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How to Prepare Your Spokespeople for Rapid Response Events

Sep 17, 2020
Do you have multiple trained spokespeople? A clear sign-off authority? Agreed upon messaging?

Note: This post is part of a series about how to prepare your organization for its next crisis opportunity.

Do you have multiple, well-trained, media spokespeople?

A few common challenges that organizations face revolve around spokespeople. If there are too few, or the role is concentrated in a single leadership figure, this will result in missed opportunities. It will also miss out on opportunities for leadership development as others are deliberately developed as spokespeople. And finally, it can lead to an over-personalization of the message.

Remember, who gets heard matters

Do you need to train more spokespeople at your organization? Learn about our signature spokesperson training and reach out to request one for your organization. (Note: Due to the urgent nature of preparing and executing crisis communications in advance of the election and in the months following, ReThink is not taking on any new trainings until Jan. 1, 2021.)

Is there clear sign-off authority establishing who can approve organizational statements if the Executive Director is unreachable?

Time waits for no one and your primary spokespeople may not be available. We’ve seen crises unfold while directors were at reunions, or visiting in-laws, or overseas. Crossed signals on who needs to be consulted can lead to internal friction. It’s important to determine lines of authority.

Do you have prepared statements based on outcomes you can foresee?

It’s a best practice to prepare your priority press lists and draft statements in advance. In a breaking news environment some targeted reporters may reach out for an interview, but be sure to provide all targeted reporters with your statement, positioning yourself early as a source and improving your odds that they’ll include your organization’s voice.

Do you have a plan for your spokespeople to take brief breaks as needed to recalibrate messages and share intel on emerging narratives?

In a very intense news cycle, spokespeople can become entirely absorbed (and exhausted). Make a plan to step back every hour or two to compare notes with your team members, brief on new developments, and recalibrate priority messages as necessary.

Do you have agreed upon top-line messages grounded in anticipated scenarios?

Elections, court rulings, and other news cycles have predictable elements. You may not know the outcome, but still likely know what you want the narrative to emphasize in different scenarios. Game out how you will most effectively deliver the message you want in each of the scenarios you can anticipate.

For instance, for the November elections, do you have a strategy prepared for a Biden win? A Trump re-election? A prolonged legal battle? What about down-ballot races or ballot initiatives? Preparing now for a multitude of results will make it easier to respond quickly as the news unfolds around us.


Would you like help developing your organization’s response? Reach out to us @rethink_media or by contacting your ReThink Media program team.


Next in our series on preparing for rapid response, we will discuss developing your organization’s internal plan to respond.