When the inevitable hits the gumbo pot: Channel your inner Aristotle to become a super-hero spokesperson


By: Joseph V. Trahan,III,Ph.D, APR, Fellow PRSA-President/CEO Trahan & Associates  and Joseph V. Trahan, IV, Director of Media Relations Dallas Cowboys

          I believe that the phrase “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families” to be over used and meaningless.  It must be replaced with phrases that are relevant to the receivers during a crisis.  I recommend you channel your inner Aristotle in order to build a confident credibility bridge with your audiences during a crisis.

There are three Aristotle concepts to embrace.  First, ETHOS – your character/reputation is critical for the audience to answer the following questions:  Who are you?  What are your values and beliefs?  Why should I trust you?  What qualifies you to speak on this subject?  What’s your experiences?  Will you share your pain?  What added value do you bring to the platform?  Answer these questions in a Super manner that is sensitive to their needs, understanding of their concerns, with eagerness to help them, responsive to their demands.

Second, LOGOS – Reasoning that’s logical, rational, persuasive and defensible to the argument for what happened and what will be done to fix the problem.  For this you must become a HERO:

Helpful to your audiences

Enthusiastic about being accessible to the media and your audiences

Resourceful in helping to solve the problems

Oblivious to your social media critics.

Pathos – Passion and emotion for an organization or person.  Show me empathy and sympathy.  You cannot fake it; it must be genuine!  You must become a true spokesperson who is open, candid, involved in policy making, ethical, responsible and approachable.

I believe your crisis message strategy should embody the following:

You must make your audiences believe that you are attached to them and that your message is their message.  Your actions must prove that you are committed to your audiences.  A recommended message would be:  “I have just met with the families of our employees who were killed and would urge all of you to pray for them and their loved ones.” In this way you can truly attach yourself with your audiences because you have seen them and they have seen you. You also now are a true witness to their pain and grief in their heart-breaking experience. Therefore, your words and actions become one with the  victims’ families when you express their grief with true substance and content.

Finally, by attaching yourself to your audiences and channeling your inner Aristotle of Ethos, Logos, Pathos, you will be on the pathway to becoming a certified Super Hero Spokesperson(SHS).  One who can be trusted to say what they mean and mean what they say in every crisis situation. I challenge you now to become a Super Hero Spokesperson(SHS) by following these steps:

  1. Accessibility- to your Top Dog and your audiences. Also the Media must have Access to you.
  2. Honesty-Tell the Truth.
  3. Humility-You are a Servant Leader to your Boss & audiences.
  4. Accountability- to your Organization and audiences.
  5. Control-Always stay in control no matter what happens. Never lose your Sade “Smooth Operator” Attitude.
  6. Competence-Stay in your lane only talk about what you own or know never reach to speak about things that you do not know about.
  7. Concern-it must be on your face, actions and words.
  8. Right Information-Right People-Right Time.
  9. Passion- for your profession, organization and audiences.
  10. Communication Skills-Outstanding Oral, Written, Listening and Non-Verbal Communication Skills that are committed to compassion, empathy and accuracy.

This article was recently published in PRSA Tactics.

A New Orleans native, Dr. Joseph V. Trahan, III, APR, Fellow PRSA has more than thirty-five years of public relations/affairs experience in governmental, association, and educational and non-profit public relations.

Dr. Trahan is retired Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army Reserve (USAR), and a former Commander of the 314th Public Affairs Operations Center located in Birmingham, Alabama.  

Since 1998, Dr. Trahan has superbly trained more than 3,500 people yearly in media relations throughout almost all of the United States. England, Norway, France, Belgium, Paraguay, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Dr. Trahan graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Military History. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Public Relations from Ball State University and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and Advertising from The University of Southern Mississippi.

An accredited member of Public Relations Society of America, Dr. Trahan is a former member of the National PRSA Board of Directors and National PRSSA Faculty Advisor. Dr. Trahan is also a Fellow in Public Relations Society of America’s College of Fellows.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: