Companies put technology to use to expand message

We are awash in hi-tech ways of communicating, but the old-fashioned spoken word is still a reliable method for spreading a company's message.

We are awash in hi-tech ways of communicating, but the old-fashioned spoken word is still a reliable method for spreading a company's message.

PR pros are using some updated tools to prepare clients to become their company's mouthpiece.

Last week, Weber Shandwick announced its new service offering, VoiceBoxx, a database of international speaking venues that helps clients choose where they can best talk directly with a targeted audience and aids in crafting the discussion. With VoiceBoxx, WS is choosing the best showcase for the message being delivered.

"With any integrated campaign to drive awareness, you need an array of tactics in the arsenal that's beyond media relations," says Jennifer Risi, EVP at WS and a co-creator of the VoiceBoxx suite of products. "You need to find ways to expand a company's message."

Sometimes expanding the company's message means having more people doing the talking. Ketchum has training practices in place that are designed to help not just the "front-facing spokespeople," but also to get staff members on board with the message.

"They may not be designated spokespeople, but a large group of ambassadors," says Thomas Barritt, partner and managing director in the communications training network at Ketchum. "The training model used to be one-on-one; now, we're more interested in helping employees at multiple levels to better articulate the story of the company."

Ketchum uses virtual training sessions like webcasts for larger groups, as well as online, e-learning systems that allow for individual evaluation of how well staff members understand what the company is trying to convey.

Technology has also added to the list of people that are receiving the message, which might require a more relaxed tone. "Now, you might be speaking to someone in the digital world as part of a blog or social networking site," says Morri Berman, senior partner and director of media services at Fleishman-Hillard.

DVDs have replaced VHS cassettes, but recording and viewing a simulation to analyze a person's delivery is still widely employed.

"The basics are going to continue," says Barritt. "Rehearse it, practice it, and get that feedback."

Key points:

A strong, concise message delivered by both company spokespeople and employees is crucial

Technology is being used to customize speaking engagements, for media training across widespread locations, and to prepare clients to face a variety of outlets

Technology can't replace practice and feedback

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