Finding the best voice for your company

There are several things to consider when choosing a spokesperson for a specific brand, finds Tanya Lewis

There are several things to consider when choosing a spokesperson for a specific brand, finds Tanya Lewis

Spokespeople can be valuable vehicles for getting messages out, as long as they align with business goals and values. Therefore, it's important to vet candidates and choose someone who is accessible, resourceful, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.

Jon Harris, SVP of global communications at Sara Lee Corporation, says the company wanted someone who could connect with both moms and kids to represent its Soft and Smooth bread. Corbin Bleu, a star of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, was a perfect fit because Harris says kids idolize him and moms trust him.

He adds that it's important to choose someone who can think on his or her feet.

“Choose someone creative and assertive in getting messages out,” he says. “They'll figure out a way to get your message out, even when reporters aren't making it their priority.”

Tina Haskins Chadha, EVP at Kaplow, advises clients to look internally first.

“Clients and agencies [can] get excited about the more sparkly [external] experts – celebrities or other high-profile experts,” she says. “Often, there are people in the organization that have the expertise, personality, and passion for the business or topic to articulate the message.”

About six months ago, Kaplow client Warnaco, home to intimate apparel brands Olga and Warner's, was looking for a spokesperson that could speak to the product benefits for both brands. The company realized there was no one better equipped than its VP of creative design, Don Allen.

“He has background... and understanding of how the construction of bras relates to fit,” Chadha says. “He's been so close to product, design, and development for [25] years, and has an incredible personality.”

DeVries PR client Pepperidge Farm recently extended a relationship with Bethenny Frankel, celebrity natural foods chef and star of Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York City, who was chosen last spring as national spokesperson to launch the company's Baked Naturals crackers. Laura Pesin, MD at DeVries, says the company's priority was to enter pop culture discussions in a relevant way.

“Bethenny is believable because she's a natural food chef, and she's a rising pop culture star,” Pesin says. “[She and the brand] are growing together.”

Both Chadha and Pesin note that all criteria are not equal when choosing a spokesperson. “Decide what characteristics you want in a spokesperson and determine which are most important based on the client's business goals and culture,” Chadha says.

Before deciding on a spokesperson, Pesin suggests “soft sounding” editors and producers to determine which candidates are most appealing and if they have any media affiliations that could cause conflict.

“If... someone... is on Today regularly, it's polarizing for other network outlets and [presents a] booking challenge,” Pesin says. “We have someone now who is conflicted out of three networks, so I have to think of a different strategy and expand beyond national.”

Chadha suggests getting to know a potential spokesperson by spending time in his or her environment. “If they're a dermatologist or... someone who has an office, spend time [there] and see them in action,” she says.

She adds that collaboration is ideal in a relationship between a company and spokesperson. “Hopefully, the person will bring new insights into the conversation,” she says. “[They will help] develop messaging that feels right coming from them and for the brand. [They should be] interested in creating something together.”

Harris adds that media today is “more jaded” about celebrities. “The celebrity spokesperson isn't supposed to be the story – they're supposed to tell your story,” he says. “You're only as good as your content, and dressing it up with a celebrity isn't going to get it out unless you have a great story.”

Technique tips

Pick people who align with business goals

Look for internal spokespeople

Use informal media audits to assess the spokesperson's viability

Pick a spokesperson without vetting

Use spokespeople who won't collaborate

Pitch spokespeople to the media without a good story

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