Magazine article Management Review

It's Show Time, Folks

Magazine article Management Review

It's Show Time, Folks

Article excerpt

It's a corporate nightmare come true. Me company is in the midst of an environmental crises, the facts are not yet known, and suddenly the media is demanding to know who, what, where, when and why. Often, as crises develops, company managers and product experts who don't regularly work with the media are called in as company spokespersons either because of their special expertise or perhaps because they simply happen to be available. How they handle themselves on the spot will probably have a lasting effect on the company's future creditworthiness and profitability. Just ask Exxon or Hooker Chemical or Union Carbide.

You can learn from the experience of corporations that have "been there." Rowan & Blewitt, a Washington-based public relations firm specializing in crisis management, believes that the five most common mistakes made during a crisis situation are failing to take charge, not anticipating media questions, not communicating key messages to the public, failing to stick to the facts, and failing to keep calm.

Rowan & Blewitt have developed a detailed list of dos and don'ts for working with the media during an emergency. Key wrong them are:

Be completely honest Don't try to fool either the press or the public. "Putting the morality of lying aside, it's simply not very practical," notes David Cullen, a Washington public relations expert. A lie has a way of always coming back to haunt you."

r-1 Ask what general topics will be covered before the interview by all means, but don't demand to see a Est of questions in advance. Asking to see specific questions before agreeing to the interview "is like waving a red flag in front of most journalists," New York Times technology writer Ed Andrews says. It's inappropriate, and it makes journalists wonder if you are trying to hide something."

Organize your information into the key points you want to convey, but don't memorize stock answers for every question. Your message may be as simple as: This is an honest company that cares about the health and safety of its customers and the general public; this is the problem we're facing based on what we know at this point; this is what we plan to do about the situation.

Assume everything you say is on the record. …

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