What to Do When the Headline Is You

What to Do When the Headline Is You


It is every company’s worst PR nightmare: Imagine waking up to your company’s name slashed across the headlines. So, if this does happen to you, handle the situation delicately, it can either make you or break you.

Related: Thinking Like A Branding Rock Star

Media Training

While you may not need to interact with the media at present, you never know what the future may hold, or when you will have to answer to a reporter on camera. So, it is best to be media ready prior to that fateful day. There are a small number of professional reporters and media specialists who offer media training.

Training should consist of a theory segment, teaching you the art of communicating with the media and a tailored media messaging toolkit, as well as a practical segment, placing you in a simulated interview environment, providing you with close guidance and coaching through the interrogation process.

Media Exposure

I always tell my clients that the one thing that sets them apart from the most professional interviewees and regulars on CNBC and other business news channels is practice and experience.

The more time you spend in front of the camera, the more relaxed you will become in the spotlight, allowing you to focus less on your image, and more on the messages you want to reveal.

Your first few interviews are going to be like riding a bike without fairy wheels for the first time, so rather do them now, before you’re a media focus and everyone has their eyes on you.

Sasfin banner 2 embed

Crisis Communications

In a crisis, you want to be prepared, so cover your bases now. You should have a current roster of employees with all their after-hour contact details. Crises don’t adhere to work hours.

When a crisis takes place you need to put together a Crisis Communications Team that will decide on what actions need to take place.

The team should comprise of the CEO, the chief of Public Relations, the senior manager from the division in charge of the relevant department, the safety and/or security officer, the organisation Lawyer, and anyone else who might be able to shed some light on the situation. Then, the team then needs to decide on a spokesperson (someone who is media trained, calm under pressure, and someone the public can believe and trust).

Tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth!

Many times organisational lawyers get too involved, as it is their job to minimise costs and legal fees, however, it is better to tell the truth from the beginning, as we all know, the truth always comes out.

The foremost goal is to protect the integrity and reputation of the company, so never ignore the situation, lie or deny your involvement – rather be honest and responsible, by counteracting with a positive message.

If you don’t communicate immediately, you lose your greatest opportunity to control events. With the invasion of social media, the first word in cyberspace wins, so ensure that your clients are getting the truth from you, not hearsay via Twitter. Ensure that your social media platforms are up to date with a captive audience now; you want to ensure that you have followers in order to share the truth if a crisis hits.

Related: The Quick and Dirty on Marketing, Advertising and Branding

If, when the headline is you, you are honest, show integrity and a desire to correct the wrong, as well as illustrate a concern for the public, the loyalty of your customers and employees should be secured, and while not all media exposure is good exposure, handling a crisis correctly, can in fact be a positive media opportunity and put your business on the map.

Ashlea Harvey
Ashlea Harvey is a qualified media trainer and has a Masters degree in Media and Broadcasting from Lynn University in the USA. She was the Cape Town reporter for CNBC Africa and hosted the show, CNBC’s Eye on Western Cape. She has reported from The World Economic Forum, The Mining Indaba, The World Bank and the JSE. After graduating Summa Cum Laude, Ashlea went on to work at Al Jazeera and ABC News in the USA, as well as working in politics on Capitol Hill. Ashlea has interviewed some of the world’s most prominent business professionals as well as a range of South Africa’s top CEOs. Let Ashlea Harvey teach you the art of presentational tactics and how to give a killer interview.

Most Read