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Qualities of an Effective Spokesperson

This information is for historic and reference purposes only.  Content has not been updated since the last reviewed date at the bottom of this page.
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A spokesperson is essential in helping your organization relate to communities in crises. A good spokesperson embodies an organization’s identity, personifies its response efforts, and serves as the overall human connection to the public. While all spokespeople have unique qualities, there are some techniques that every spokesperson can use to effectively reach people in an emergency.

So, what should a good spokesperson do?

Role of a Spokesperson

A spokesperson’s job is to take your organization from an it to a we by:

  • Building organization trust and credibility
  • Removing psychological barriers—including fear and anxiety—in affected communities
  • Gaining support for the public health response efforts

Ultimately, if a spokesperson is successfully able to communicate important public health messages, areas affected by a disaster will face fewer incidents of illness, injury, and death.

With so much at stake, how does a spokesperson communicate effectively?

Tips for Success

Using the principles of crisis and emergency risk communication (CERC), a spokesperson can increase the likelihood that people will listen to your organization’s messages, trust your advice, and act on your recommendations. To do this, a spokesperson must demonstrate:

Empathy and caring

  • Speaking clearly—with compassion and empathy—to demonstrate care and concern.
  • Accepting and involving the public as a legitimate partner. Listening to the people experiencing an emergency will often reveal exactly what information they need, and this can help a spokesperson better deliver messages.

Competence and expertise

  • Education and experience can help establish credibility, but a spokesperson should still tailor messaging to make complex information more easily understood. This means limiting jargon and acronyms.
  • Coordinating and collaborating with other credible sources.

Honesty and openness

  • Being honest, frank, and open with information.
  • Explaining what your organization is doing to get information if it isn’t available.
  • Meeting the needs of the public and the media to demonstrate availability and transparency.

Commitment and dedication

  • Sharing your organization’s goals for the response, providing regular information updates, and being honest about progress and challenges.

Accountability

  • Keeping promises and evaluating progress to help your organization improve its communication.

The right spokesperson can help make their organization a trusted resource for reliable information during an emergency. Using CERC principles can help a spokesperson do this well.

For more information on CERC visit our website and check out the CERC manual. You can also read previous CERC Corners.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail cercrequest@cdc.gov. Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

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