In an earlier article, we discussed how to begin drafting a plan by identifying the primary and secondary spokespersons. Here is a presentation of the next steps.
The top topics to focus on were identified earlier and the plan should center around them. Continue by gathering all current and pertinent information about each subject and place them in folders. These would be used as background information for use as needed. Included in there should also be general information about the company and the most recent annual report.
Identify the primary and secondary spokespersons for “other” crises as defined in an earlier article. Ensure that their bios are updated and also available, when needed,
Have those identified as a spokesperson for “major” and “other” crises trained in media communications? If they’ve never had the training, a general one that focuses more on the do’s and don’ts works well for starters. If they’d had the training, conduct one annually and insert topics like the ones identified earlier in order of priority.
Be sure that one aspect of training includes roleplaying and responding to questions from a person posing as a reporter. This adds a lot more realism to the exercise and can be valuable if and when the real situation occurs. If possible, have a handbook of media do’s and don’ts available for dissemination.
The on-camera media training may be conducted in-house if there’s someone knowledgeable about the news media. He/she should conduct the interview and direct questions at the company spokesperson using every trick in the book. This includes leading and negative questions or hypothetical ones.
Company spokespersons may need to be reminded that television news audiences often form an impression based on the way the interviewees appear and sound on camera. It’s important for spokespersons to remember not to be drawn into these traps.
Some trap questions start off with, “What if” and “What do you think?” These are hypothetical and cause the interviewee to speculate. A good response is “That’s a hypothetical question. The facts are….”
There are two important objectives that the company spokesperson needs to keep in mind – reassurance and confidence-building. The public needs and wants to know that the matter at hand is under control and being responsibly managed. This confidence-building is what will retain customers after a crisis. When a company’s target audience knows that the organization can be trusted to do the right thing, they’ll keep returning
Ensure that the overall plan identifies and includes all the different stakeholders that need to be informed in the event of a “major” crisis. Include how and when they’re to be notified. Have a current media list available.
Do the same for “other” crisis. In both cases, don’t forget employees.
Finally, the overall plan must also include a timetable of how and when company responses will unfold in the event of a crisis. Answer these questions. Who contacts whom and under what circumstances? What about after hours? When will it be necessary to meet if the crisis occurs on a weekend, holiday or after hours?
Distribute the plan to everyone who needs to know. Review it annually and update it as needed.