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crisis management

By Lisa Carter, SAS Media and Communications Senior Consultant

It may be a step up from that old chestnut response – “No comment” – but the written statement often falls short when it comes to diffusing a major media meltdown. Media and Communication Senior Consultant Lisa Carter takes a look at how to prepare when you need to step into the firing line.

Sure – if you’re absolutely petrified you’re going to end up stuttering, sweating or completely losing it when faced with a journalist who’s hell bent on bringing you to your knees, then the written statement is the perfect choice. Plus it allows you to provide a skilful, carefully-crafted response in three perfect paragraphs.

But if you really haven’t got anything to hide, wouldn’t you prefer to really tell your story in a warm, engaging manner?

It may be nerve-wracking if you’ve never faced one before, but sometimes the only way to make yourself heard is to just get out there, on camera, and tell the full, unvarnished version of your story.

A written statement leaves a journalist little option than to fill in the gaps. How much air time does a written statement get? Very little. Which leaves the ‘opposition’ with all the glory.

But if you back up your story with strong interviews and written documentation, the journalist has a great deal more content to use to balance out their story.

SAS conducts intensive media training workshops with our clients in order to teach them the fundamentals of the media cycle. Even one training session can make a wealth of difference in preparing a company spokesperson.

We’ve seen this scenario play out a couple of times this month alone! One company came to us before the story broke, the other after it had already been all over the news.

In the first case, we helped the client prepare for a media barrage.  We worked with them to develop and refine the messages, to ensure they were able to make their voice heard in a frantic and emotive media environment.  The result was that false allegations were able to be contained and the organisation was able to begin recovering its public image immediately.

In the second, and very similar case, the organisation only had the time and the know-how to scrape together a generic statement, and the subsequent reporting was anything but fair and balanced. They didn’t have good advice and had never undertaken so much as a whisper of media training.

So a 15-minute national television package went to air filled with scandal, allegations and accusations.  And at the 14 and a half minute mark? One sentence read out from a written statement. If you’d been distracted for even a moment you would have missed it altogether. The journalist was left with little choice – if you’ve handed over nothing more than a written statement, what do they fill the rest of the story with?

So when you’re facing the firing squad (that is, a journalist who’s hell bent on making you squirm and who is absolutely convinced you’re hiding some sordid cover-up), and you’re pretty certain you’re going to crack under the pressure, then a written statement may be all you’re able to face. But if you’ve undergone our comprehensive media training workshop, have done your homework and found all your relevant documentation, and have prepared yourself with an arm-load of targeted key messages, then take a deep breath, dive on in and let the world know that you’ve got nothing to hide. 

The SAS Group is your trusted partner for government, media and corporate engagement.

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