Managing the Media in a Crisis
Pick Your Team
If you have a crisis communications team in place, they can quickly identify what actions should be taken. The team should consist of key players in the situation like the CEO, the chief of public relations, the manager of the area involved in the situation that brought on the crisis and a lawyer. The team will decide the company spokesperson for the crisis and determine the positioning of the message that addresses the problem.
Tell the Truth
You must remember one key phrase: “Tell it all, and tell it fast.” If you’ve made a mistake, admit it up front. Don’t let the media guess or assume what is or isn’t wrong. This will also help you re-establish credibility and confidence with your audiences. To do this, never lie. Also, never ignore the situation because that will only make things worse.
Know Your Media Policies and Procedures
Select a place to be used
as a media center. It should be some distance from offices of the crisis communication team; spokesperson and emergency operations center to ensure media are not in the middle of the action. If there is a visual (a fire or rescue operation) don’t make the media center in such a remote site they can’t see what is going on because they may not show up and if they do you will loose their confidence. It may appear that you are hiding something. It is best to restrict all interviews to the primary spokesperson, back-up spokesperson or technical expert. Controlling the interview process is key to managing the crisis. However, reporters do have the right to interview anyone, and if they don’t get the answers they want from you, they will get them somewhere else.
Practice Tough Questions
A crisis is always difficult when dealing with the media. Therefore, tough questions and rehearsals are necessary to help the spokesperson prepare. At the onset of the crisis, the spokesperson, backup and advisors must spend time rehearsing prepared statements and answers to possible “tough” questions reporters may ask. If possible, similar rehearsals should be conducted prior to each media interview, briefing or news conference. Anticipate and practice new questions as the story evolves.