During the 1973 oil crisis — in which the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo against the U.S. — T. Ed Griffith was an executive spokesperson for Getty Oil. He was responsible for media communications and also served as an expert witness, representing the company in court cases. “My father’s reputation was built on his speaking skills, subject matter and legal expertise, and an extensive personal network,” recalls his son, T. David Griffith, adjunct professor at the Univ. of St. Thomas (Houston, TX). Ed Griffith prepared to represent the company by listening to his audience. “He believed communication was a two-way street, and listening and learning from others was more important than promoting the company point of view right away,” David says.
Griffith’s lesson is valuable for anyone serving as a spokesperson. It is critical to know your audience before attempting to communicate with them. “When you are a spokesperson, you need to adopt an ‘outside-in’ mindset. Seek to understand what is important to your outside audience — your stakeholders — so you can communicate in a concise manner to inform, persuade, and motivate them,” says Donatella Giacometti, executive communications strategist and founder of CEO MEDIA COACH, Inc.
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