Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When Trust Is Low, Women Make the Best Spokespeople

When we lead risk communication training, we emphasize the “gender gap” that heavily favors women as company spokespeople when concern is high and trust is low among audiences you are trying to reach. Research shows that most Americans view women as naturally more caring, honest and dedicated than their male counterparts.

So for organizations in emotionally fraught high-concern, low-trust situations, whenever possible, and all other things being equal, choose a woman as your spokesperson. And if you must send a man, make sure he gets a chance to talk about his family, charitable activities, and anything else that will show him to be a caring, honest and dedicated person.

Of course, female spokespeople can still get into trouble – but they can also recover more quickly. A great example is a recent interview conducted by 60 Minutes about a massive coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn.

Anda Ray, an environmental expert at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was asked if she would be willing to swim in the river that was polluted by the spill. She thought for a moment, and then said yes. Unfortunately, she later remembered that her company had advised people against swimming in the river. Oops.

It was a faux pas, but she clarified the mistake later and all in all got through a tough situation. Check it out for yourself:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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