Ready to go to air? I’m from a Current Affair.
It is your worst nightmare and it has just arrived in the foyer with a camera crew in tow. That’s right, it is one of those pesky reporters from that annoying 6.30pm tabloid television program you love to hate.
Bad publicity is a risk all businesses face, whether it is deserved or not. If it is badly handled, brand and reputation can be irretrievably damaged. What are your options if you do get the knock on the door? If you don’t panic, there are a few.
The best option is to buy time. It’s reasonable to ask for a couple of hours while you prepare a response. There is no point in losing your temper, barricading yourself in your office or shoving the camera away with your hand. It looks a lot worse than simply saying something like, “I’m happy to respond once I’ve had a chance to look into these allegations”.
The clock is ticking, but at least you’ve got some time up your sleeve to call a media consultant and check on company protocols. Various business insurances do cover a consultant’s fees under crisis management expenses and insurers usually maintain a panel of media consultants who are experts in the field.
The media consultant will get in touch with the reporter or producer to work out the angle of the story. Based on the information available, the consultant will develop a media strategy that will inform any outgoing communications. This usually takes the form of press release or an interview.
A media consultant is the first line of defence. Unfortunately, legal options are limited and in many cases can only be exercised after the event. Individuals can sue for defamation but generally companies can’t. It’s an area of the law most journalists are aware of, which is why big corporates make easy targets.
The best way to deal with a crisis is to do some of the groundwork before it occurs. Most companies can identify the key threats to their business. Preparing a handful of press releases that cover each of these eventualities is a straightforward process. The real benefit is getting them legalled well in advance so when the crisis does hit, the lawyers are on board and not equivocating while your brand and reputation are trashed.