1- Be Willing
Half the people invited to be on the show, did not agree to be on. Some are afraid of being on the radio, or think they are not interesting or feel they do not have the time. This is a missed opportunity. Think about it: turning down a half-hour exposure to thousands of people at no cost? About half my guests are doing their first radio show ever and they all manage to do quite well.
2- Send a Good Introduction Do not make the host track you down for a bio sketch. The host has other things to do. Send a bio sketch a week ahead of time. Avoid sending a ton of information that the host has to sift through, most hosts won’t read through it anyway. Your bio should be a short, clear narrative about what makes you interesting. It should not be a long laundry list of everything you’ve ever done. Here’s my own intro as a guide. View here.
3- Do Not Ask for a List of Questions The host’s job is to facilitate an interesting conversation, not ask a list of questions. It is a good idea to ask beforehand what the topics will be and prepare accordingly.
4- Suggest Things the Host Wouldn’t Know to Ask About The most interesting things about you often do not appear on your resume or LinkedIn profile. I once posed that question to a former Siena coach and he told me he once passed out in the locker room prior to a game while at another college. Good thing his head coach had a question for him that required the head coach to return to the locker room. The locker room had a carbon monoxide leak and the coach would otherwise have been found dead shortly after. The coach has done a thousand media interviews, but only one had that story on it….ours.
5- Do Not Bring Pages of Notes Your task is to be conversational, not be a data factory. Have a general idea of the points you want to make and discuss them in a natural way.
6- Give Short Answers Long-winded answers are audience killers. Keep your responses short. The host will follow up if needed.
7- Be Passionate Enthusiasm is contagious. Bring some with you. Speak from the heart and do not worry if you say “uh” too much.
8- Avoid Canceling at the Last Minute. You’ve made a commitment, stick to it. Studio time has to be arranged for the interviews and scheduling is a big chore. Arranging for a last-minute replacement is very difficult.
9- Have Fun Radio is fun. Enjoy the experience. Guests are often amazed at how quickly the show goes by.
*** Mark Grimm started in radio about 40 years ago. He can help you with your media skills and relations.
When it comes to crisis communication, there is no substitute for doing the right thing. The PR world is littered with reputation carcasses of people who thought they could spin their way out of trouble.
Penn State leaders did irrefutable damage to the university’s reputation by trying to cover up the criminal conduct of a now convicted child molester. Their total disregard for the welfare of children painted themselves into a corner that no amount of PR could ever completely fix. The university’s crisis communication plan should have been put in place the moment the scandal was revealed to them — fire everyone involved, present a clear plan to prevent the atrocity from ever happening again and begin persistent and effective work to help victims of abuse. The irony is, of course, Penn State leaders failed to act initially because they feared bad publicity would affect its reputation. How well did that strategy work?
The time to start work on a crisis communication plan is long before a crisis occurs. When a crisis hits, people act emotionally and often times those involved are reluctant to speak freely because they fear the blame may be pinned on them.
Any organization or business should have a written plan on what it would do should a communication crisis occur. The plan should answer questions like, “Who is responsible for getting the whole story? Who is the press spokesperson? What are the legal ramifications? Who are the key stakeholders who need to be consulted? What are our values?
Questions like these require a contemplative approach that is difficult to pull off when the sparks are flying.
These steps are much more likely to make the most out of a bad situation:
1- Act with Reason, not Emotion.
Easier said than done. It’s especially hard when some media people are acting irresponsibly to jazz up the story. Follow the plan, be respectful and focus on creating a positive end result.
2- Show Genuine Empathy to Those Harmed Empathy is not a show, it’s a heart-felt trait that needs to be genuine. If the CEO is not capable of it, put someone out there who is.
The BP Fiasco:
BP CEO Tony Hayward’s purpose when meeting the press shortly after the worst oil spill in U.S. history was to apologize to those harmed. It did not come across that way:
“There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”
Note to Tony: It’s not about you, it’s about them. That one statement had catastrophic public relations consequences that may have cost the company billions more in settlement costs.
3- Find Out All the Facts
As a former news reporter, I saw many instances when the people under fire in a crisis got their facts wrong up front. This is often interpreted by the media and the general public as “lying” or trying to spin the story. In many cases, it was actually due to conflicting stories given by employees in the heat of the crisis. Emotions are raw and rumors are rampant. Take the time to get to the truth. This is not easy when there is a clamoring for information, but the alternative is to sink your credibility right from the start. By the way, sometimes people do fudge things in a crisis. That’s a bad strategy.
