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Senser Attorney Makes Sense of Crisis Media Relations

I’m saddened by the needless loss of the life of Anousone Phanthavong, the Roseville man who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Tuesday night. I’m also saddened by the way Joe Senser and his family are allegedly responding to authorities regarding evidence that their vehicle was involved in the hit-and-run.

I know a little bit about the legal process because I worked as a television news assignment editor in the Twin Cities. I know enough to realize that it’s in your best interest not to admit guilt before you’re charged with a crime and clearly that’s what Senser attorneys are preaching to the former Viking.

I also know a little bit about crisis media relations because I train business owners how to meet the press in sticky situations. As a media trainer, I applaud Senser’s attorney for talking to the press. He’s not saying a lot, but at least he’s saying something.

My rule of thumb is that saying “no comment,” implies guilt. It’s better to say something, even if you say, “I can’t discuss the particulars of the case, but what I can tell you is that we’re cooperating with authorities” or “My client is a reputable business owner and an upstanding member of the community.”

I’ve been following the story on KARE 11 and local radio stations and the general consensus seems to be disappointment in the Senser family’s apparent lack of cooperation with authorities. Journalists are also reporting that attorney Eric Nelson seems to be evasive within his interview. Well, that’s probably in the best interest of his client right now, but at least he’s talking and agreeing to on-camera interviews. I think that’s a good PR decision.


Speaking of good PR, I would like to offer up these tips for talking to the media in time of crisis:

Never say, “no-comment” because it implies guilt.

•Show concern

•Be responsive

•Do not argue or become critical

•Stop talking and listen

•Stick to your message

•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.”

Published on: September 2, 2011