How (not to) pick a company spokesman

39 years ago, Neil Armstrong became the most famous person in the world.

He was an astronaut, of course, but there were dozens of people who could have done the technical work that Armstrong did. What Armstrong became was a spokesperson for an organization, a nation and a movement.

NASA did what many organizations do when picking someone to act as company spokesperson. They avoided risk, played it safe and chose someone who wouldn’t make a ruckus.

What a shame.

Armstrong could have taught the world about science. He could have done work that would have won him a Nobel Peace Prize. He could have had a huge impact on his country and the world. Instead, he mostly disappeared.

Many organizations worry that if they put their clout behind an individual, he or she will gain notoriety and power and eventually double-cross the organization. So, instead, they go for bland.

As marketers, you already see the problem. It’s like putting a tennis ball on the end of your sword. Sooner or later, people communicate with people. Sooner or later, your organization needs a voice. You take lots of risks when you market a product, and this one–the risk of an engaging and motivated spokesperson–is smarter than most.