We hope you never have to deal with hostile media. But if you ever find yourself in a crisis situation where the media are contact you there are some options that you can follow.
Dealing with the hostile media
You see this a lot – a person is chased by the media either as they attend a meeting (court is the most common) or some unrelated activity, like leaving their home. The media’s cameras are rolling and microphones are out and the story ‘talent’ says ‘no comment’ or just nothing at all.
This is a good ploy for when you are:
- Bound by legal issues not to make a comment
- Not yet prepared to make a comment (and you never talk to the media unless you are prepared)
The reason not to make a comment is a simple one. The media can’t report you words if you don’t provide them any. Unfortunately some people just can’t help themselves, and they feel they need to make some comment when ever the media speaks to them. This almost always gets them into deeper trouble or broadens the issues. Remember always that you are in control of media interactions – even the hostile media encounters. The media can’t report if you don’t speak!
You should know that this does not mean that footage of you being pursued by the media seeking a comment will not be shown. For this reason I would always suggest that saying nothing is always better than ‘no comment’. For some reason so action footage of someone being hassled seems to become news worthy is they snarl ‘no comment’ at the journalists.
You also should always remember that the media is just doing their job. There is nothing personal in the process even if they appear as hostile media.. Being rude back to the media just is foolish.
In some situations it is critical that a well prepared statement is released to the press, especially if you are trying to correct a mis-reposed error that is doing damage to your organization, or you wish to release information about what you are doing to correct an issue. The critical word here is “prepared’. You need to work carefully and with professionals to develop a message that you release to the media.
In extreme situations these statements need to be done in person. For the vast majority of cases they can just be in the form of a media release and sent around to the media outlets. Doing this means you are not put in the spot by media questions and avoid the embarrassing situation of walking out of the interview when questions are asked. Only the most seasoned media say people can pull off the face-to-face statements.
Watch this amazingly good performance of the CEO of Chipotle restaurants after a food poisoning scare – and see if you can work out the messages that he was prepared to deliver.