What Makes a Good Spokesperson?

A spokesperson must be perceived as trustworthy and credible.

Build trust and credibility by expressing:

  • Empathy and caring
  • Competence and expertise
  • Honesty and openness
  • Commitment and dedication

A good spokesperson should know their organization’s policies.

  • Stay within the scope of responsibilities.
  • Tell the truth. Be transparent.
  • Embody your agency’s identity.

Early in the emergency, the spokesperson should expect to:

  • Explain the health and safety risks for individuals and communities
  • Explain the who, what, where, when, why and how of the emergency
  • Explain what is being done to respond to the emergency

When people are upset they have difficulty hearing, understanding, and remembering.

  • Send a limited number of clear messages: 3 key messages
  • Keep messages brief: 10 seconds or 30 words
  • Repeat messages:
    • Tell them what you’re going to tell them
    • Tell them
    • Tell them what you told them
    • Use visual aids: graphics, slides
    • Be aware that it takes three positive messages to balance one negative statement
    • Avoid unnecessary use of the words no, not, never, nothing, none

Spokesperson Emergency Card (PDF)

Prepare to answer these questions:

  • Are my family and I safe?
  • What can I do to protect myself and my family?
  • Who is in charge here?
  • What can we expect?
  • Why did this happen?
  • Were you forewarned?
  • Why wasn’t this prevented?
  • What else can go wrong?
  • When did you begin working on this?
  • What does this information mean?

Stay on message

  • “What’s important is to remember…”
  • “I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you…”
  • “Before I forget, I want to tell your viewers…”
  • “Let me put that in perspective...”

CERC Anticipated Q&A (PDF)

Create a message map

Dr. Vincent Covello developed this tool for framing your message. Message maps are risk communication tools that are used to help structure the message. They help organize complex information and make it easier to express current knowledge.

  • Limit to 3 key messages
  • Maximum of 3 supporting statements for each key message

Covello Message Mapping (PDF)

Message Map for Pandemic Flu (PDF)