U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Sean McCormack answering questions at the Washington Foreign Press Center
|Names||Spokesperson, spokesman, spokeswoman|
|Journalism, communications, public relations|
A "spokesman" is someone engaged or elected to speak on behalf of others.
Duties and function
In the present media-sensitive world, many organizations are increasingly likely to employ professionals who have received formal training in journalism, communications, public relations and public affairs in this role in order to ensure that public announcements are made in the most appropriate fashion and through the most appropriate channels to maximize the impact of favorable messages, and to minimize the impact of unfavorable messages. Celebrity spokesmen such as popular local and national sports stars (such as Michael Jordan or Bob Uecker) or television/film stars (such as Beyoncé or Michael J. Fox) are often chosen as spokespeople for commercial advertising.
Unlike an individual giving a personal testimonial, it is the job of a spokesman to faithfully represent and advocate for the organization's positions, even when these conflict with his own opinion. As a result, spokesmen are generally selected from experienced, long-time employees or other people who are known to support the organization's goals.
A corporation may be represented in public by its chief executive officer, chairman or president, chief financial officer, counsel or external legal advisor. In addition, on a day-to-day level and for more routine announcements, the job may be delegated to the corporate communications or investor relations departments (or equivalents), who will act as spokesmen.
In the particle physics community, large collaborations of physicists elect one (or two) spokesmen or leader(s) of the collaboration. The spokesman in such cases is the lead scientist of the collaboration, not a public speaker. Each collaboration chooses the roles and responsibilities of the spokesperson for internal purposes, but typically spokesmen also have defined roles for liaising with the host laboratory and/or funding agencies.
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