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When in Doubt: Always Have a Media Plan

When in Doubt: Always Have a Media Plan

Boeing streaked through the news recently when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against them. The complaint was that Boeing allegedly retaliated against union members by relocating a plant to South Carolina. The NLRB based its retaliation complaint on an statement an executive told the Seattle Times in reference to relocating the plant, “we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years.” Boeing fired back stating that the NLRB misquoted and mischaracterized the statement.

Many feel the NLRB’s complaint is unprecedented and over-reaching. While others feel the NLRB is on target with its complaint. Whether it’s the window or aisle seat you choose concerning the NLRB and its actions there is a lesson to be learned in this situation. When in doubt, always have a media plan.

Depending on how you handle the media during a controversy will determine your business’ success in getting through the turbulence. Not having an effective media plan can lead to disaster much like what BP faced with the oil spill crisis. Long-term public negative perceptions can impact the ability to compete for customers, talent and obtain workplace productivity.

Here are ten tips in developing a media plan.

1)    Adjust your lenses: If you treat the media like the enemy your chances of being portrayed positively in public are slim.  Like it or not, the media has a role to play.

2)    Embrace it: This is your opportunity to get your story out. A “no comment” is a comment. Or “XYZ Company can’t be reached for comment” sets the speculation winds to gust about. If you leave the media, and more importantly the public, to speculate often the perception becomes negative. The last thing a company needs is to be accused of hiding something when they are not.

3)    Designate a single contact: Designate a single contact point within your organization that will be the spokesperson. This will ensure that the representation of your company is consistent.

4)    Take the initiative: At the onset of a crisis consider creating a press release or call the media and commit to keeping them in the loop as the issue progresses. A note on press releases: In my experience concerning an union disruption, I’ve seen newspaper reporters just go with the first press release that come in and not always call the company to get their side of the story.  Insist on getting your side of the story out and crafting a press release or article of your own is a good way to stop one-sided reporting.

5)    Anticipate: The minute a crisis or controversy occurs anticipate the media will call. In advance of their inevitable calls, brainstorm all possible questions that might be asked. Think through your potential answers. Ideally this step is not to be read like a script, but instead a way to prevent you from being caught off guard with wayward questions.

6)    Be direct: Keep your answers and statements concise. The longer the statement the more room for misquotations.  Make your most important point the first part of the statement you utter to a reporter. If you don’t know the answer to the question, then the answer is “I don’t know." This is opposed to speculating on something that might not be factual on the record.

7)    Stay on point: Don’t get distracted and drift onto other unrelated topics while being interviewed. Those who drift off onto other topics run the risk of seeing unfortunate quotes show up in the newspaper or news.

8)    Facts and legal: Verify, verify, verify. To maintain your credibility in the public eye, be sure you have your facts straight. Get legal counsel to review your prospective answers as well. Because it is most certain your public comments can, and will, be used against you down the road.

9)    Take the high road: Rise above the temptation to whip out defensive remarks.  Those negative remarks rarely translate well in the public and will yield negative perceptions of your company.

10) People first: A good way to start and end any media strategy is to remember the people who are involved in the crisis. Speak from the heart and your commitment to keep people safe and well throughout the controversy or crisis.

Once your media plan is complete educate your leadership team. This will ensure everyone internally is on the same page.  Ultimately there is no controlling the media. But having a plan in advance of encounter will yield better results.

What have been your media experiences?

Subscribe to HR C-Suite and follow the "When in Doubt" series the first Wednesday of every month.

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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

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