Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips for Talking to the Press in a Crisis

I recently hired crisis communications specialist Jonathan Bernstein to provide crisis media training to clients. We addressed how to handle interviews in general but focused on what to do when it's a bad news situation.

Here's some of what Jonathan shared with the group regarding how to answer questions. Some of it is counter-intuitive to those who haven't done many interviews before:
  1. Attempt to get 3 good messages out during any interview. What do you want people to remember from the interview?
  2. The goal of any interview is not to answer the reporter’s questions but to use them as opportunities to deliver your message.
  3. Remember when answering questions that your ultimate audience is your client or customer.
  4. Always answer the question you wish they asked, not the question that was actually asked. “Bridge” to your message by saying, “That’s a good question but it’s important to understand …” or “Before I answer that, I’d like to say…” Use politicians as your role models.
  5. Before answering the reporter’s question, state your key message first, then respond to the question. When it's a TV interview, you don’t want the producer to have to dig for your message when editing the piece.
  6. Say what you did, not what you didn’t do. Bad: “We did nothing wrong.” Good: “We did everything right.
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Julian Perrera said...

Good tips.

It's counter-intuitive that you don't actually have to answer a reporter's questions directly but rather use it as a jumping off point to get your message across and offer a satisfactory answer.

Entertainment Insight said...

1. Don't bullsh^t your clients. They will know, and they will resent that they cannot trust you. Spin the story to fit your narrative, but don't lie to them. This isn't Mad Men.
2. Transparency. If you screwed up, admit to it and take full responsibility. The public will forgive you for mistakes as long as you are open about it and take the necessary steps to resolve the issue.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Thanks, EI.