job.

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