Inside the Media
All content on this website is copyrighted by Clarence Jones
To order Winning with the News Media:
Below are excerpts from the Crisis Management chapter of
Winning with the News Media
By Clarence Jones
Survival Often Hinges on What
In most crisis management scenarios, the outcome depends heavily on what you do and say in the first few hours. What the news media report in their first stories — and how they view your coping skills — will often set the tone for the entire crisis. Chances are, the media's first impression will persist until you have overcome the problem and emerged victorious ... or you've been humiliated, fired, put out of business, arrested, sued, divorced ... the list goes on and on.
We Don't Want to Think About It
Planning for crises is something we avoid. It is like buying life insurance or long-term disability insurance. Most people don't do it because they don't want to think about the possibility of their own death or disability. We have been forced by law and mortgage lenders to get accustomed to buying accident insurance for our cars, homeowners insurance for our houses. Medical insurance for most of us is provided by our employers.
But we still try to avoid contemplating those greater disasters that can lead to our death or disability; as well as the destruction of an organization — the careers, productivity and morale of the people who work there.
Perhaps the 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks will change us, harden us, make us willing to face the possibility of sudden disaster that cannot be predicted. And make us do a better job of preparing.
The Police Shooting Model
In recommending crisis plans to my clients for more than 20 years now, I have told them most people do not think or function well when the crisis hits. I learned that when I was reporter, covering "officer involved shootings."
When an officer is down, or has shot someone, the call goes out on the radio. Officers rush in, sirens screaming, blue lights flashing. There is chaos at the scene. Without careful planning in advance, highly excited or grief-stricken officers will do something everyone will later regret. Or fail to do something that, in hindsight, was a terrible blunder.
Things to Do
So virtually every law enforcement agency in America has an "officer involved shooting checklist." The last one I looked at had 21 things to do immediately after the shooting. Like notify the chief, wherever he/she is.
If an officer is the shooter, isolate him/her. Offer the officer psychological and legal counseling. Relieve him/her of duty. Take custody of his/her weapon. Notify the officer's family. Do not move the corpse until it has been viewed by the medical examiner and prosecutor.
Media Crisis Plans Are Rare
Most organizations have written plans for fires, storms, floods. They practice those plans frequently. Should a fire or storm or flood occur, everyone will know — without thinking — what needs to be done and how to do it.
Very few organizations have media crisis plans. And those that do rarely rehearse them.
Most of you reading
this will have a media crisis long before you have a fire or tornado or flood.
And media crises in a media-driven society can be much more damaging, much more
demoralizing than those hazards of nature.
Organizations who use it should flesh it out, custom-tailor it to their particular needs and people. Revisit it regularly to improve it and keep it up to date.
What is a Crisis?
A crisis is the imminent risk of death or serious damage. It can threaten you, people you care about, your organization, your property, your reputation, your career, your future.
If and when the media discover the crisis, your skill in influencing how they report it — or decide not to report it — are key factors that determine the outcome.
The tone of the early stories usually hinges on how well reporters and editors know you, your understanding of media strategy, your experience and reflexes in dealing with journalists.
One of the most difficult steps in crisis management is making the decision that there is a crisis. Wait too late, and you may not be able to save the sinking ship.
Send everybody to battle stations when hindsight shows there was no Armageddon looming, and you'll look like Chicken Little. A pathetic, paranoid manager who's out of touch with reality.
● ● ●
Never under-estimate the crisis.
● ● ●
Bring the news media inside your crisis. Brief them frequently. Let them watch at close range how you handle the crisis. At first glance, this seems absolutely absurd. But it works. Here’s why:
● ● ●