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01 April 2003

It's not just what they say


Public relations professionals put a lot of resources into ensuring that company spokespeople are competent communicators. While this is important, it needs to be seen in a broader communications context.

Why? Because even the best-trained spokesperson may not be seen as very credible by their audience.

A Public Relations Society of America survey of American adults aged 18-plus, reported late last year, makes this point very well. The following are credibility rankings adapted from the survey results, of "people who can provide financial information on a company" (from highest to lowest, based on mean score):

  • Consumer protection advocate
  • Professional financial planner or advisor
  • Business or industry expert
  • Stock broker you know
  • Friend involved in a business or industry
  • Family member
  • University business school professor
  • Stock holder in a particular business or industry
  • Worker in a company or business
  • Business reporter for a newspaper
  • Business reporter on television
  • Government official who regulates a business or industry
  • Company's chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Union leader
  • President of a large corporation
  • Company's chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Spokesperson for a company

For corporates, the message to be drawn from this is to give priority to ‘influencing the influencers'.

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