Don't Ignore the Media. Embrace It.
September 14, 2022
Emptying the dishwasher. Mowing the lawn. Paying the bills.
Life is full of tasks that aren’t very fun but need to get done.
For public-facing individuals at companies dealing with a crisis, the media’s often-incessant outreach can feel like another task on an annoying to-do list.
But don’t view it that way. In fact, ignoring the media can be one of the worst mistakes you – and your company – can make.
Sure, the press can act insensitive and impatient when they reach out to find out what’s going on, why it happened and, perhaps most importantly, who’s to blame. And, yes, some reporters might carry hidden biases that can carry over to the paper or the local TV news.
It is counterproductive to look at the media as a loathsome chore, though. Instead, view them as assets who can get vital information out to your audience faster than you ever could.
Most reporters aren’t reaching out about an accident at the factory, an unfavorable court ruling or the misdeeds of a high-ranking employee because they’re looking for the latest “gotcha” story. They’re doing so because their job is to inform the community about what it needs to know. Remember, your community is also their community.
The same people that are reading about you in the paper or watching a TV live shot in front of your beleaguered headquarters are your customers – past, present and future. They are your employees and their families. They are potential job candidates. And they all want to know the same thing. What went wrong, why did it go wrong and what are you doing to fixing it? In the same way, what do you want them to know?
In addition to having a crisis communications plan in-place to address any unexpected bad news, addressing the media quickly and with as much transparency as a situation allows positions your company as one that not only has a situation under control, but also one that cares about the people it impacts, both internally and externally.
And, when managed correctly, a crisis can become an opportunity to shine for your audience.
For example, a local energy company in the Midwest was recently inundated with calls and emails about a loud boom that originated near one of their transformers. Unfortunately, this occurred in a town that had been troubled by a series of unrelated and unexplained explosions around the same time. Curiosity quickly turned into buzz, which then took on a life of its own on social media.
Instead of avoiding what could have quickly become a firestorm, the company proactively reached out to the local media as soon as possible to let them know exactly what had happened, how many customers were affected and when they could expect their service to resume. So, instead of a negative story involving that company circulating for a news cycle, it was able to show that it was on top of the situation. The story, itself, quickly fell by the wayside, but not before the company made the most of its opportunity to show its customers, the community and even its own employees how well they were prepared for a potential crisis.
Trying to brush the media off with a “no comment” or ignoring them completely can give the impression that you don’t care about the community you serve – or, worse yet, that you have something to hide.
So, the next time the media calls, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, answer the text or respond to the e-mail. Take the opportunity to be thoughtful in your message, but certainly to share your story and have control over what is being shared.
Much like mowing your lawn, doing your dishes and paying your bills, you’ll be glad you did when it’s over.
By Luke Meredith