Game of Thrones – Lessons in Being a Successful Spokesperson

The watch is over.  HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ ended its run this past Sunday.  Many people are discussing the political and leadership lessons that can be drawn from the various characters on the show.  But there are also communications lessons that can be drawn from one of the characters that can be used for spokespersons moving forward.  The character I refer to was a beloved character but not one often mentioned as a teaching example. The character I refer to is, Ser Davos, the former smuggler, hand to Stannis Baratheon and then Jon Snow, and ultimately a member of the Small Council.  While not often cited, this character was ideal as a spokesperson for the causes he advocated and one that offers numerous examples of what to do as a spokesperson.

Among the examples:

  1. Know your audience.  A major mistake many spokespersons make is not knowing their audience and not addressing the needs and concerns of their audience.  In ‘Game of Thrones’, Ser Davos knew his audience and what motivated them when he addressed them. When he and Stannis Baratheon visited the Iron Bank, Ser Davos knew what motivated the bankers – repayment of previous loans and profits.  Tailoring his remarks to the bankers on those points, he succeeded in earning Stannis, a loan from the Iron Bank. In yet another episode when he was with Sansa Stark and Jon Snow, seeking to enlist the support of House Mormont against the Boltons, Davos knew what motivated the head of House Mormont, Layanna Mormont and succeeded in securing her support.
  2. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.  ‘Game of Thrones’ is renowned for the flowery speeches that many of its characters gave.  Tyrion Lannister, survived based on his eloquence. Yet it was Ser Davos who was the most effective in communicating because, he was direct, simple, and spoke in a way that all could understand.  
  3. Admit what you do not know and seek the answer.  A major mistake many communicators make is not admitting when they don’t know something.  The consequences for their organization can be devastating. We saw this happen time and again with ‘Game of Thrones’ characters.  Cersei, anyone? Yet, Ser Davos followed the advice, that we public relations experts always tell clients – if you don’t know the answer, admit it and promise to get the answer.  We saw Ser Davos excel in this.

‘Game of Thrones’ has entered television history.  Lessons from it will be drawn for many years. Yet right now by employing these three communications lessons from Ser Davos, you can be on the path to being a better communicator for your organization and avoid ‘the long night’.