Somebody has to be the face of your company on TV and its voice on radio. But should that be you, or hired talent? “People who start and build their own companies must have strong egos,” says Alan Caruba, a public relations counselor in South Orange, N.J. “The issue is whether that person has good communication skills to tell the company story. You can be a good business-person but not a good spokesperson. They're often two different skills.”
IT'S AUTHENTIC But skills can be acquired. Mike Kearns, president of Kearns Bros. in Dearborn, Mich., took the microphone only after his company had been advertising on a Detroit home improvement radio show for two years. The first time he recorded his own 30-second spots, he says he was “so petrified” that he postponed listening to the studio tape. As it turned out, it wasn't bad.
Five years and dozens of commercials later, Kearns credits skilled studio producers with teaching him the art of modulation and inflection, which bring scripts to life. “I want to sound authentic,” Kearns says. “But I don't think that happens on the first take.”
Company owners or presidents may not have a professional's media skills, but experts say that when it comes to representing their companies, owners have one thing to offer that no professional can match: authenticity.
With bachelor's and MBA degrees in marketing, Ken Moeslein, CEO of Legacy Remodeling in Pittsburgh, knew he shouldn't necessarily be company spokesman. But when he launched his company 20 years ago, advertising experts convinced him to be front and center. “They said that the passion and belief I had in my company came out better than it would from a person reading a script,” he says. He's been spokesman ever since, and the continuity has benefited the company.
SURROGATE SPOKES PEOPLE Larry Judson, owner and CEO of K-Designers in Sacramento, Calif., says he and his top execs batted around the idea of hiring a celebrity spokesperson but decided that consumers would better relate to the company without one. Instead, Judson was interviewed on Winners Circle, a national TV infomercial hosted by former NFL star Terry Bradshaw, which profiles corporate leaders. K-Designers features the program on its Web site and uses it in sales presentations. Being aligned with the program makes Bradshaw almost a surrogate company spokesman, Judson says, which lends credibility to K-Designers.
Siding-1 Windows-1 Exteriors in Chicago, a longtime sponsor of and participant in a local home improvement radio program, has host Lou Manfredini read its scripts. “His credibility, combined with our brand credibility, is enough,” says owner Bill Conforti.
Caruba says it's important for company owners to try out for the job like anybody else would. “Audition the owner to determine whether that person has good communication skills and is comfortable in front of a camera or with a script,” he says. “A lot of people see themselves on TV and discover they're not movie stars.”