According to Ian Mitroff, author of
The number one rule for dealing with a crisis is that you should never wait to build your relationships with the press until you have an emergency. Establish your credibility long in advance and when you face a situation where you do not have all the information the media want immediately, the press will cut you some slack.
Never say, “No comment.” The media will assume you have the information they want, but it is embarrassing, so you are withholding the details. You then become the enemy and reporters will go to other sources willing to talk, perhaps your competitors or disgruntled employees. Do not speculate; tell journalists what you know and assure them you will keep them informed.
Do not overreact. It is tempting to get defensive or to blame someone else under pressure for a response. Wait until management has some clarity about the nature of the crisis before saying anything other than acknowledging the problem and an investigation of the facts. Follow a crisis management plan that includes fact sheets to give the media general background about the company.
Provide a place for the press to work with lights, electricity, phones, chairs, desks, and Internet connections.
PR guru Harold Burson's advice is that if you have made a mistake, admit it, take responsibility to make things right, and provide all the details as soon as you can. The worst thing, he says, is to let the facts dribble out over a long time.
Remember that a plan to manage a crisis that is only a plan on paper means nothing. Do a drill and learn from the results, otherwise you will be practicing during a real crisis.
The bottom line on dealing with the media is that you need to put a fair amount of effort into cultivating reporters if you want to be interviewed or have a speech covered — at all. The technical aspects of articulating your message are the last part of that process and you can never be too prepared.