Take the helm in a crisis storm, do not dive below decks
When an organisation or business hits “choppy waters,” it’s tempting to think the best way to calm the "storm" is to avoid the media or give them as little information as possible, in the hope the story will go away or receive minimum coverage.
This is a completely misguided and naïve approach - and typical of companies which have not considered some crisis training - for several reasons:
- journalists won’t stop covering the story just because a primary source chooses to say little or nothing to them; in fact, the reverse is often the case and the going could get a lot rougher. Reluctance or reticence piques their interest. Are you trying to hide something? Why do you appear to be less than forthcoming?
- reporters have their audience uppermost in their minds, so if your organisation has a responsibility to the public and is accountable to them, the reporter will be driven by an urge to pose the questions to which their audience might reasonably expect answers, regardless of the journalist’s personal interest in the story
- and just because you won’t appear for an interview or give clear answers, the journalists will find everyone and anyone who will say something about how you’re handling your crisis....and you have NO CONTROL over those voices. This could include anyone from the receptionist, to a disgruntled investor, the office cleaner or a worker coming off the night shift. It might even be the so-called “expert”, who probably knows little or nothing about your organisation specifically, but could still make some wild and damaging generalisations.
So, if you find yourself caught up in the maelstrom of a crisis, remember: the journalists are in their comfort zone, they love a good story and by that we mean a bad story. Don’t make a grim situation worse by running for cover or by retreating behind a screen of ambiguity and obfuscation.
The smart thing to do is to be open and forthcoming, or else you’ll be perceived as an organisation clinging to lifebelts as you declare cheerily, “There’s no problem here!”.