Spokespeople need a coach, not just a briefing note

Because analysts are under more pressure to deliver insights that correspond closely to end-users’ needs, solution providers have a huge advantage when spokespeople are able to develop influential conversations focussed on the analysts’ clients’ needs. Sadly, spokespeople are badly selected, trained and prepared. As a result, much of the potential value of briefing analysts is squandered.

Some particular weaknesses of ineffective spokespeople are:

– Not trying to build rapport with the analyst

– Not gearing the conversation around each analyst’s current research focus

– Not systematically addressing the analyst’s actual or likely problems with the company

– Not allowing time for a real Q&A session

– Not overcoming cross-cultural business differences

– Trying to mislead the analyst.

AR managers and their support teams put a lot of effort into producing briefing notes to summarise the analyst’s background and research interests. Few go as far as our Messaging Customisation Matrix, which actually anticipate the potential areas of disagreement in a particular meeting. However, even the best briefing note fails to resolve most of the weaknesses listed above.

Our key guidance is:

– Reports from briefings need to be discussed as part of a formal Training Needs Analysis for each spokesperson.

– Spokespeople need to be formally coached. Few managers are going to step up the challenge of defending the company to a critical audience. Spokespeople need help in setting goals, understanding difficult situations, building up self-knowledge (especially by reflecting on other peoples’ behaviour), dealing with roadblocks and mobilising wider support.

– Spokespeople need to commit to building long-term relationships with analysts, one at a time.

– Briefing analysts is a team sport, in which executives can learn most of what they need to know from each other, in an appreciative inquiry approach.

Sadly, few internal AR managers have an explicit mandate, or the time, to make that happen. That is especially the case with underperforming spokespeople, as it is with narcisists. We can help your firm in two ways: to act as a mentor and coach for your spokespeople, and to help AR managers develop a more effective coaching style, and thus to win greater acceptance in their own firm as trusted advisors.

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1 thought on “Spokespeople need a coach, not just a briefing note

  • Great post Duncan.

    IMHO, it’s a function of the seniority of AR people and the stature gained in the firm. Where AR is demoted to execution roles, it usually falls in a downwards spiral of not being respected and thus not being in a position to advise execs.

    The other side, the virtuous cycle, also happens.

    Would be nice to see a matrix on that too!

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