Why PR pros should not be organizations’ crisis spokesmen

Crises often call for timely statements to consumers, investors and reporters. One communicator argues that the job should come from within the organization, and not a PR firm.

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Could I do it? Absolutely. Should I do it? That’s another story.

There’s a lot to consider when putting forth a spokesman. Without question, in times of crisis (and even in the best of times), we don’t advocate putting a spokesperson on the front lines if he or she has no experience, is uncomfortable, has not been trained or is unprepared.

However, I would argue that 99 percent of the time, the organization is hoping to convey accountability, transparency and trust—and having an outside PR pro as a spokesman usually doesn’t do a whole lot to convey those messages.

The temptation to speak for clients

When the phone is ringing, emails are pouring in and social media is abuzz, it’s tough to suddenly create a spokesman.

You may not have the luxury of having someone who is well prepared and media savvy. Working with two national, high-profile education crises involving race relations and a criminal matter, I encountered two different scenarios with the spokesman preparedness. It helped shape our media relations strategy.

It would have been easy for us to be on the front lines for the schools—taking press calls and being quoted. However, what does that demonstrate to the schools’ key audiences, including students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors, prospective students and others?

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