We’ve all been there – watched an embattled public figure makes an uncomfortable mistake that played out in the media. You may have turned the channel on the TV, flipped to the next page of the newspaper, or clicked over to the next story shaking you head and thinking how much worse could this situation get.
When media is involved, there are some things a brand faced with a crisis situation would be better off not doing. Communication in a crisis is the single most important action a brand must manage in order to instill a sense of control and contact. It also allows a brand to restore confidence among their audiences in a gradual way. Those facts we should always understand.
The real questions begin when we determine the things that damage or jeopardize a brand’s road of recovery.
The highest potential of getting through a crisis situation often times depends less on what you do and more on what don’t do. You can follow the crisis rule book to the letter but you can risk all that is right without knowledge of all this is wrong.
There’s only one thing that exposes the right and wrong to the public – the media.
Here are a few don’ts when interacting with media in the midst of crisis situation.
- Do not take to social media without plan. Social media networks are wide open for anyone who will listen and there are no restrictions. Have a one to two sentence message or apology you want to communicate and walk away until the smoke clears. For example, “I remain committed to my family, my organization and my community. I apologize and hope to move beyond this situation.”
- Do not hide from the media – at least not forever. The main thing that separates your true image from the image the public will believe is the perception is the media. Accommodate media because they have the power of influence to repair a damaged image. There’s no such thing as “off the record” when speaking to the media. In these tense and sensitive moments, any statement you make is likely to make the news. At the right time, you will have the opportunity to speak.
- Don’t repeat negative words or phrases. It reinforces them. Instead, restate the question with more positive or neutral language. For instance, a reporter says, “Nothing seems to be working for you lately. What’s the problem?” and you respond, “It may seem that way but I am making progress.“
- Don’t ever say “No Comment.” Whenever possible explain why you can’t give media the information. For instance, “I cannot speak about that at the moment due to legal reasons.” Be cooperative. Know what you will and won’t say.
- Don’t let a reporter get away with the wrong information; correct inaccuracies before you answer any questions. For instance, “No, that’s incorrect. Before I get to your question, let me clear that up for you.” DON’T speculate, lie or talk about anything that’s not a known fact. It’s OK to say “I don’t know.”
- Don’t keep talking as you’re walking away. Stop talking before you walk or walk away after your final comment. Walking while talking is often portrayed that you are running away or that media chasing you. The momentum in the heat of the moment will upset you and an argument can begin with reporters. Aim to look and sound calm and controlled.
Remember, the only thing that separates your true image from the image the public will perceive is the media.