It’s natural to talk to reporters when they call. It’s also the worst thing you can do in a crisis situation – until you know what to say. Preparation is critical when you might be the focal point of a bad story.
It is critical to respond quickly to media inquiries. It ensures that your side of a story is represented. But it’s essential to know what to say and what not to say.
If a reporter calls, here are four steps to ensure that what you say is judged well in the court of public opinion:
- Explain that you’re entering a meeting and must call him/her back later. Get some key information:
- The reporter’s name, media outlet and contact information (phone and email).
- The reporter’s deadline. Promise to call the reporter back BY THE DEADLINE.
- The questions he/she will ask — so you can have answers.
- Contact a crisis communications counselor to help craft your story. At a minimum, take some time to collect your thoughts. Your story needs to be influenced by key facts:Prepare a statement that demonstrates:
- What occurred. Was anyone injured or killed?
- Current status. Is anyone charged with a crime or under investigation? Has a suit been filed?
- Similar incidents or situations in which you’ve been previously involved.
- Craft a story that reflects:
- Compassion for anyone injured.
- Concern about the situation and the fact that a crisis occurred.
- Commitment to resolving the situation.
- Call the reporter back and limit your conversation to statements you’ve prepared. If the reporter asks questions that go beyond the scope of the documents, be prepared to firmly but politely end the interview. Be ready to keep speaking with media until the issue is resolved, providing real updates along the way.