While speaking at a recent legal seminar on internal investigations, an attorney asked me about responding to news media that finds out about an emerging corporate crisis or other potentially negative situation. colourful-zone
Isn’t it in the company’s best interests, he asked, to avoid the press until all the facts are known and there’s some “good news” to tell?
Nope. You can’t dissuade interested reporters from chasing down a legitimate business story any more than you can push water uphill with a fork. Not only do your pants get wet, but you look an idiot.
In other words, themicroblogging the news happens with you or without you. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have all the facts, or still have lose ends to tie up. Unlike the lawyerly concept of a definitive final resolution, news coverage is incremental. Hour by hour. Day by day. One headline follows another as new information is confirmed or disputed, as ramifications become evident and fall-out analyzed.
And in almost all cases, how your company responds to and deals with the press becomes part of – and at times the central focus of — the ongoing story.
To not participate in even “negative” news coverage is to risk death by a thousand paper cuts. You force the media to discover for themselves the facts that you don’t have — information, us online journal opinions and perspectives that will be rushed into coverage whether or not you agree with their accuracy or context. In the end, you likely prolong whatever bad publicity you’re trying to avoid.
Does that mean you have answers to every question? Of course not. But there’s a huge difference between hiding from the press and making a sincere effort to explain why you can’t answer a specific question, Tech follow up or why it isn’t appropriate for the CEO to be interviewed at this time. Engaging the media during an emerging crisis — even to respectfully decline comment — promotes a credible rapport that may create breathing room to produce facts as you confirm them, or have opportunity to respond to information and opinion before it is published or aired.
Whether you’re dealing with good news or bad news, Tech tuba the rule is the same. Say only what you know to be true. But say it. Your company will be better for it.