The next step is to hold a press conference. Once again, this is an opportunity to control the message. The media's job is to report the latest information available. If reporters don't get that information directly from the organization in crisis, they'll look elsewhere and be more likely to report inaccurate facts and even rumors [source: U.S. Department of State]. This is a good time to hand out fact sheets about the organization and any previous press releases about the crisis.
The spokesperson will run the press conference. It's recommended that only the spokesperson and others who are well trained in media relations speak during the press conference. Everyone who plans to speak and answer questions should rehearse their statements and answers several times before the actual press conference. They should be ready with prepared talking points to answer the "tough" questions that are most likely to come up during the Q-and-A format of the press conference [source: NewsPlace].
When preparing to make statements, it's recommended that the spokesperson put himself in the victim's position and respond in a way that is sensitive to their needs.
Beyond that, all statements should focus on two or three simple messages that can be easily remembered by everybody in the room.
It's never a good idea to comment on anything beyond the scope of the question or to speculate about a situation where all the facts aren't yet clear. It's always best to say, "I don't know," or "We're still looking into that," rather than to improvise theories on the spot.
Most of all, never lie. Honesty and candor are the best way to preserve the image and reputation of the organization. The truth will come out eventually, and at that point, the ramifications will be far worse.
Blogging During a Crisis
If the organization already has a blog, it can be an effective tool for communicating during a crisis. Blogs have several advantages over traditional media or press releases:
- Blogging is immediate. It allows an organization to respond very quickly to evolving public concerns and to correct misrepresentations in the media.
- Video and photo capabilities of blogs allow for near real-time coverage of how an organization is working to resolve the crisis. [source: Micro Persuasion]
- Because of the nature of blogging (open and candid), a blog can put a human face on the organization in crisis.
- The public can make comments and ask questions directly on the blog, creating an excellent forum for dispelling rumors and clarifying an organization's message.
Even if an organization doesn't already have a blog, some experts recommend the creation of a "stealth blog" that can be launched quickly if a crisis arises [source: Corporateblogging.info]. As part of the crisis communication planning stage, team members can use the list of weaknesses and vulnerabilities to build "lockbox blogs" with messages tailored to address all potential crises [source: Micro Persuasion].
As part of the pre-crisis media strategy, it's smart to establish relationships with prominent industry and local bloggers, not just print and broadcast journalists. These "blogging allies" could be a powerful source of grassroots, word-of-mouth press to combat negative reports in the mainstream media [source: Micro Persuasion].
Now let's look at the role of crisis communication after the initial crisis is over.