Friday, 4 May 2012
So your company has been caught up in a news story not of your making and they want an interview... what will you do?
So, the shit has hit the fan and you're in crisis mode. The media want to get hold of you. How do you control the situation?
These are 10 simple steps to make sure that you control the story, not them.
1. You can say no.
If they have misinterpreted your story, want to move it into a different context, or they are just a bit pushy and unpleasant; you can say no. They'd prefer an honest no rather than a scrappy interview that doesn't help either of you. In crisis terms if you do say no understand that the refusal will be interpreted badly... so go to step 2.
2. 'Not yet' is a viable option.
The average journalist is eager for content NOW. You may need some time to marshal the people that need to be in place. Be honest enough to tell them that. They are more likely to trust you as a contact and trust builds a splendid working relationship. In crisis terms a written statement saying 'not yet because...' buys time... but not a lot of time.
3. What is the story and what will the angle be?
You need to know what's in the journalists head before you say yes. The angle may be that everyone in your organisation is evil... it forewarns you about difficult questions.
4. Is it for a programme or a news clip?
Programme means longer on-air, news clip is 30 second for a bulletin. This indicates how much work you need to put in setting someone up. The CEO won't be bothered by 30 seconds so an underling may be better. For the full programme experience you need someone who's articulate and briefed.
5. What's the programme remit?
News programmes will be shorter but harder, magazine programmes will be longer and softer (stop giggling). It's all to do with the tone of the interviewer. With so many listen again services, and stations on the internet then there's no excuse to listen to the interviewer before the interview to get a feel.
6. Live, recorded, packaged?
Live or recorded change the tone of what's happening but also changes the opportunity for editing out commercial bits of a recording. Packaged will mean that you interview will only be one element of the audio used. If the story is contentious or difficult for your organisation then expect your detractors to be featured as well as you (see below).
7. Is there anyone else appearing?
The BBC have to tell you this under the fair dealing producer guidelines. The reason? (see above)
8. You will call back.
Unless you are absolutely sure that you can get everything in place and that all concerned are available call back before committing. The journo would prefer to wait for an answer than the answer change. I would advise within half an hour for the call back; even if it's to say that you need more time. If they don't think it's coming together they may dump it and move on.
9. Is there anything that you DON'T want to talk about?
Under fair dealing policy if there is something that you can't won't or wouldn't want to talk about, tell them now. It may mean that they have to change what they're doing, or they may dump it all together, but you want to make sure that if you're invited to discuss 'A' you're not bumped onto the problems with 'B'.
10. You can say 'NO'.
If you're still not happy with the angle, with the story, or if you don't think that you can add something to a speculative punt, say no. It's better to be honest than crap. It all goes back to trust as a contact. However, as already said, if you're in a crisis situation saying 'no' is as bad as being found poisoning the water, with blood on your hands, standing over the body...