Things to Keep in Mind When Dealing With the Media During a Crisis
The middle of a crisis can be a tense place to be. Tempers flair, confusion reigns. It’s easy to make mistakes, including in dealing with the media. It’s good practice to occasionally remind yourself of how to behave when talking with reporters, even in the heat of a crisis. Here are some tips.
- Avoid slang or jargon. People often use industry terms to try to impress their listeners, but it usually does the opposite. Understanding is key, especially in a crisis. Convey information and emotion — not industry know-how.
- Generally, don’t say anything off the record unless you know and trust the reporter. There’s a lot of confusion about the meanings of terms like off the record, on background, and not for attribution. If you must go off the record, first clarify with the reporter the exact status of your comment.
- Off the cuff remarks are trouble. Avoid them. Even in crisis, you should have your talking points and stick to them. Journalists want to report who’s to blame for the negative situation. It’s probably too early for you to know. Don’t find yourself in trouble by thinking out loud.
- If an inaccurate statement is made by a reporter or yourself, correct it immediately. Obviously, you don’t want this kind of confusion. In a crisis, inaccuracies have a way of taking on a life of their own.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Refer the reporter to an expert or offer to do research and then call the reporter back.
- Listen to each question carefully. If you are unsure of the question, ask for clarification.
- Never say, “No comment.” Always give a valid reason for not being able to answer the question.
- Don’t lose your cool; you’ll never win an argument with a reporter. Even though a million things are going on with the crisis, at this moment your focus is on talking to the reporter or reporters. Stay calm and be patient.
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