Many people never dream that one day they could end up on the nightly news explaining the disaster in their plant, the reason their product is suspected of flaws, why the company stock plummeted, or how the company is responding to the announcement that one of its employees is suspected of corporate espionage or other criminal activity.
As difficult as these situations are, realize that most times a negative event can give your company the opportunity to build a positive image. You might want to check out the cost of a 30-second paid advertisement on TV.
Here are things to consider:
- Never respond with "No comment." That's the best way to sound guilty. Certainly you should always tell the truth, but you have to be careful not to disseminate information until you're certain you have all the facts. It's better to say, "We're still conducting our examination of the incident, so it's too early to comment."
- Rehearse. Even a mental rehearsal is a great way to prepare for any event. Make a list of all the possible scenarios that would bring a camera crew to your door. Then decide on appropriate responses to those situations.
- Be cordial, never arrogant. The news media feel they have the right to ask and know. Let it be known that your company will be proactive in finding the cause of this problem. A response like, "We'll be searching for answers to these same questions. It's too early to speculate."
- Keep comments concise and complete. The news media thrives on sound bites, dissertations are not accepted. So, speak in bites. State your story in an inverse pyramid style as used by newspapers. Make your most important comment first, working down to the least. The media will often take your initial words and carry it for as much time as they need.
- Don't blurt out. Take a moment to think about your response. The media wants words. Seldom will the news media air the silence prior to an interviewee's response. They call time "dead air" and dead air ruins their fast pace. Use the silence to quickly gather your thoughts because the first words from your mouth will be on the news! Know what you want to say ahead of time because you will be quoted. Here's where your rehearsing (tip #2) will pay off.
- You're on the air! Always consider cameras and microphones to be "on the air" or in the record mode because they often are. Sometimes the media gets the best material when the subject thinks they're not being recorded.
- Never say "This will be edited, won't it?" Trust me, it won't. The news team doesn't have the time, but more importantly, removing your inappropriate remarks or verbal crutches like "um..., ah..., and well..." is considered unethical. They would be altering your natural response.
Hal Rogers is a business trainer, voice and presentation coach and television producer. He specializes in preparing executives and others to confront the news media. Valuable bonus tips are available on his Web site: http://advantagegroup.homestead.com