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The spokesperson role can be filled in different ways. Some organizations rely on executive leadership to represent them. Others rely on a public affairs representative, press officer or another senior official. In any case, the delegation of authority sets the pattern for how an organization meets its obligation to inform the public.

Regardless of who becomes the designated spokesperson, the organization’s chief retains the final authority for making public statements – particularly dealing with sensitive issues – but can leave day-to-day business to a spokesperson. In other circumstances, a technical specialist may be required to respond, so consider building a team of technical specialists trained in media relations who can be called upon to provide information for interviews.

Key spokespeople should also have a role in developing an organization’s communication strategy and carrying it out. And although these spokespeople will call on specialists to answer technical questions, they must be familiar with all aspects of the operation.

Some basics for spokespeople:

  • Be available to reporters — often at a moment’s notice and after normal working hours
  • Be comfortable talking to journalists on television, radio, in news conferences, by phone and face-to-face
  • Understand the needs of journalists, the mechanics of news media and possess the skills to develop and institute strategies that make the most of available communication channels to establish credibility for your organization.

It is also helpful to record interviews in case an error needs to be corrected. In general, in interviews with media, it is important to provide corroboration. This can protect a staff member who is authorized to speak if the result needs to be clarified. If the interview is by telephone with a specialist in the organization, have a representative from the communication staff join the interview, either on the phone or in person with the designated spokesperson.

In addition to key spokespeople, there may be additional roles an organization develops either internally or through external consultants that may act as public representatives. These may include:

Meeting facilitators

Independent meeting facilitators can set a neutral tone for new stakeholders as they begin to work closely with nuclear organizations. They can support large meetings or conferences to raise public awareness as well as small one-on-one briefings with journalists, business leaders or policy makers. In many situations, intermediaries can play an important role setting expectations, sharing new ideas and finding common interests.

Social Media Managers

The overwhelming public embrace of social media has created a separate virtual universe with its own set of rules for engagement. Nuclear communicators can effectively join social media conversations by participating through the networks their partners have already developed. This is particularly useful to small organisations that may not have the resources to engage a social media manager.

Ambassadors and Champions

Someone who has had direct experience in the benefit of a nuclear technology – a cancer survivor who was treated with radiation for cancer, for example, would be a good candidate to serve as an ambassador. There are also environmental activists who have switched from opposing to supporting nuclear power because it emits no greenhouse gases.

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