Brighton Chamber: Top tips for working with the media in a crisis

Tim Cobb, founder of Cobb PR
Tim Cobb, founder of Cobb PR

With luck and a fair wind, most of your challenging situations will be sorted out away from the media spotlight.

But what happens if your crisis spills into the public domain and grabs the attention of local or national media?

Here are a few tips to get you out of jail (not literally, we hope!):

Talking to journalists is probably the last thing you want to do, but you may have to.

If you don’t tell them the facts of the incident, you create a void. Others will soon step in to fill that void, probably doing you no favours whatsoever.

Some rules for talking to the media:

- Be available and helpful

- Never say ‘no comment’

- Prepare a statement and ensure that everyone sticks to this. As the crisis unfolds, you will need to update it

- Never lie, you will get found out, sooner or later

- Be honest and open, but do not speculate

- Only give confirmed information. If you can’t give an answer or don’t know the answer, say so, qualifying that the information isn’t available yet, but you will let them know when it is

- Keep a note of the questions asked and the answers - you may need to expand on or justify them at a later stage

- Turning negative to positive. Highlight what you are doing to make the situation better, rather than talking about how it happened.

- Show that even though your organisation made a mistake, it is caring, responsible and open.

- Keeping in touch with the media and being available will help to get them on your side and as a result they may portray your organisation in a more positive light.

- The crisis will highlight areas that need improving in your business, such as, training, communication, health and safety, client relations, relationship with local media, relationship with local opinion formers

- Take steps to address these problems immediately and you may avert another crisis

Tim Cobb is the managing director of Cobb PR, a multi-award winning communications agency in Sussex. He will be leading a Brighton Chamber Bite-sized Learning Session on Crisis Management on Thursday, November 16. For more information on upcoming Brighton Chamber Bite-sized Learning sessions, visit: www.businessinbrighton.org.uk/events