Lessons for the front line
Sean Spicer’s resignation does not come as much of a surprise to most of us. I think it’s safe to say, most observers would agree it was simply a matter of when, not if, the press secretary exited the White House.
Forget about the politics associated with this announcement. Think about the lessons that can be applied to corporate communications and global business. Here are a few thoughts from someone who has spent 25 years in Fortune 500 companies in the US, Europe and Asia.
- Start with a Strategy. The best spokesperson in the world can’t advance the business message without a strategy. Don’t blame the messenger or the ‘narrative.’ It’s incumbent upon the leadership team to articulate a thoughtful, believable strategy before putting someone on the stump.
- Tell the Truth. The golden rule of communications is to tell the truth. Forget about trying to ‘spin’ a story – we are in an era of zero tolerance. Honesty is the best policy and the truth is the only alternative.
- Know Your Audience. Anyone who has done media relations effectively appreciates the respect and fear one must have toward reporters. Gone are the days of telling your story through a press release. Lecturing is not an option. The conversation starts with facts and a healthy appreciation for various points of view.
- Forget about Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle. In today’s digital world, less technology is not an option. Accept the fact that smart phones are indispensable and ubiquitous. Recording, videotaping and live streaming are the price of entry. There are no mulligans!
- Make Sure You Have an Exit Strategy. PR is not for the faint of heart. There is no more difficult job than serving on the firing line as the spokesperson. Spokespersons must demand a steady stream of information and negotiate a healthy severance package!
Anne M. McCarthy*
Founder and President
Westmeath Global Communications
(formerly with Sara Lee Corporation, IBM, Polaroid, DuPont, SAP, Western Union and CH2M)
* No relation to Melissa McCarthy