Keep Calm and Eat a Banana
In the busy industry of public relations, crisis situations are bound to occur. It is an inevitable challenge that all PR professionals experience at least once during their careers. No matter the type of crisis a client is facing, whether it be a product recall or store robbery, it is imperative for PR practitioners to manage the issue professionally in order to avoid public misperception.
One way to do this is to consider the delivery of outgoing messages to media, as well as to a client’s constituents and consumers. Although the content of a public message is crucial, a recent PR News article explains that the delivery of a message can be just as important as the message itself.
The article challenges PR experts to look beyond the content of talking points or speeches, and evaluate the physical presence of designated spokespersons as a key communication tool.
To do so, the article provides five nonverbal physical cues PR pros can use to prepare each spokesperson for speaking in front of an audience or camera.
- Maintain steady eye contact. Many individuals often use eye contact as a way to determine if a person is being dishonest or evasive. Spokespersons can avoid this by panning the audience and making distinct eye contact with individuals while they speak.
- Keep hands visible. Although it’s important not to overuse hand motions, having them visible signifies that the spokesperson is comfortable and approachable. Spokespersons should avoid putting hands in their pockets or behind them as it is often perceived as aggressive and suspicious.
- Try to remove barriers between the spokesperson and the audience. When objects, such as a desk or a podium, stand between the speaker and the audience, it’s often a challenge to demonstrate empathy and honesty. Spokespersons should treat press conferences or public speaking opportunities as a conversation, not an interrogation.
- Dress conservatively. Regardless of the message, it is important for designated speakers to dress in basic, professional patterns when being interviewed. Crazy patterns and gaudy jewelry can distract reporters from the message trying to be conveyed.
- Eat a banana. It might be a bit unconventional, but studies have shown that nutrients found in bananas can actually help calm nerves. In addition to being a healthy snack, eating a banana before public speaking can help spokespersons perform better in front of an audience.
Here at Largemouth, we have also learned several additional techniques to help deliver an effective message.
- Blocking and bridging. When answering questions, spokespersons should remember to move the message along. Acknowledging the question briefly and then moving to the message will help the spokesperson control the direction of the conversation.
- Flagging. To help the audience remember key points of a message, spokespersons should use conversational “signposts” as well as body language to emphasize and stress the important parts of a message.
- Avoid “umms.” When speaking in front of an audience, spokespersons should avoid using “umms” or “uhhhs” between phrases. Spokespersons should speak clearly and succinctly. A simple pause is better than using “umm” to fill a quick moment of silence while formulating an answer in the mind.
If PR experts follow these helpful tips when advising clients to deliver a message in a crisis situation, there is a better chance of staying on the upside of a crisis by maintaining effective communications with targeted audiences. Delivery is always key!