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Keeping Your Association Safe from Bad Public Relations

Posted By Jess Myers, Thursday, November 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

The time to shop for a fire extinguisher is not when you smell smoke. In the same vein, when you have a public relations crisis on your hands, that’s not the time to think about putting a P.R plan in place.

By definition, a crisis that affects or involves your association is bad news, and the way to lessen the impact of bad news is to have a plan in place before trouble strikes.

Some basic tips on a PR plan:

Know in advance what you want to say if bad news comes.

  • Picture a bad thing that could happen involving your association, and then think of your ideal response. Write down your response. Keep a list of potential good responses. These are called “talking points,” and they can make a huge difference.
  • Having a prepared, well thought-out response, versus a potentially damaging off-the-cuff response, can vastly improve the image of your association in a time of crisis.

Know who you want to deliver the message.

  • Appoint a single spokesperson to deliver messages on behalf of the association in times of crisis.
  • Make sure everyone in your association knows who the spokesperson is, and that when they are contacted by the press, they say, “Please contact our spokesperson.”
  • This is vitally important for controlling the message and making sure one voice, rather than several voices, is speaking on behalf of your association.

Be mindful of what you can and cannot share.

  • In times of crisis, the press may ask about a variety of sensitive information. Things like financial records, legal proceedings, and information regarding minors. While we hate using “no comment,” it’s fair to be mindful of what information you simply cannot legally offer, and to say that.
  • It’s fine to tell a reporter, “I’m sorry, but I do not have any information I can share about that.”

Know that everything you say and do is “on the record.”

  • You are never “just talking” with a member of the press.
  • If a reporter calls, from the moment you say “hello” to the moment you hang up, anything you say can be used in their story.
  • If you are being interviewed on TV or radio, the interview hasn’t ended until the reporter has left the room. Be very mindful around microphones. Always assume they are turned on and recording.

 Don’t bluff.

  • Reporters can smell bluffing a mile away. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. Let me get it for you or find someone who can answer that.” In fact, it’s much better to say that than to try to fake your way through an answer.
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. Trying to bluff your way through an answer is going to leave the reporter unsatisfied, at best, and can be disastrous.

If you’re asked about a problem, talk about a solution.

  • For example, if a reporter calls and asks about a safety issue, talk about all of the strict measures in place to help prevent safety problems.
  • If the reporter asks about an issue with a budget, an appropriate answer would be to cite all of the measures in place to check and balance budgets. They ask about a problem, you talk about a solution.

Every now and then, we smell smoke. The way to keep that smoke from becoming a fire that damages your association’s reputation is to have that fire extinguisher (in this case, a solid PR plan) in place, ready to go, before the smoke detector starts blaring.

Tags:  crisis management  media  PR plan  public relations 

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Six Things to Remember When a Reporter Calls

Posted By Jess Myers, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interacting with the media can sometimes be intimidating, but it does not need to be. Following six simple tips for dealing with the media can help make the difference between a productive interview and a disaster.


1)     Be prepared. Or more accurately, don’t be unprepared.

You’re in the middle of nine things at once, when you get a call that you’re not prepared to deal with. So don’t. Ask what they want to talk about, ask for a few sample questions, and ask for their deadline. Politely tell the person on the other end that you will have to get more information and call them back. Then, vitally important, get the information, and call them back. Make yourself some notes that answer their questions, and underscore the main points you want to get across. Don’t go into the call if you’re unprepared.

2)     Know who you are speaking to.

If you get a call from the lifestyle writer for your local community newspaper, odds are they’re probably looking to write a nice, positive story, and it’s something in which you will want to participate. If you get a call from an investigative reporter at Dateline NBC and they have questions about policy, it’s probably something different and you should be more cautious.

 

In addition to knowing who you’re speaking to, anticipate their questions, and have thought-out, helpful answers ready.

 

3)     Everything is on the record.

When you’re talking to a reporter, you’re never “just chatting.” Everything you say, from the minute you say hello, to the minute you hang up, can and will be used. Saying, “this is off the record” means very little to most reporters. In fact, most will say “then don’t tell me” if it’s off the record.

 

4)     Don’t bluff.

Reporters can smell bluffing a mile away. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. Let me get it for you or find someone who can answer that.” In fact, it’s much better to say that than to try to fake your way through an answer.

If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. Trying to bluff your way through an answer is going to leave the reporter unsatisfied, at best, and can be disastrous.


5)     If you’re asked about a problem, talk about a solution.

The mark of a great politician for years has been the ability to take a question about a problem and provide an answer about an opportunity. So for example, if a reporter calls and asks about a safety issue, talk about all of the strict measures in place to help prevent safety problems. If the reporter asks about an issue with a web site, and appropriate answer would be to cite all of the measures in place to find and fix web site problems. They ask about a problem, you talk about a solution.


6)     Don’t argue or debate.

The old adage on dealing with reporters has been, don’t get into a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel. Always remember, they will have the last word. At worst, say “we clearly see things differently, but let me look into that further.” And again, look into it further, and call them back.

 

If you have questions or concerns before the interview, speaking with a media relations professional can help. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before you conduct an interview, a professional can help develop talking points, relax and focus you, and remove some of the intimidation. Ewald Consulting’s media relations department is on call to help with these kinds of situations. Call or email anytime we can be of service.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  media  public relations 

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Sound Bite Friendly: Talking Points to Keep on Message

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014
Untitled Document

When a reporter calls, the most important guideline you should keep in mind is: “don’t panic.” Once you’re calm and following lesson one, the next most important guideline is to have a goal for the interview/interaction with the media.

By having a goal, I mean to have a message you want to convey about yourself, your organization, your event, etc. When you talk to a reporter, speak in headlines. For example, if your dream headline for the story is, “Ewald Consulting is experiencing rapid growth,” I would make that sentence a talking point.

We hear the term “talking points” used frequently, especially during election season. Simply put, a talking point is a one- or two-sentence summary of your position.

Talking points are valuable to have ready before going into an interview — whether the medium is television, radio, newspapers or online journalism. You can use talking points not only as notes for what you want to say, but also as a way to refer to key messages you want to convey in the interview. And because many of us, when we get nervous, tend to ramble and say more than is needed, talking points are a great tool to keep us “on message.”

Here are some examples, brief talking points we put together for a retailer about its Black Friday weekend hours and specials:

  • Responding to incredible demand from shoppers, we are again offering extended hours on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and are distributing a multi-page sale flier with hundreds of great deals.
  • The great deals for convenient online shopping started in the first week of November, with our company offering free shipping with no minimum throughout the holiday season.
  • For those who want to skip the checkout lines, we are offering a free “buy online, pickup in-store” option at each of the stores in our network.
  • Hundreds more great deals are available. Full details can be found in our sale flier

As you can see, none are too extensive or overly detailed; they’re just simple one-sentence talking points designed to help the interview subject get to the point, deliver key messages and convey the most salient information to a reporter. We like to say that the seven-word answer is always better than the 27-word answer.

If you anticipate a reporter’s call, it’s good to have a set of talking points on hand. Again, speak in headlines: think of the three to five main points you want to convey – your goals for the interview – and have them ready in bullet point form. If a reporter catches you by surprise, it’s OK to buy some time. Say that you need to call them back in 30 or 45 minutes, and use that time to craft some talking points for yourself.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  pr  public relations  talking points 

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