Presentation is Important
If you're going to use an employee as your on-camera spokesperson, they are by definition non-professionals. How they are presented will have great bearing on their effectiveness. Whether it's a high level executive or someone lower on the ladder, it's about how viewers will perceive them. And how they are received as an individual either helps or hurts your message. Here's some tips...
Your audience, whether it's industry, press or the public, will find it difficult to separate the message from the messenger. That's because they're human. Most of the time, you want viewers to relate positively not negatively to the messenger. That's the case with a spokesperson--particularly a company employee.
Credibility is a given if viewers know the spokesperson is an employee with the knowledge and authority to speak to the subject at hand. However, credibility can be destroyed in an instant if the spokesperson says or does something not appropriate to their perceived knowledge or authority. To be believable the message must be appropriate to them and their station. Imagine an assembly line worker giving a detailed report on the company's quarterly financials. It's patently out of place. Except for some possible unusual, very creative, maybe humorous approach, this would destroy the worker's credibility and effectiveness as the spokesperson.
Among other elements, the setting can be important as well. Generally speaking, to enhance credibility, spokespeople should appear in a setting appropriate to their position. That doesn't mean a CEO has to be seen behind a big desk or in a board room, but it does mean the assembly line worker should probably be depicted somewhere in the factory. Take them too far from their natural habitat and the audience will question their employee status and by extension their honesty and credibility. The corollary to this is to have them also dressed appropriately for their position/authority and your message.
An employee spokesperson can be disarming in direct approach if they are not selling but informing. This is true even if the subject is obviously an attempt to convince the viewer. Think about it. It seems to be a universal, learned human response to put up our mental defenses as soon as we perceive a sales pitch. But simply sharing a point of view, opinion or information is received more openly--especially if it is perceived as coming from the heart. Make it a testimonial. Often it's the difference between a hard sell and a soft sell.
Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. There's many instances when a hard sell is appropriate, Choosing to have an employee do a hard sell includes analyzing variables such as the target audience; the subject, purpose and context of the presentation; as well as the ability and corporate position/title of the spokesperson.
So it comes back to the choice of employee-spokesperson. Can they pull it off? In many cases even the best sales and marketing teams use a well-produced video presentation to do most of the hard sell and avoid any negatives falling on the employee-spokesperson (the company icon). The video presentation is used to explain benefits; answer the obvious negatives; compare the competition; and more. Then the company spokesperson--either on video or in person--arrives for the close, including any up-sell and what I like to call the, "but wait there's more" add-ons. Offering all the incentives to close, he or she is instantly a hero, not a pitchman! By presenting value-added your spokesperson is a hero.
Can a negative approach ever work? Under certain circumstances it may. That's what we'll discuss next time.
--John W. Coleman
Copyright 2010 John W. Coleman, Twin Oaks Communications Inc. All rights reserved.