While collaborating recently with a client I was asked to get involved with a major, name brand automotive entity. Further, I was asked to serve as corporate spokesperson surrounding a series of events. A tremendous opportunity for me to see my name in print, in turn promoting, by association, Tanner Friedman? Some might think so. Instead, I advised my client that it would be in the best interest of his client if they spoke on their own behalf, under my direction.
After all, it is rarely not in the best interest of a company to speak on their own behalf. It is akin to the rules of “no comment” whereby a company can always say something. Saying nothing is perceived as hiding something. Taking that a step further, in times of crisis and especially good news, why not have your company’s top person doing the communicating? Aren’t they supposed to be the face and voice of that organization? That methodology is not to push the PR practitioner aside. Rather, a true public relations pro, focused on doing what’s best for their clients, should put their energies into making sure their client CEOs or spokespersons are well prepared on what to say and write.
Now, there can be exceptions to the rule. Perhaps the CEO or corporate voice is unavailable for a reporter on deadline. Maybe the head of the company is actually based outside the marketplace and unable to do a quick TV segment. Further, some company heads are either not media savvy or otherwise uncomfortable with a microphone or camera in their face. Media training aside for the latter example, some or all of these scenarios can lead a PR practitioner to step in. However, if that is the case, it is always preferable for the PR firm to indicate to the interviewer that they are acting as spokesperson on behalf of Company X, Y, or Z and not have them list the name of the PR firm. Even worse: A written statement or email attributed directly to a PR firm, speaking for a client company. What’s the point in that?
It really gets down to ethics, lack of ego and doing what is truly right for the client. The majority of PR firms out there get that. A few don’t and, in turn, can make our entire industry look bad — while they’re busy trying to make themselves look good.