Crisis and the Media

This is the third installment of our crisis management series. Previously, we’ve covered the basics of responding to a technical, communications, or leadership crisis. We’ve talked about positioning and establishing the right crisis response team.

One of the most important things you’ll do next is reach out to the public or your specific audience that is affected by the situation. This may include a media release, but more often will include a press briefing. If the crisis is of public interest, then the media will be there, with cameras, microphones, and questions.

We stress to our clients the importance of not only preparing for a media briefing, but to practice it in advance. Things move quickly, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to practice what is said and how the briefing will unfold.

If you have the luxury of getting all of your subject matter experts together to practice with you, that’s terrific. More often, your rehearsal will be limited to those individuals within your organization – and the two key people to prep are the CEO/Leader and the designated PR leader.

We’ve been asked on multiple occasions to help prep individuals for a media briefing. We’ll bring a camera team, and a “reporter” to ask questions. The CEO/Leader must be comfortable on camera, and if possible, should be briefed on the reporters expected to attend. What is the position of the news organization? Are they pro, con, or just “truth” oriented? What kinds of things would someone ask that the organization would NOT want to answer?

A crisis situation is always difficult when dealing with the media. Therefore, tough questions and rehearsals are necessary to help the spokesperson prepare. It is important, at the onset of the crisis, that the spokesperson, backup and advisors spend some time rehearsing prepared statements and answers to possible “tough” questions that may be asked by reporters. If possible, similar rehearsals should be conducted prior to each media interview, briefing or news conference. It is also important to anticipate and practice new questions as the story evolves. It is better to over-prepare than to be surprised by the depth of questioning by the media. Be tough and be prepared.

The Communications/Public Relations staff should prepare questions and answers for the practice sessions. These questions and answers should be for internal use only and not for distribution outside the organization.

To manage a briefing, skill is required. What kind of skill? Preferably, skilled in handling media, skilled in directing responses to another topic, skilled in identifying key points, able to speak without using jargon, respectful of the role of the reporter, knowledgeable about the organization and the crisis at hand. But wait, there’s more. Once on camera, the CEO/Leader and PR leader should be able to establish credibility with the media, able to project confidence to the audience, suitable in regard to diction, appearance and charisma, sincere, straightforward and believable, accessible to the media and to internal communications personnel who will facilitate media interviews, able to remain calm in stressful situations.

We invite you to talk with us about crisis management prevention. Our team is prepared to help you better understand how to prepare not only for future incidents, but how to speak with the media, both on and off camera.

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