If you’re planning on talking to news media, please understand: Contrary to belief, reporters are usually not “out to get you.” They’re not approaching the telling of your story with the specific aim of ruining your reputation, damaging your organization or portraying your industry in a negative light. The media are, however, looking for a good story. Unfortunately, good news typically centers on the bad.
Reporters have often already formulated their idea of the story’s essence prior to the interview and this reality should reinforce the need to stay “on message” and rely on your messaging strategy.
Understand the term ‘media’ has evolved and, with the digital revolution, the media can be anyone.
Initial Media Questions to Prepare For
- What happened? Why?
- Where did it happen?
- When did we know of the problem?
- What are we doing about it?
- Who’s to blame?
- Did we see this coming? Were there warning signs?
- How will we fix this?
Initially, the media will have simple questions. Though, as the crisis endures, the questions will become more difficult to answer. It is highly recommended that formal media training become a regular segment of your employee-training program.
Tips for Success with Media
There is no simple answer for interacting with the media. The following tips can serve as a useful guide for spokesperson(s) and are reinforced with media training.
- Never alter media policies during a crisis.
- Engage an expert before speaking “off the record” or “on background”
- Strive to work with the media so that the media won’t work against you.
- Communication is not just about the facts. It’s about human nature, human involvement.
- Merely knowing all the answers and rehearsing all the answers is not effective.
- Know that you begin communicating before you speak.
- Never put yourself on the defensive.
- What you say is not as important as what they hear and how they feel.
- Effective communication conveys what you’re doing now and in the future.
- Communicating with desired results is accomplished by appealing to what makes people angry or scared or what charges them emotionally.
- Make and maintain eye contact.
- The media can be anywhere. They can be anyone.
- Answering, “I don’t know” is usually perfectly okay, unless you should know or would be expected to know.
- Identify and get to know your audience. Learn how they feel.
- Know what questions you must avoid answering.
- Focus on a single, clear point and support it with evidence.
- Avoid numbers. People don’t remember them and they end up confusing them.
- Relate your story to yourself to make a stronger impact and add credibility.
Know Who You’re Talking To
If you’ve taken the time to prepare and launch a news conference, be sure to get an accurate list of everyone in attendance. Should you need to distribute additional information later or correct an error, having rapid access to contact information for the media is important. A news conference registration template can be found in the resources section of this special blog series.
This is part of a special blog series, Communicating in Crisis. Find tools, information and resources to better understand crisis.
For an expertly assembled plan, contact Ryan.