This article also appeared in a section called "Risky Business" at ourhometown.ca (Your online Community Hub for Cornwall, Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry)
There are few things in life that will ruin your day faster than
waking up to the radio, only to hear your company's name in a "bad
news" story. I know. I used to get calls from frantic business
owners asking if there was any way we could stop reporting whatever
news it was about their company that had made headlines. Whether an
employee gets hurt on the job or your business suffers a fire, you
can bet that reporters will be calling you or lining up outside
your door. As a former News Director for a national corporation,
here are my suggestions for not only dealing with media inquiries,
but ultimately turning a bad news story into a positive news
#1 - Get ready: The key to winning a public relations battle is preparation. Have a designated person on your team to handle all media inquiries, both good and bad. That strategy also helps to brand your company because the public will begin to relate the spokesperson's name and voice to your business. Plan out your message and strategy in advance and then stick with it.
#2 - Stay Focused: If the worst happens and you are forced to address the media shortly after disaster strikes your company, it can be easy to get off track when answering questions. Your mind is swirling with a hundred different thoughts. Pause. Take a deep breath…and keep your answers focused directly on the question.
#3 - Be Forthcoming and Honest: Do not fudge the truth about what may have happened. Reporters have all kinds of tools at their disposal to discover the truth and ultimately, it will be reported.
#4 - But Not Too Forthcoming: Do not expand your answers past what the reporters ask, however try to give full answers in relation to their question. Never speculate.
#5 - Reflect: Regardless of how much you prepare for an interview, there will be questions that you never saw coming. It may seem obvious to think carefully before you speak but it's easy to just start rambling if you're not careful. If you're not sure about an answer, tell the reporter that you'll get back to them later that day. And then be sure to get back to them later that day.
#6 - And Deflect: Sometimes a question will come up that you really don't want to answer. That's a good time to gently deflect. Say something like "Well, that's a good question but I think the more important issue here is…" and then focus on promoting your agenda.
#7 - Stay Positive: Even in the midst of tragedy there can be positives to point out. The support of the community. The heroics of the police or fire department. The unity of your company's team. Be sure to be generous and grateful in your public comments. It will help people empathize with your business's situation and ultimately can help portray your company in a more positive light.