Communicating in a Crisis: Who Does the Talking and How Do They Prepare?
You’ve thoroughly researched the crisis that’s struck your organization, thoughtfully crafted statements and FAQs and now it’s time for someone to step up, tell your story and answer some questions.
Before your spokespersons face the media, there are several questions you need to answer to help ensure your spoken communications accurately and candidly inform and reassure the public, and help your organization quickly get back to business as usual.
Who does the talking? When the confidence and trust of your publics are shaken by a serious crisis, having your CEO take center stage will demonstrate that the situation is under control, you’re serious about fixing what’s wrong and you have nothing to hide. (You do have nothing to hide, right?) Additionally, consider offering availability to some of your technical experts who may have an up-close day-to-day knowledge of the situation and can provide the factual details reporters may want. These technical experts may be all you need if your crisis isn’t full-blown.
How do we prepare our spokespersons? Early and often. Ideally your CEO and other members of the leadership team have had spokesperson training periodically and are comfortable meeting with the media because they do it all the time. Not so? Then provide training for these staff members and start establishing relationships with the media. You don’t want someone’s media debut to be a grilling about what went wrong. And reporters who know your spokespersons, and are used to getting solid, accurate and useful information in good times, will be more receptive to them in bad.
What about short-term prep? Even veteran media spokespersons need to practice addressing a specific event, staying on message and keeping their cool if things get heated. So, load them up with your key messages and the important facts, and do some role playing with some tough questions – the obvious ones and the ones you hope no one will ask. Because you know someone will.
Wouldn’t it be better to let our lawyers do the talking? Only if they’re talking about the law.