When a crisis breaks, the speed with which the media deploy can be awesome to behold.
If your organisation is suddenly at the centre of a major storm, within less than an hour you might discover that you have a media village camped outside your HQ or at the scene of the crisis. Furthermore, it won’t take the 24-hour news stations long before they are beaming live pictures to a waiting nation.
One camera might be trained on the entrance to your building, with the TV presenter back in the studio telling millions of viewers that, “We are expecting a statement from the company responsible for the disaster very shortly.” Inside your building, however, everyone’s running around like headless chickens because no one has thought about how to handle the media.
In such circumstances, silence is not golden.
The longer an organisation that’s caught up in a crisis stays quiet, the more they look guilty. In the eyes of the public, they are running for cover.
The news media won’t suspend covering the news story until the organisation in question gets its act together. They’ll be interviewing eye witnesses, survivors, experts, the bereaved – and all the time the bad news is getting worse. Delay for too long and it becomes increasingly difficult to regain lost territory, media-wise.
The first action required, therefore, is for a company spokesperson to get out in front of the media as soon as possible after the story has broken. This can be tough. Very often the spokesperson will need to confront the media with very little information to hand. The media might know more than the organisation involved.
Nevertheless, it’s important that someone gets out and there and sends out a signal that the organisation is aware that a problem has occurred and is dealing with it in a calm and professional manner. This won’t undo any damage that’s been done, but it will indicate to the public that the organisation is at least in control of events.
When a plane crashes, the airline in question can’t un-crash the plane. By appearing before the media at an early stage, in a confident and authoritative way, they can at least leave the public with the impression that the airline is in on top of things. The crash might damage the airline’s reputation, but not irrevocably so if their first media is response is speedy and professional.