A crisis management plan for business should encompass a media plan, or a plan shared with the staff and executives so they know how to talk about the crisis with the media. Jonathan L. Bernstein, author of the new book Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training, is an expert at crisis management. Jonathan, president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has more than 25 years of experience meeting clients' needs in all aspects of crisis management - crisis response, vulnerability assessment, planning, training and simulations.
Crisis Management Plan for Business Media Considerations
LTK: Tell us about your new book, Keeping the Wolves at Bay.
JLB: There have been a lot of books written about media relations, but mine is designed to be an easy-to-reference manual, something you can have at your fingertips whenever you have to give an interview. That's hard to do with a 200+ page book that wasn't organized for the purpose of quick reference.
LTK: Can you give our readers pointers for talking to the media during a crisis?
JLB: The most important things to remember about media interviews are:
- Always take the time before an interview to think about your top three key messages, those things you really want media readers or listeners to remember.
- Your primary goal is NOT answering media questions; your goal is to deliver your messages.
- You never have to give an interview at the moment you're contacted; you can always say you're busy but promise to call back before the reporter's deadline. That will give you time to think about what you want to say.
- Deliver your key messages, no matter what you're asked. There's nothing wrong with answering the question, but it's not your primary job.
LTK: Is there anything you recommend that business people NOT do when talking to the media, especially during a crisis?
JLB: Never say "no comment." It translates as "I'm guilty." That's what people will interpret it as, even if you really mean you don't have a comment.
LTK: Please share more about a crisis management plan for business owners.
JLB: Crisis management is the term that broadly covers preventing, or responding to, any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, damage reputation and/or negatively impact share value.
Getting Positive Media Attention for Your Business
LTK: For people who want media attention but aren't getting it yet, can you recommend some strategies for positive attention?
JLB: Get known as an expert in your field. The primary three ways I did that were by (a) having a well-optimized website that shows up well for relevant search terms and (b) publishing a newsletter that gets reprinted widely. Oh, and publishing a book, of course!
LTK: How does the media help business owners?
JLB: Traditional and non-traditional media are both ways to reach audiences that may not hear of you otherwise. A positive story by the media becomes, de facto, third party endorsement of your product(s) and/or service(s).
LTK: Can the media actually hurt a business? Is that possible?
JLB: The Internet is the first place people look to find a product or service or to determine a business' reputation. If the media has negatively reported on you, that reputation damage sits online until/unless you take aggressive action to balance it out with positive use of tools such as blogs and social media.
LTK: What do you recommend for a so-called "bad news" situation?
JLB: If you're in a bad news situation, ignoring the media only makes it worse. Even if a story is going to be negative, you can reduce that negativity by an effective response and, therefore, reduce damage to your most important asset - you reputation.
Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training by Jonathan L. Bernstein is available from Bernstein Crisis Management and Amazon.com. More information about Mr. Bernstein, this book and his services may be obtained from his company website.
The author of this article received a review copy from the publisher prior to the interview.