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Handling the media in an upside-down world

Dave Mason’s broadcasting career in radio and television spans 30 years having worked as a correspondent at BBC News, and a presenter, reporter and producer at HTV, ITN, GMTV and ITV News.

For a decade, Dave’s coached members of major private and public sector organisations during high profile media crises. A visiting lecturer in journalism at three universities and an in-house trainer, he is author of the book “Handling the Media in Good Times & Bad”. Here Dave shares some top tips for those about to engage with the media in the face of a crisis:

1. Narrative – what do we want the public to think / feel / do?

  • Pinpointing corporate positioning and prepare key messages in advance (four to five max.)
  • Test it from the perspective of the audience – will the messages resonate?
  • Have an embedded call to action if you can

2. Be authentic

  • Respond authentically. What you say and how you say it should reflect your values as a brand / business
  • Acknowledge responsibility, if you need to do so, but stay action focused on what are you doing to address the situation

3. Be factual

  • Deal in what you know and use reliable, trusted sources
  • And be honest about what you don’t know – conjecture does not have a place in crisis communications

4. Ensure heads of comms are at the top table

  • Every decision has a comms implication, exploring scenarios up front will help you to identify reputational risks early
  • Include your senior comms lead from the off, do not make them an operational after- thought

5. Replace your reactive media strategy with a proactive one

  • Effectively build trust by being visible and available
  • Careful executive positioning can inoculate an organisation against future scrutiny or crisis

6. Ensure your SLT is media trained so that you have a cast-list of options

  • Media enquiries may come thick and fast, having only one spokesperson could limit your opportunities to engage
  • Have a range of personalities – the empathetic one, the inspiring one, the hard liner (think John, Paul, George & Ringo!)
  • Ensure your spokespeople are credible, expert and confident – media training can help

7. Keep reputation management at the heart of your comms function

  • Ensure that you have a Reputation Management Group comprising decision-makers on its board
  • Meet regularly to spot risk issues that may affect reputation down the line
  • Ensure it has power to act and is not just a ‘talking shop’

8. Listen and respond to feedback from staff, customers and stakeholders

  • Monitoring dialogue at all levels is key to understanding where issues lie – establish listening platforms early on
  • Feedback from your teams will help you gauge public/media perception and adjust your communications accordingly
  • Be empathetic and prepared to flex and respond to those important to your business

Tags: CoronavirusCovid-19mediamedia relations