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Crisis Media – Do you have a plan?

What would you do if one of your employees were arrested? What if a staffer was caught on camera, allegedly ripping off a customer? Are you prepared to respond? Would you know what to do if a news crew showed up at the door of your business? Be prepared with a crisis media plan.

A crisis media plan is designed to prepare yourself and your employees to respond to the media in time of crisis. A clear plan will protect your company and help things move more smoothly internally during a stressful situation, while sending an external message of preparedness.

Your plan should include a media policy that clearly documents who is authorized to speak with the press, in order of point of contact. Include business and cell phone numbers for all contacts within the policy, so a prompt connection can be made (within 30 minutes). Distribute your plan and review it with your staff. Assure them that it is not a “gag order,” but rather a policy designed for everyone’s protection.

Our CEL team has experience on the other side, working as news editors and television producers assigned to dispatching news crews to cover breaking news stories. We know that if your company/organization does not provide answers, it often frustrates the media and they become more determined to get them from someone else, like a disgruntled employee or customer.

If you have a public relations partner, it is important to call them as soon as the crisis hits, so they can help you through it. When you have a little time to prepare, it’s always best to write a media statement or press release with your key messages and share it with your attorney for review. Once approved, distribute the statement to your spokesperson/s and if you choose to do so, email it to the media.

If the media calls and catches you off guard, it’s okay to catch your breath and say, “Give me a moment to collect my thoughts and I’ll call you back in 15 minutes.” Now, if they show up at your door and stick a camera in your face, that’s not possible, so it’s best to say, “We don’t have anything to report at this time, but we’re looking into it.” And then, state your company’s overall commitment to good business practices. We NEVER recommend saying, “No comment,” because it implies guilt, whether guilty or not.

When interviewing with the media, it is essential that you deliver a quick, accurate and complete response, while still maintaining concern for individual privacy and legal responsibility.

Follow these 5 tips for meeting the press:

1. Let your concerns show

2. Be responsive, but don’t give more information than necessary

3. Do not argue or become critical

4. Listen and choose your words wisely before you speak

5. Stick you your key messages to avoid saying the wrong thing

Whether you decide to talk to the press or not, if you think your clients/customers are hearing negative things about your business, it’s important to communicate with them, give assurance and protect your brand. Acknowledge that they may be hearing things in the press and that they are unconfirmed. Send customers an email or e-blast that reiterates your key business messages pertaining to your ethics, values and commitment to customer service.

The best way to avoid a media crisis is to remain true to your business values and practices, but be prepared for the unexpected with a crisis media plan.

Published on: October 2, 2013