Inside the Media
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To order Winning with the News Media:
This is the complete Preface from:
Winning with the News Media
A Self-Defense Manual When You're the Story
2005 Edition (8th)
Copyright © 2005, 2001, 1999, 1996
By Clarence Jones
Lessons Learned From a
I had begun a seminar at 8 a.m. that morning at a federal training center outside Washington, DC. The topic was "Crisis Management." In the audience were about 60 public affairs staffers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They had come from all over the country.
We took the first break about an hour later. Someone from the training center's administrative team came in and told me a disaster was in the making in New York City. They could pipe CNN into the classroom, if I chose to do so. We projected the live CNN broadcast onto a large screen.
We were watching when the second plane hit the World Trade Center building. I would learn later that some of the people in the room thought, at first, that I had fabricated the videotape as part of a class exercise.
The students voted to continue the class, alternating every 20 minutes between lecture and watching live CNN coverage.
You Must Leave Now
Shortly before noon, Rick Lemon, the director of the training center, came in and interrupted. "This is one of the places where they run the national government during times of great crisis," he said. "The team is on the way here now. All of you must go to your rooms, pack your bags, and leave immediately."
Luckily, I had a rental car. I began the thousand-mile drive home a few minutes later. Some of the class members from the West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska were stranded for weeks.
The material I had planned to deliver that September 11th is now a part of the Crisis Management chapter of this book. It has been expanded considerably, and includes a lengthy checklist to help you design your own crisis management plan.
Planning for crisis is something we avoid. It is like buying life insurance or long-term disability insurance. We would rather not think about it.
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.
Rehearsals are Rare
Very few organizations have media crisis plans. In my experience, those that do have plans rarely rehearse them.
Most of you reading this will have a media crisis long before you have a fire or tornado or flood. Media crises in a media-driven society can be much more damaging, much more demoralizing than those hazards of nature. For organizations and careers, they are often fatal.
The First Edition of this book (it is now in its eighth incarnation) started my career as a news media consultant in 1984. I have said many times that I teach corporate and government executives survival skills.
Survival often depends on your reflexes. In that first moment of stark terror, there is no time to think. How you react, what you do reflexively, will often determine whether you live or die.
Life Changes After 9/11
I hope Sept. 11, 2001 has made us more willing to plan for disaster. For me personally, it also triggered a desire to find people who have been important in my life. So I could tell them, thank them, before it is too late. Life is short and unpredictable.
I did that with a college professor, and a newspaper editor. And then with Ellen Jaffe, another TV investigative reporter I had loved intensely 20 years ago. I ended the relationship. We had not talked since. I grieved all those years over the pain I caused her.
So when I had business in her city in early 2003, I arranged lunch. I needed to tell her that ending our relationship was the biggest single mistake of my life. Six months later, we were married. She now works as my media consultant partner.
As with all the previous editions, it is my hope that this book will help you win when you have to deal with reporters and editors. I hope you will take time to read the expanded Crisis Management chapter. I hope you will write your own crisis plan, and rehearse it. Good luck. When the media crisis hits, you're going to need all the skill and luck you can muster.