On Tuesday, June 26th Barry Nolan, an on-air contributor for CNBC and Boston Magazine columnist, crisis communications expert Dick Pirozzolo and public relations and strategic communications specialist Mike Salius, APR, joined the CT Valley Chapter of PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) to share tips for effective communication between organizations and the media, including crisis communications best practices. Among the key takeaways from the presentation were the importance of knowing who is conducting the interview, understanding how to make your message attention-grabbing and impactful, and adequately preparing for the ‘what ifs’ of a crisis.
Tip 1: Know the Media
As illustrated by a sitcom clip of Bob Newhart being interviewed on The Ruth Corley Show, knowing who will be conducting the interview is critically important. We aren’t just talking about knowing names. It’s about understanding the types of questions a reporter tends to ask, how they interact with interviewees and what they are looking to get out of the interview. This information will help in honing key messages and adequately preparing yourself or your client for the questions that may be posed.
Tip 2: Hone the Message
Complementary to knowing the media is finessing your key messages to resonate with the reporter. As discussed by Dick Pirozzolo, communicating to media that live and work inside a community that is being impacted by an issue and communicating with someone outside of that community are very different. Consider the reporter’s perspective and relationship to the topic when crafting news releases, pitches and talking points for interviews.
Tip 3: Anticipate Different Scenarios
When drafting a crisis communications plan, prepare for multiple scenarios that may transpire from a given crisis. Have an action plan and key message points prepared for each scenario. Beyond the plan, anticipate where media interviews will be held following the crisis and the setup of the space. As Barry Nolan pointed out, if the interviews are conducted in a hallway as the CEO is walking into the building, the photos may not be the most flattering. In addition, if the CEO is being asked questions as he is trying to walk into the building, he may come across as rushed or unfocused, which won’t yield the best end product.
When developing crisis communications plans and preparing clients for media interviews, take the time to plan for the ‘what if’ and develop a strategic roadmap. While there is always a chance that the unexpected will take place, the better prepared one is to handle an interview or crisis, the better the coverage will be for the organization.