Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!
One of our current client projects is highlighting the importance of thinking things through and good preparation when dealing with the media.
Some issues become controversial purely because the implications of a decision or action were not considered carefully enough beforehand. No one stopped to ask: “How is this going to look, how will people react?”
This is where PR and communications professionals can make a vital contribution. They act as the organisational conscience, helping colleagues to see things from the opposite end of the telescope – the customer or public point of view.
Without that thought process, things can go badly wrong. In many of the situations where Arch Communications is asked to help manage a crisis, we find it could and should have been avoided.
Once the damage is done and people are talking negatively about you, the media can come calling.
In such circumstances, there can be enormous pressure to respond to them immediately. However, it is essential to take the time to draw breath and think things through:
- Work out what your story is. It must be factually accurate and not mislead – but at the same time, make sure that you are explaining your side of things in a clear and compelling way.
- From your story, identify the key messages – the things that you need to get across above all else.
- Anticipate the awkward and challenging questions which journalists or others may ask. What are the questions you would least like to deal with?
- Carefully prepare answers for each question. They should draw upon your key messages and not be too long. And remember: “no comment” is not an option. It makes you look evasive.
This checklist is most important when doing radio or TV interviews. Every word counts, so you have to get them right. Prepare what you want to say and then practise saying it with a colleague.
If you don’t prepare properly, you risk being caught on the hop, saying the wrong thing or even losing your cool. That can only makes things worse.
Even the trickiest situations can be handled, with the right forethought and preparation.
And if you have access to PR experts, use it, because it will ease the burden and reduce the risk.
But then, we would say that, wouldn’t we?