By Tom Davidson
Your businesses spokesperson is YOU! So you might as well know how important this is and what to do about it. Here are some do’s and don’ts every manager should know.
One critical part of your leadership job is unlikely to be anywhere in your job description yet very likely to be part of your performance evaluation. Surprise! YOU are now the company spokesperson. Even if your job title says nothing about “public relations,” “government affairs,” or “stockholder communications,” you are the frontline (and most important) spokesperson to your employees.
In case you missed it in orientation, here are the “do’s and don’ts” of your role; the “how’s” are covered in the next two blog posts:
1. Think of your employees as the most important audience to your organization. What and how you communicate with THEM forms the DNA of your culture. In turn, your employees represent your organization to other critical publics, including customers, community members, government officials and shareholders.
2. Good public relations start in-house. Therefore, inform employees first about decisions, results and changes that affect the business and their livelihoods. Advocate to senior leaders that employees and volunteers be fully considered in important communication plans, marketing activities, and community relations. Ignore them at your peril.
3. Prepare for your employee communications as you would for a visit from “60 Minutes.” Too many managers take employee interactions for granted (both one-on-one encounters and group meetings), assuming that they, as the managers, are in complete control of what information is disseminated, how and by whom. Your employees have always been broadcasters through informal networks, but they are now especially empowered by Social Media. Respect their position of power or be humbled by it.
1. Let your employees hear anything in the media that you could have told them yourself. Allowing this to happen erodes your credibility exponentially, discounts any future attempt to keep them informed, and sends them scurrying to other sources for information, very few of which will be factual, complete or positive.
2. Underestimate the power of “the grapevine.” Employees and managers at every level will talk to one another about even the most confidential information. Senior executives wonder if their offices are “bugged,” when they themselves have been the ones to let friends, partners and other trusted insiders. Assume that everyone will talk about everything and that everything you do or say will land in the headlines that day.
3. Let your managers go it alone. Most of your managers were promoted for their technical skills and/or individual results. Even your most well-meaning leaders are unaware of the unintended consequences related to information voids, dodging questions, glossing over the truth, avoiding or reframing bad news, saying “no comment,” guessing at the answer, hiding from constituents, or saying that they are just the messenger from higher authorities. Give them the perspective and training they need to succeed rather than throwing them in to sink or survive.
Like it or not, prepared or not, in agreement or not, the spokesperson is YOU! So you might as well know how important this is and what to do about it. See my next two blogs for more information on the “how” of your unexpected job responsibilities.
As a new or experienced manager, what have you learned about being your organization’s spokesperson?