Why are there so few examples of great crisis management?

When I ask most audiences to name a company that did a great job managing a crisis, most people (in Canada, anyway) say the name of one company: Maple Leaf Foods. I agree. They did a great job. But the real question is this...Why are there so few examples of excellent crisis management and so many instances of companies doing the wrong thing? The answer, in part, is human nature. That, and a lack of prep and planning.

Media training is the blind spot

Media training is the blind spot

Executives and entrepreneurs dedicate their lives to self improvement. They vie for the most prestigious schools. Many pursue post-graduate studies. They go on retreats, read books, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, do cleanses, meditate, do yoga, try intermittent fasting. They’re constantly on the lookout for a hack. An edge. Something that will make them smarter, more agile, better prepared, more successful.

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Dealing with a crisis? Don't make it worse.

When your company has to contend with a crisis, one of your top jobs is to not make it worse. But there are so many ways to make it worse. Long delays in getting back to the media. A lack of empathy in your response. Insincere or missing apologies. Conflicting messages from multiple spokespeople. The list goes on. Part of any sound crisis management strategy is having a plan in place and training your executives so they know what to do if something goes wrong.

They'll judge you not on the crisis, but on how you handle it...

Bad things happen. They can happen in any sector or industry. For the most part, the public will not judge your organization on the circumstances of your crisis. They are much more likely to judge you on the way you handle it.

Having your PR agency do your media training is a missed opportunity

You wouldn’t get the guys at the quick oil change place to install a new engine in your classic car. You wouldn’t go to your dentist for complicated dental surgery. I think you see where I’m going with this…

When companies let their PR or marketing agency facilitate their media interview training sessions, they’re taking the path of least resistance. They’ll say things like, “It’s included in our monthly retainer" or “We already have a relationship with them”.

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The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

Media interviews can be stressful. After all, there’s a lot on the line. And while no two people are exactly the same, as someone who helps coach people to do better media interviews for a living, I can tell you that there are some very common sources of interview anxiety. Here are the most common reasons people are stressed out about their media interviews (and some tips for minimizing that stress so that your interview goes well) and you can get that great coverage you’re hoping for:

Worry #1: They could ask me anything.

This is the biggest source of anxiety prior to an interview. Your mind starts racing with all the things they ‘might’ ask you and you spiral down a rabbit hole of terrible hypothetical topics. In reality, a media interview is a negotiated interaction. If it’s a proactive story you’re pitching, you know what the topic is. If it’s a reactive story where they’re calling you, the reporter should give you a clear overview of the focus of their story. Once you know the focus, it’s your job to craft some high-quality remarks that cater to that focus and tell an actual story that the reporter’s audience would find interesting. Could they go off script and ask you something totally out of the blue?

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The two worst characteristics for anyone doing a media interview

Being smart and being nice. Sound strange? Those are actually two of the worst characteristics to bring into your media interview. Now, I’m not saying don’t be smart and don’t be nice. But in this video, I talk a little bit about how these two conversational habits can hurt the effectiveness of your media interviews.

When is your media interview over?

When is your media interview over. That’s easy. It’s when they stop asking questions, right? Not so fast! There are a lot of things you can do or say after the last question that can derail your media relations plans. It’s never over until it’s really over. Here are a few things to consider on that note.

Why are people not doing practice interviews before speaking to the media?

One of the sad truths I’ve come to realize doing media training sessions in Canada and other countries is that the typical smart, career-minded professional will put WAY more work and preparation into a short, in-house presentation than they will for a media interview. I have my theories about why that is - namely, that they’re seeing it more as a conversation with the reporter than what it really is - an on-the-record interview that will be archived online forever.

I have this saying when it comes to media interviews, that ‘the first is the worst’. By definition, the first time you do it should logically be the worst. Most people do that first interview with a reporter though and they leave a lot of upside on the table. But what if you tried doing the first version of an interview with your in-house media relations person or with someone like me? Then you got some real, pull no punches feedback and tried it again. The second version of that interview will be significantly better than the first. Then, you do it with the reporter. The result is better media coverage.

You can't rewrite yesterday's headlines

You can't rewrite yesterday's headlines

Interview regret…

It’s that nagging feeling, right after you’ve given a media interview, that you didn’t quite nail it. That you could have done a better job.

If only I had answered that one question differently. Did I say ‘um’ too many times? Could they see that I was sweating? They’re not going to put that last thing I said in the story, are they? If they do, our competitors are going to have a field day with it. What’s my boss going to say?

Cue anxiety. Self doubt. Interview regret.

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The camera is always on...

Your media interview doesn't start when the reporter asks their first question. It starts the moment the phone rings, the moment you walk into their building or the moment they walk into yours.  And the interview isn't over when they say thank you and ask you how to spell your name. It's over when you've hung up the phone (and confirmed that you've hung up), when you leave their building and hear the door click behind you or when you see the journalist driving off into the distance... This unguarded, 'hot mic' moment of Sainsbury CEO Mike Coupe singing 'We're in the Money' is now part of his professional legacy. And it was totally preventable. 

Why you owe it to yourself to get proper media training this year

Why you owe it to yourself to get proper media training this year

Most companies and executives are obsessed with the idea of 'getting' media coverage. They send out news releases, pitch reporters, buy ads, create events/promotions and throw thousands of dollars at PR firms in the hopes of securing interviews. Far fewer, however, take the appropriate steps to prepare for the actual interview itself. The result....

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One of the biggest reasons people mess up their media interviews

It's the Achilles heel of way too many spokespeople. And it's completely preventable if you know what to do. The #1 reason why people underperform in media interviews is that they don't make the time to prepare in advance. You don't need a ton of time. Just 20-30 minutes. But for whatever reason, spokespeople seem to think they can improvise a media interview and have it go well.

Should we ask a journalist for a correction?

You did an interview with a journalist but you or someone at your company didn't like one of the quotes in the story or didn't like the way your company was characterized. Should you go back and ask for a correction? Here's my take on that question.

The Art of War in media relations

There's a line in The Art of War that says every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought. I really believe this is also true in media relations - a point that I expand on in this clip. I also give a real-life example of an interview I did a while back with The Canadian Press and how I put these techniques into practice (and how you can do it too).

Want the media to pay attention to you? Think more like a journalist!

"Is there any way to make your association's good news story more appealing to journalists?" Someone asked me this question after my talk on media relations at the CSAE National Conference in Newfoundland. Here's my take on getting reporters to pay attention to your media pitches... FYI, I reference my sister a few times in this clip. Just for context, so you know who I'm referring to, my sister is Carly Weeks, a health reporter at The Globe and Mail.

Advice to media relations pros: "Never stop learning"

The media landscape is always changing. When you think you've seen it all or when you think you're done learning, you'll be putting yourself and your clients in a vulnerable position. Keep learning. Pay attention to the changes from things like social media. Continue to adapt to the changing media environment.

Great key messages aren't enough

In less than 30 seconds, here are the two things that every great spokesperson brings to every single media interview! 

Great key messages (by themselves) are not enough. You need to have the skills to excel at the 'chess match' of the interview as well. You need to have both of these things firing on all cylinders.