In media training and crisis communications training, there are many debates about who should speak for your organization in a crisis. Here are three common arguments and what you should consider as a crisis unfolds.
Argument 1: The CEO should always be the spokesman
A CEO who wants to be the only voice is destined for failure. In a crisis, the CEO should be:
This is especially true in the first hours of a crisis, when information is just becoming available.
In a severe crisis involving injuries or fatalities, the CEO becomes the face of the organization’s compassion. Even then, the CEO as a spokesman might come several hours into the crisis. In the first hour, when a statement should be made, the CEO is often busy with other issues.
Also, if a CEO misspeaks early in the crisis, he or she loses credibility and undermines the reputation of the organization. If someone else misspeaks early in the crisis, the CEO can step in to clarify the facts and becomes the hero figure.
Remember BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, who uttered, “I want my life back.” That line led to his being fired as CEO.
Argument 2: The PR person should always be the spokesman