Much like a fire needs oxygen to feed the flames, crisis needs constant attention to sustain it. When a crisis explodes, the media keeps it on the radar constantly; as more comments come in from various players, the flames leap higher and readers’ interest intensifies. When the media approaches you during a crisis, keep communications lines open, but beware of the following tricks:
1. Dead Air Time Trick: Your interaction is being recorded for broadcast. You have deftly parried some questions and the interviewer realizes he’s getting nowhere. Suddenly, there’s absolute silence after the last question. As the seconds tick by and the interviewer looks at you questioningly, the silence seems disconcerting. Without realizing it’s a deliberate ploy, you feel obliged to say something beyond the crisis messaging. As you elaborate on the last reply, you may unwittingly state facts that were embargoed.
2. Play Off the Players: In this scenario, the journalist will attempt to pit one stakeholder against the other. For instance, he could say: “But your joint venture partner insinuated that the crisis originated from comments made by your company. What’s your response to his charge?” Ignore the bait. Simply assert: “I don’t believe our JV partner could have said that.”
3. No Response Received: The journalist may call at odd hours and then claim there was no response from your side, despite repeated requests. This stratagem can be used particularly if your company goes incommunicado during crisis. So make it clear that your lines are always open for queries and communications—but that your company reserves the right to respond only after all the issues have been scrutinized.
4. Off the Record: You are friendly with the journalist interviewing you. Perhaps you have shared many drinks together. As the interaction ends, he seemingly switches off the video recorder and says: “OK, buddy, let’s just discuss this off the record.” Never fall for this trick. For journalists, nothing is “off the record.” Many exposés have happened because things were supposedly “off the record.” Once you leak classified information, you can be sure this material will soon be in the public domain.
Aman Gupta is founder and CEO of Imprimis PR, a healthcare and pharmaceutical PR company in India, where he leads 80 PR professionals.
This article was adapted from PR News’ Crisis Management Guidebook, Volume 5. This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.