A guide forthe spokespersonDavid AlexanderUniversity College London
The public information officer:-Function: collect, verify anddisseminate information to particulargroups and the general public• the spokesperson should be a fullpart of the crisis response unit• he or she must work in normal situations,not merely in emergencies and disasters• the public has a right to informationon disasters and major emergencies.
Things that the mass mediaand the public want to know:-• What has happened?• Where and when?• Who is or was involved?• What caused this situation?• What is being done to put things right?.• Why did it happen now?
• What and how muchdamage has been caused?• What safety measures are being taken?• Whose fault is it and who is takingthe blame for what has happened?• What is being said to people whohave been injured or put in danger? .• Has anything similarhappened in the past?Things that the mass mediaand the public want to know:-
How the mass media can helpcivil protection authorities:-• give out information to the publicpublic on the pre-crisis situation• inform the population ofwarnings and other instructions• reassure the public.
• fight rumour• help the rescue effort• brief organisations and agencieswith new collected information• encourage help fromoutside the disaster area.How the mass media can helpcivil protection authorities:-
A spokesperson should:-• occupy a position of authority• have experience of dealingwith the mass media• come over as a person who isresponsible, calm and self-assured• be able to speak with maximumclarity and in a convincing way.
Five questions for a spokesperson:-1. how should I formulate....?- the content of messages- the most important thing to say2. who do I want to speak to?3. what is the most efficient wayto explain what I want to say?4. what is the most efficient way topresent my message to the users?5. What type of response to I want tohave from my listeners or viewers? .
Some rules of engagement with journalists:-• Do not give the names of dead and injuredbefore relatives have been informed.• Note responsibilities, but do not attributeblame prematurely. Tell people that theresults of enquiries will be ready asap.• Do not speculate, make conjectures,or giver personal opinions.• Tell the truth. You can admit to notknowing the answer to a question andcan offer to find out afterwards.
• Prepare a brief written communicationfor the journalists before speaking.• Do not give exclusive interviews. Thepress conference is for all journalists.• Be available so as not to give theimpression you are hiding something.• Stay calm.• Say if you are not authorised to respondto questions, and read the communiqué.Some rules of engagement with journalists:-
How to work well with the mass media:-• provide regular information updates• prepare pages of information and data• do not speak in jargon or withlanguage that is too technical• respect journalists deadlines• admit it if information isnot sufficiently reliable.• always be polite;avoid irony and humour
• reply to questions by journalistsas well as you can, but do notstray from your principal objective• do not pretend: if the questionis unclear, get it repeated• offer facts, not opinions• explain the context and therelevance of your message• record your pess conferenceor take notes on it.How to work well with the mass media:-
The press communiqué:-• ensure that the subject is sufficientlyinteresting to merit a communiqué• do not refuse to give a copy of thecommuniqué to any journalist who wants it:this could seem like favouritismor an attempt to hide something• offer the communiqué to journalists who(a) appear responsible and interested inthe matter, (b) are well connected tothe sectors of the general public thatyou want your message to reach.
• do not write more than 2 pages• use short paragraphs, do not use jargonand avoid (or define) technical terms• directly report what the authoritiesare saying and name your sources• in certain cases the communiquécan be accompanied by audio orvideo clips or by photographs.The press communiqué:-
The form of the press communiqué:-• date [hour] and place of issue• source of the communiqué andof the information it contains• brief resumé: who? what? where?when? to whom does it matter?how? ...and perhaps also: why? .
• the text (maximum two pages)• if it covers more than one page,indicate at the end of p. 1 thatthere is a continuation• description of attachments(if there are any)• an word such as “END” to indicatethe end of the communiqué.The form of the press communiqué:-
Information pages:-• to offer some facts that help youto explain the situation better• can be prepared in advance andreused on successive occasions• should offer data, statistics, facts,explanations of causes and mechanisms,things to do to avoid damage and injury.