When your client or company is at the centre of a negative story, having a well-prepared PR crisis comms strategy in place is essential. At Nine Media, teaching how to handle a crisis situation is one of our fortes, so here’s a topline crash course on handling a negative news story:
Face the Music
Agreeing to an interview is much more powerful than issuing an impersonal statement. Often companies panic and believe that appearing in the press will draw more negative attention to the story. But if the story is big, it will run anyway, so isn’t it better to put your side of the story forward with a human voice rather than a formal written statement, which looks defensive?
Remember the furore when United Airlines when a passenger was violently dragged off a plane. The media storm was worsened because United issued a statement apologizing for the flight’s “overbooking,” but didn’t show anything resembling compassion for the injured passenger.
Show that you relate to the people affected by the disaster and don’t by any means mention how it’s affected you, even if you have had to cancel the summer holiday/miss school sports day. Remember the tragic sinking of the oil platform Deepwater Horizon where 11 people were killed? Chief executive Tony Haywood said during an interview “I want my life back.”
Don’t say that.
Control the interview
If you do agree to speak to a journalist make sure you control it. Don’t answer questions off the cuff, just because they sound aggressive. Ask when the deadline is so you can go away and prepare. If it’s giving a statement to the media mob, put a time limit on it and have a press officer present who can assert a time limit.