In a crisis management session, presenter Mike Cyze cautioned us that we can’t prevent bad things from happening in our organization, rather we should focus on the goal of quickly addressing the issue and reducing potential long-term negative impact to your organization. In the age of social media, time is never on your side to do this, so it is prudent to put some information out there immediately as a way to initially get as much accurate information out as possible, then add information as you know it.
A key in media relations, especially in crisis situations, is setting the context for the events that occurred. For that to happen most effectively, it is recommended that you write out the two or three key points that you wish to make about the situation – and then always pivot back to them – regardless of exactly what question is asked. Be sure that these points are always true to your organization’s values and mission.
A brilliant example to illustrate this concept is an interview between Matt Lauer and then-CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally. In this clip, you can see that Mulally provides the answers he wants to deliver and doesn’t always respond directly to Lauer’s question. Mulally is the one who directs the interview and doesn’t get trapped into going into a direction that veers from his key points. It’s worth your four minutes to watch here.
Sharing context helps audience members to at least consider your perspective and may diffuse some of the emotional response that occurs when only one side of the story is known. “Stakeholders + emotion without context = a spark; smoke and fire are sure to follow,” said Cyze.
While you can’t anticipate every crisis that will occur, you can take steps now to build relationships with members of the media, and to practice developing key points and delivering them regardless (perhaps in a meeting or pitching a proposal). The time to dig a well isn’t when you’re thirsty!