How to handle the media in a crisis

I must admit that I winced a bit before writing this first section as it seems SOOOO obvious but I’m sorry I can’t avoid it.

Like most things in life PREPARATION is the most important first step on the road to success and if you don’t prepare fully for a tv or radio interview then your chances of coming across well will be severely reduced whether you’re an old hand or a newcomer.

So whether you’re being interviewed by a hospital radio dj or by John Humphreys on Radio 4’s Today programme if you don’t work out what you’re going to say beforehand you run the risk of appearing unprofessional both to the media pros and more importantly the audience.

“Umms”, “errr”s and “y’knows”

Keep ’em in ! Don’t worry too much about this kind of stuff,concentrate on the message. If you come across as too slick and polished people won’t trust you ( think of your least favourite politician and one of the main reasons why you don’t like him/her).

Remember if you’ve been asked to appear on the media, you’re not auditioning to be a game show host where slickness is essential, you’re being interviewed as a representative of your company or sector so focus on what you’re going to say and -crucially- how you’re going to say it.

Think hard too about how you’re going to deal with The Nightmare Question. You know, the one that could really leave you vulnerable if you hadn’t prepared for it beforehand.

Today in 2017 with the proliferation of Fake News and the ubiquity of Hype and Spin the BIG THING audiences value is TRUST and if you try to be too smooth (when in reality you’re not, and that includes 99% of us) then you’ll get caught out and people won’t believe you.

Clearly you should be able to string more than two words together without lapsing into incoherence but you’ll have sorted that out in the prep beforehand by deciding what your key messages will be and preparing for the questions that will be thrown your way.

Listen to others

Don’t try to do it all yourself because although you might be a very successful boss in all sorts of ways you might not be as good as you think you are in front of a camera and microphone and the trouble is that nobody in your office probably has the temerity/balls to tell you this. And that might not be doing you any favours.

The corporate world is littered with the ghosts of Chief Execs who just can’t let go of the reins and actually LISTEN to other people who will give them an honest assessment of how they come across on the tv or radio.

Consider this – your deputy or one of your other managers might be a stronger media performer than you. Who on your team will tell you this even though it’s in the interests of the company?

Whoever is the spokesperson, with the huge number of media outlets available to us all at the push of a button it’s more important than ever to give them quality feedback and coaching before a crisis (or even ‘just’ a very difficult situation) occurs.

Done properly,media training will help your organisation stand out from the crowd and above the merchants of mediocrity who hide their heads in the sand while they hope the grey clouds will just disappear.

Rule of Three

Get your (usually no more than THREE) key messages clear beforehand and practice being interviewed by your PR person or external media consultant.

Do this and your chances of appearing authoritative and authentic will increase significantly even if you’ve appeared on the media many times before. Practice really does help; that’s why the really successful organisations do it.

Post-interview feedback should not be underestimated either…What could we have done better? What really worked and how can we make our messaging more effective?

Never try to pretend a situation is ok when it’s not…we’re viewers and listeners and we’re a pretty sophisticated bunch when it comes to bullshit detecting. TV has been an essential part of our lives for 60 years and radio even longer, so we’ve had lots of practice at viewing and listening.

So audiences can tell.

Can you?

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