4- Get Ahead of the Story
Do not be in the position of always playing defense. Be proactive about shaping the narrative of the story. Think often about what you want the headline to be and have a strategy for making that happen.
The Tylenol scare:
In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide. It triggered a national scare with people throwing away their medicine bottles and stores pulling Tylenol from their shelves. Though Johnson & Johnson (Tylenol’s owner) was not negligent, it paid a price for the criminal acts of others. Tylenol’s share dropped to six percent of the analgesic market.
Johnson & Johnson moved quickly to remove Tylenol from shelves, offered an exchange program for customers, ordered an internal investigation of its distribution process, promised full cooperation with government investigators and began to develop tamper-proof packaging. It later conducted a massive media campaign which re-introduced the product and distributed 80 million free coupons for it.
The proactive and thorough plan worked. Within a year, Tylenol regained 80 percent of its former market share. This proactive response no doubt cost J & J a fortune but their focus on the long-term picture saved the Tylenol brand. Incidentally, decades later, the murders remain unsolved.
5- Listen Actively
The Internet and social media remind us communication is a two-way street. Be an active listener to what people are saying and writing on the Internet. Engage them in the dialogue and be open-minded about their suggestions and complaints. Ignore the Internet at your peril. As PR strategist Judy Gombita puts it, “Social media have made molehills into mountains.”
6- Be Your Own Media Outlet
You cannot afford to count on the media to get it right in a crisis. While there are many hard-working and honest journalists, there are also many reporters and editors with their own agenda. Additionally, the financial realities of journalism have led to a greater number of less seasoned reporters who make mistakes due to inexperience, not by design.
Twenty-first century technology allows a company or organization to communicate directly and quickly to a mass audience, with a message that is unfiltered by any media. Build this infrastructure in advance of a crisis and use every tool available, including video, to reach people, shape opinion and generate supporters. Encourage them to spread the word on their own.
7- Seek Professional Advice
If you need a root canal, go to a dentist. When a communication crisis hits, the counsel you get could be the difference between riding out the storm or experiencing a full-blown disaster. Rely on professional advice from someone who can provide a fresh set of eyes to the problem. The seasoned perspective may be the best investment you ever make.
8- Do the Right Thing
Never underestimate the value of good conduct in a crisis. People have shown remarkable forgiveness to those willing to admit their mistakes and present a plan for fixing a problem. Time and time again the cover up has caused far more damage than the original mistake. Even with presidents. Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate cover up, not the initial burglary. The House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton not for his misconduct with an intern, but for lying about it under oath and obstructing the investigation.
Every crisis tests our values. Are you sure what yours are? Answer that question well and have a strong plan in place that reinforces your culture and the next communication crisis will be something you should be able to manage.
The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and former adjunct media professor who runs a communication training and strategic counseling company.
For many, the media is a mysterious world. Where do stories come from? How do I get covered? How have changing times affected the news biz?
In truth, media folks are similar to everybody else. Their jobs are threatened by intense competition that didn’t exist two decades ago. They are stretched thin by harsh economic realities. People seeking news coverage should offer the media the one thing they want most….HELP!
Gone are the days when a reporter could spend a whole day doing a single story and file a single report on the 6 pm news. Reporters and videographers are expected to produce far more reports with often smaller staffs. One-person bands (the reporter is the videographer, too) are increasingly more common. There isn’t the time or staff “to do it like they used to.”
That’s where you come in.
Every media outlet has to “feed the beast” every day — required to produce content to fill all the newscasts, newspapers, and web pages that compose what we now call traditional media. The beast’s appetite is unrelenting. Journalists don’t have time to research stories the way they’d like. When you contact them, be sure to have an answer for this persistent question: “What’s in it for them?”
You have expertise in something. Share it. If you provide it in a clear, compelling way and you’re available at the drop of a hat, you can be a help. If you can generate story ideas about things people care about, the media will take notice. If you are the source of an opposing viewpoint that is thoughtful and passionate, you’ll get more exposure. Think visually. What would make your story more visually compelling? Find out more about their deadlines, their process, their challenges, and follow the people closely who cover the subjects you know best. Don’t expect to get noticed by media, if you don’t notice them.
Grab the low-lying fruit. New hires, new clients, speaking events, business anniversaries, these all are fodder for business pages. Submit them. Write letters to the editor, call talk shows. A tiny fraction of the public takes part in those forums. Why aren’t you?
While it’s true, in the 21st century, we will get most of our news from each other, traditional media will still play an important role. Will you be a part of it?
The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and a current adjunct media professor who runs a speaking coaching and media relations firm. Don’t hesitate to contact Mark for help: markgrimm.com