Media Interview Secrets: 4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Crisis communications Expert Gerard Braud - QuoteBy Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Who is the default spokesperson? In my expert opinion, the default spokesperson is the eyewitness who controls the media, because a company in a crisis has not provided their own expert for a media interview.

Think about it. A guy named Bubba – an eyewitness – controls the reputational fate and financial future of your company, if he is talking to the media, and an official company spokesperson is not being quickly provided by your company.

It blow’d up real good.

is the quote I once put on TV from a guy named Bubba following a chemical explosion, as he stood outside his mobile home.

In two weeks I’ll be speaking at conferences for both the National Association of Chemical Distributors and the International Association of Business Communicators. Later in the month, I’m part of a crisis drill team for a nuclear power plant. The need for speed will be a key point in each of my presentations and training programs.

When I was a journalist, I remember people would actually ask me, “How come reporters always interview people with no teeth who live in trailers?” They were referring to the eyewitnesses, like Bubba, who were often interviewed near industrial facilities following a chemical explosion.

These days, before reporters even arrive on the scene of a crisis, eyewitnesses like Bubba, are posting pictures, videos and personal accounts to social media – especially Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

As a company, you have

4 communications obligations in a crisis:

  1. Designate multiple people who can serve as your spokesperson.
  2. Hire a media trainer to properly train those spokespeople.
  3. Train the spokespeople to be ready with a written and oral statement that can be shared within one hour of the onset of the crisis.
  4. Hire someone to write a crisis communications plan with a library of pre-written statements and scripts that can be used to quickly and accurately communicate with the media, employees, community, and other stakeholders.

I’ll add a bonus 5th tip: Budget for media training and a crisis communications plan with the same priority you budget for safety training, sexual harassment training, and diversity training. Justify the expense by recognizing that your corporate reputation and revenue hang in the balance for each crisis.

Remember, the destiny of your company is in the hands of a guy named Bubba, when you fail to provide a spokesperson in a crisis.

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