How to Respond to the Media During a Business Crisis

“Can you rrrepeat the question?”

Once upon a time, business people could deal with a crisis in their company or industry after due consideration and forethought. Often, people outside the company never even became aware of the crisis. But things changed during the Industrial Revolution. Companies became national,then international concerns. Shares were sold on the stock market, and shareholders demanded more access and transparency about how companies operated and decisions were made. And the newspaper industry discovered that big companies made great copy—especially when those companies were in trouble.

With the advent of broadcast media, news of company crises traveled even more quickly. Then satellite up-links greatly increased the speed of “news travel.” Next came the Internet, which made the old “fast” look tortoise-like. Today, blogs and viral email push rumors as daily “news” and the media actually create crises as often as they simply report them. This makes it all the more important to set up and support good relations with the media, and have a plan for dealing with media coverage in a crisis.

Even at the most reputable, honest, safe and ethical companies—no matter how many people of integrity are employed therein, or how moral and community-oriented the CEO and board are—accidents, financial fraud, discrimination and other events happen. Such events result in “unplanned visibility” as the PR industry calls it. More competitive, time-pressured media translates to an increased threat of media-generated crises. Companies must proactively prepare to ensure they can respond quickly and effectively to negative media exposure. Potentially damaging exposure can be managed and neutralized through careful crisis planning and employee training. Company media relations must be handled positively, professionally and “on brand.” That is not likely to happen where a company has no crisis plan in place when a crisis occurs.

The Five Principles of Crisis Response Media Relations:
1. Get it over with.
2. Don’t make it worse.
3. Acknowledge immediately and provide facts fast.
4. Tell the truth.
5. Reassure your audience.

Crisis Media Relations
Be’s and Don’t’s
The rules for dealing with the media are really very simple, but they are critical to success when conducting a crisis response. Give these reminders to every crisis response team member (client and agency). Require primary media relations leaders to memorize them.

Media Relations Be’s

  • Be honest.
  • Be reassuring.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be proactive.
  • Be helpful.
  • Be fair and impartial.
  • Be concerned.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Be accurate.
  • Be accessible.
  • Be courteous.
  • Be concise.
  • Be calm.
  • Be thorough.
  • Be consistent.

Media Relations Don’ts

  • Don’t lie.
  • Don’t mislead.
  • Don’t be evasive.
  • Don’t be defensive.
  • Don’t speculate.
  • Don’t lay blame.
  • Don’t deny what has happened.
  • Don’t make jokes.
  • Don’t hide.
  • Don’t be rude.
  • Don’t be negative
  • Don’t speak before thinking.
  • Don’t speak “off the record.”
  • Don’t stonewall.
  • Don’t guess.

How are you handling your Crisis Media Planning? Do you have a crisis media plan, a media relations team structure and understand how to interact with media to control the company message? Help your brand emerge from crises with reputations and brands intact.

Jim Thomas and JC Thomas Marketing Communications help businesses increase revenue through creative marketing ideas and intuitive software.  You an reach Jim at 704 .377.9660 ext. 2521 or at jim@jcthomas.com

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One thought on “How to Respond to the Media During a Business Crisis

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