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When You Are the Face of Crisis: 5 Keys for Successful Media Relations

Crisis isn’t a matter of if but of when, and when crisis strikes your company or organization, having a competent spokesperson is a critical component in effective crisis management. If you find yourself facing the media in a time of crisis, here are five keys from Rob Weinhold, author of The Art of Crisis Leadership http://www.amazon.com/Art-Crisis-Leadership-Customers-Ultimately/dp/1627201122/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1459205430&sr=8-3&keywords=Rob+Weinhold for successful communication:

 

1. Never erode your integrity

According to Weinhold, misinformation breeds distrust. As a spokesperson there is, at times, an immense pressure to make your organization look good. Do not cave in to others who would like you to lie, distort the truth or leave vital facts behind which alter messaging and perception—this is tantamount to a lie. Once lost, you will never fully restore your integrity.

2. Be relevant

As the art of press relations evolves within a changing worldwide media landscape, I hear about more and more spokespeople not returning reporter calls, delaying the release of information, and simply refusing to feed the “media monster.” However, the “monster” will eat! And as long as the “monster” eats, media reps will need access and information in order to tell their stories effectively. If you, as a press contact, choose to stick your head in the sand and not respond, you make yourself quickly irrelevant and ineffective. As an executive who depends on the advice of your communications expert, understand this principle and make yourself available.

3. Know the facts

One thing Weinhold always tells his clients is “If you decide to step up to the podium have something important to say.” Not knowing the facts or relying on the “no comment” phrase will quickly make you irrelevant to everyone – it is unacceptable. A spokesperson is expected to – and paid to—know the facts. While you may feel you have done your job by surviving the interview or press conference, you have done nothing to inform the audience and lend the perspective so sorely needed during life’s most critical times.

4. Be predictive

When preparing to go on camera or prepping another, be certain to plan for every question and eventuality. There is often a tendency for folks to want to go on camera without fully preparing, because they are used to speaking publicly or know the organization very well—chief executives are good for this. Push back and demand ample preparation. List questions, answers, follow- ups and counters – it is a mental chess game. Train on camera, relentlessly. An eight to fifteen second sound bite can ruin your career— just ask BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward, who recklessly uttered in 2010, “I want my life back,” after an explosion and one of the world’s most damaging oil spills killed 11 people and spilled some 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t wing it, prepare for every interview no matter how mundane or harmless it may seem.

5. Build relationships with those who have editorial control

Know those who tell your story. I want to get the benefit of the doubt when the reporter tells his or her story—I don’t want an unfair advantage, simply balance. Gather intelligence from reporters and news organizations—ask them what angle they plan to take with their story. Yes, they are under no obligation to tell you, but you’d be amazed at what they will tell you, particularly if there is an existing relationship or future mutual need.

 

Finally, when interacting with the media, remember the mantra, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And, when someone else tells your story, it certainly won’t be the story you want told.” Being proactive and getting out in front of a situation is the best way to remain in control of it.

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