Choosing a Spokesperson

parkinsons-disease-4Image courtesy of Discovery Health

By Jessica Goldsmith

Who is the voice of your organization?

For most organizations, the company voice is reflected in marketing materials, public relations efforts, on social networks and through brand ambassadors such as corporate or celebrity spokespeople. But in health care, spokespeople are often patients themselves. As pharma companies look to inform, educate and influence patients, partners and prospects, choosing the right spokesperson is crucial.

How can you ensure the spokesperson you chose is the best representation for your brand?

Define your goals up front. Before choosing a spokesperson, understand the objectives of your communications program and what youd like to accomplish. Are you looking to provide support or education to patients about a disease or the benefits of a treatment therapy? Redefine your brand? Establish your company as a thought leader? Clarify key messages prior to selecting representation and then choose a spokesperson who can articulate and address the issues that patients, doctors, pharmacists, customers and prospects face every day.

Understand your brand. For a spokesperson to be effective, they need to appeal to the demographics of your target audience and be credible. To illustrate, Weight Watchers spokeswoman Jennifer Hudson is a perfect match for the weight-loss company. The fresh-faced Oscar winner is an inspirational, youthful role model who is following the plan and demonstrating results, reflecting the brand promise of helping people make better health and life choices.

Invest in media training. Getting a message across about a complex, detailed issue in a succinct sound bite can be challenging for many people. To maximize your media moments, ensure your spokespeople understand key messages and are trained to deliver them. CEOs and other company leadership can benefit from training as being in front of a reporter or camera requires the ability to deliver complete messages in mere seconds. When working with celebrity spokespeople, media training is also crucial. Just because an actor or actress is a regular on the screen doesnt mean they have the skills to keep an interview on point or understand your critical messages.

Align with the right celebrity. Whenever theres a celebrity scandal, as with Tiger Woods, the debate about the use of high-profile celebrities as spokespeople takes center stage. However, credible celebrity spokespeople can influence consumer behavior. Consider what Katie Couric did for colorectal cancer. After her on-air screening, the number of colonoscopies increased by 20 percent. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning to celebrities to talk about their experience with illnesses or treatments. Some examples include Brooke Shieldss as the voice of postpartum depression (whose iconic eyes are now used to support the lash-lengthening serum Latisse), Michael J. Fox for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research, and Lance Armstrong for testicular cancer. Using celebrities as health advocates, pharma companies can create a connection by putting a human face on an illness or disability. As with other areas of pharma marketing, companies should be transparent about paid endorsements.

Recognize that celebrities arent always the most powerful messenger. Sometimes regular people are the ideal spokespeople for a campaign message. The Arthritis Foundation has a powerful campaign featuring individuals living with osteoarthritis – a disease that affects one in five Americans. Television and online ads talk poignantly about how arthritis impacts every aspect of their life from their jobs to performing day-to-day tasks. The stories are moving and inspiring, creating a compelling connection for the target audience.

Prepare social media spokespeople for online interaction. Social media offers a great opportunity to connect with your target audience but it also can be a bit of the Wild West when it comes to company spokespeople. Every employee is empowered to be a potential spokesperson which is why it is important to have a social media policy that addresses how employees can participate on the companys behalf. The person behind your companys social media accounts and brand interaction should be trained similar to any other spokesperson to effectively meet communication objectives and promote your brand.

Choosing the right spokesperson can boost product sales, raise awareness of your company or its mission or help communicate effectively during times of crisis. Take the time to understand the demographics of your target audience, ensure potential spokespeople have experience that lends credibility to your message, and invest in training that guarantees messages are delivered flawlessly.

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