16 Feb THREE SIMPLE RULES TO HELP YOU SURVIVE A MEDIA FIRESTORM
It’s the call you dread. There is a high-profile business journalist on the phone. She wants to talk about allegations of misconduct by one of your senior executives.
Your first reaction? Pull down the shutters and hide for the duration.
Totally understandable. Faced with a barrage of negative headlines, sometimes it makes strategic sense to keep your head down, concentrate on your customers and rectify the problem, hoping against hope that the storm will pass by without too much damage.
Much of the time, however, refusing to engage with media will only make matters worse, further damaging your organisation’s most valuable if often intangible asset: its reputation.
But this does not mean you should go in unprepared – or without a plan.
In fact, whether you survive the scrutiny will largely depend on how well prepared you and your organisation are to manage that initial engagement with the media.
In other words, it will depend on how you communicate your side of the story in a way that is both credible and compelling.
This is where media coaching comes in. It can provide you and your organisation with the techniques needed to grab your share of valuable media real estate – and tools to help you build lasting professional relationships with editors and reporters.
Here are three simple rules that should underpin your engagement with media:
1. Be open and transparent
To be credible you have to be open and transparent. If you don’t have all the facts, say so, and provide the media with the factual material you have at hand.
Just because you refuse to comment or to answer questions does not mean the journalist – and the story – will go away. No such luck. Most professional journalists will have several sources for their stories so your decision not to engage will not make any major difference.
2. Present your point of view firmly and consistently
Get your story together before you agree to speak. Gather as much information as possible (see tip one), shape your “narrative” (over-used term, to be sure, but accurate in this case), prepare a timeline of events, and if possible, explain how the issue is being rectified. It’s all in the preparation.
And stick to your objectives – don’t let the media (or others) distract you from what you are trying to do.
3. Don’t leave an information “vacuum”
Leave an information vacuum and odds are it will be filled by someone else, most likely your competitors. They will be happy to talk about their products and services are better or better placed than yours. In some cases, they may even help to fuel the fire, confirming industry or sector gossip about your organisation, for example.
Engaging with media is part and parcel of doing business. It’s been that way for a long time but it is especially important in an environment where the old 24-hour media cycle has been replaced by near instantaneous news and commentary.
But in the end, the fundamentals have not changed: you should always approach a media interview with the same level of preparation (and purpose), as you would any business meeting.