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Spokesperson in Management: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Jennifer Wiley-Cordone
What is a spokesperson? Can anyone be a spokesperson, or only supermodels and CEO's? How does it fit in with other managerial responsibilities? This lesson explains the spokesperson managerial role, one of ten managerial roles defined by Henry Mintzberg.

What Is the Spokesperson Role?

If you were asked to be a spokesperson for a company, or even a small department, do you think your friends might be impressed? Generally, when someone becomes a manager they become a spokesperson as well. Remember, though, not every spokesperson is a highly visible CEO or famous supermodel; the receptionist in the lobby is the often the first spokesperson encountered by visitors. The role involves the company's written or oral external communication.

Spokesperson managerial role
Spokesperson Role

Managers with spokesperson responsibilities also have other roles at work. Based on his observational research of CEOs, Professor Henry Mintzberg described ten managerial roles grouped into three general categories: decisional, informational, and interpersonal. Spokesperson is the most public of the three informational managerial roles.

Company stakeholders want the corporate message to communicate a clear, consistent and positive image of the company's 'personality'. This image is the public relations strategy for the company. It's like the gear that drives the different reasons an organization might have for communicating to the public, like marketing a product or service, damage control of the company's reputation, or emergency management during a disaster.

Elements of spokesperson role
Spokesperson Role Details

Let's take a look at each aspect of the spokesperson role in the context of this external messaging during a hypothetical global catastrophe - the zombie apocalypse. Imagine that verified reports of zombification have spread to all corners of the globe; the U.S. has been able to keep the zombie population fairly controlled. Most people are still going about their daily activities, but taking reasonable precautions. How will spokespeople manage marketing opportunities, damage control/emergency management, and public relations in the face of a dramatically changing culture?

Marketing

Marketing is all about informing the public of services or products that will solve a specific problem. Marketing can also be about defining an unrealized problem or creating a need the consumer was not previously aware of in order to position new products and services.

When a manager is overseeing a print, radio, on-line, or TV marketing campaign, he or she is creating a message about the company to disseminate externally, and is thereby taking on the role of company spokesperson. If a manager were to unveil a new product at a tradeshow or make a pitch for funding, for example, those responsibilities would also fall under the spokesperson role.

What does marketing for the zombie apocalypse look like? Consumers are suddenly faced with a new problem. They are now at risk of being eaten by zombies! The chemists at Miracle Pill Pharmaceutical Company recognize a new market and have quickly responded to this problem by creating 'Zombie Zapp.' They turn to Joan, marketing director at Miracle Pill, to develop a campaign for the new product.

Joan and her team carefully select the colors and images on the can, choose words and phrases appealing to their target market of terrified humans, and create a multimedia product launch. Before releasing any materials, Joan is sure to get approval from the president of Miracle Pill, who personally signs off on each phase of the campaign. Although Joan does not speak directly to the public, she is still acting as spokesperson by crafting a message about the company for external distribution.

Damage Control and Emergency Management

Damage control and emergency management are essentially two sides of the same coin. Where damage control attempts to change the public's opinion by rehabilitating an organization's image after a negative event, the goal in emergency management is to educate or inform the public so that they change their behavior before or during a crisis. Spokespeople are essential in either case in communicating the desired public response.

In our zombie apocalypse scenario, let's assume spokespeople at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called a series of press conferences to address appropriate prevention and response the global zombie threat. The CDC is attempting to keep the zombie population stable and prevent a panic through emergency management techniques.

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