As 2011 comes to a close I’ve been reflecting on the year and particularly more recent events that will stand out in my mind for years to come.
Unfortunately as well all know, crisis situations and emergency events do happen – we tend to think it won’t happen to us, but I have recently gone through an experience while at work that I doubt anyone can be 100% prepared for – certainly in my case it was a shocking situation that resulted in the loss of life of a fellow employee with intense media interest from TV, radio and print.
I hope this never happens to you or your business…but if it does you need to have a plan on how to deal with the media interest. As a small business it wasn’t something we had discussed and didn’t have a plan for but fortunately a media expert, who happened to be a regular customer of our business, was in touch with us as soon as he heard the news to see if his help would be needed – and by god yes it was needed, very much appreciated and ultimately the best thing we could have done on the day.
Media are of course very apologetic about contacting you during a tragic situation but they are certainly like a dog with a bone – they don’t tend to give up easily until they get what the need from you, and because news reporting is a very competitive environment if they don’t get the information from you then they will look to other sources that you may or may not be happy with and may or may not be accurate…so…I learnt some very valuable lessons on the few days that followed this event which I want to share.
Have a media/PR consultant with you as soon as possible
Here are some reasons why:
- Unlike you, they will be unemotional and offer clear strategic thinking
- They will have valuable experience of dealing with media and knowledge of individual media personalities
- They can advise on what you should or shouldn’t say and who is best to deal with
- They can prepare media statements and control media liaison
- They can filter the media and act as the first point of contact to reduce what the key company spokesperson has to manage
Media will publish the news whether you like it or not so “No comment” won’t necessarily cut it
It was certainly our first instinct not to comment to media as the event unfolded but it became apparent pretty quickly that wasn’t necessarily a good strategy…we certainly had nothing to hide and wanted to ensure inaccurate or irrelevant information wasn’t published. So it’s better to be as open as possible with media offering prepared media statements so they publish information that is accurate and from you as the source. This can make a significant difference on how the event impacts your business reputation in the long run.
Social Media Tools Are a Vital Communication Tool
Communicating via your social media tools such as your business Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages will be a key part of your strategy during this time as an effective and instant method to get media statements and information out there easily. We also found it a great way for others to communicate with us in an unobtrusive way as a form of support.
Who to Contact?
Overall, you may not need to employ a regular media/PR consultant for your business but at least have knowledge of who you might contact if you need to and get in touch to form that relationship. From experience, I can confidently recommend Peter Heath from Text Write as an expert is Crisis Management – Many Thanks Peter for your valuable support of Salt Air.
This article was originally published here by Michelle Ackers