Crisis Communications For Leadership


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Media training has become mandatory for business executives and professionals. Take it from The New York Times: "The chances of an executive getting through his or her career without facing the press are growing slim indeed."
Do you want newspaper coverage that reflects what you\'ve actually said? Would you like TV stations to use your best quotes? Would you like to professionally and ethically promote your hospital using the power of the press? That\'s what Media Communications Training can do for you. You should learn how media people think, how you can approach TV and radio with a good solid news story, learn how to avoid being taken out of context and how to get your message across no matter what they ask!
Media training is also an excellent foundation for ALL types of communications skills. Client communications become more focused, more clear and consume less time when these same media training techniques are applied to the exam room.
And although many of us will not face a crisis in the media, it is good to know the basic steps to take when inquiring reporters with cameras are knocking on your door after a crisis has occurred.

This deck is the 25 Steps in Crisis Media Management

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Crisis Communications For Leadership

  1. 1. Communications Media and Crisis Dr. Jim Humphries Presented by:
  2. 2. The Keys Of Crisis Communications 1. Tell it all Tell it fast Tell the truth 2. Control The Flow of Information
  3. 3. The Perfect Answer: Q: _______________?? A: Positive Statement (or answer/deflect)  Bridge  Message Point 
  4. 4. In The Face of a Crisis.. Be The Voice Of Reason Calm The Public Don’t Speculate A Positive Action Step It WILL get sorted out!
  5. 5. In a communications crisis, an organization without a plan is like a blind man trying to feel his way out of a burning building!! In an image crisis, the worst case scenario is the one most likely to occur!
  6. 6. Examples of Crisis Scenarios: <ul><li>Your clinic sent a deceased pet to a crematory. The client called the crematory and found out you have marked up the cost to them by 30%. They are outraged and they call the media. </li></ul><ul><li>A Pit Bull has killed another child in a neighbor’s back yard. Reporters are on their way over to discuss banning the breed. </li></ul><ul><li>A veterinarian working at the humane society has been found to not have an active license. It hits the news and they are wanting an interview from you. </li></ul><ul><li>A dog was euthanized before a family could adopt it. </li></ul><ul><li>PETA is picking a pet store because of bad conditions. The veterinarian who helps the store is a good person and a friend of yours. Reporter is waiting in your front office. </li></ul><ul><li>Why is so much money being made on routine services at veterinary hospitals like selling insurance, vaccinations, grooming? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Examples of Crisis Scenarios: <ul><li>A cat with Bubonic Plague is brought to your hospital by the county animal control officials for care. The media finds out you have the case and are out front shooting pictures of your sign and hospital front. You agree to an interview and the reporter is telling the audience you have the Plague in your office and that it is very contagious. </li></ul><ul><li>Horse rescue foundation raises money to survive based on media attention for abused and neglected horses. The sheriff brings you a group of horses that have been severely neglected and the DA is bring a law suit against the owners. Your employee is out front giving an interview about the case, the DA is on the phone fighting mad! </li></ul><ul><li>A burning dog is thrown from a car on the freeway. The humane society brings you the dog for treatment. It is the lead story on the news. The phone rings non-stop and your office is impossible for a week. Phones jammed, media interviews, DA calling you to say stick with the talking points etc. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Examples of Crisis Scenarios: <ul><li>Doctor lives next to her hospital. It was after hours and all staff / technicians are gone. The doctor has had a few drinks. She is leaving her home. On her way to her car (husband driving) she is stopped by a lady with a dog (not her client) who is choking. The doctor decides not to see the client and referred them to the emergency clinic. Dog died before arriving. Client has gone to the press. </li></ul><ul><li>Complicating factors: </li></ul><ul><li>She told the client’s regular vet she had a few drinks </li></ul><ul><li>Emergency doctor and staff told client she should have seen the case </li></ul><ul><li>She wants to tell the press the whole story </li></ul><ul><li>Doctor treats an injury case. Suspects it is animal abuse and perhaps the abuse extends to the spouse. Doctor reports case to the authorities and it makes the 6 PM News. Media wants to interview Doctor about the link of abuse. What do you do? </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Dog was anesthetized for a career day event, then later euthanized. Parents objected and contacted media. You are contacted to do an interview about the case. </li></ul><ul><li>Your national meeting in underway and someone blogs to local media that animals are being put to sleep in your hands-on labs in the hotel. Media calls, hotel manager is calling. </li></ul><ul><li>Chimp Kills Owners Friend </li></ul><ul><li>Proposition 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Mrs. Pickens pulls gift and makes headlines stating horrible things happen to animals in veterinary schools. </li></ul><ul><li>Mandatory Spay and Neuter Legislation </li></ul><ul><li>Banning Ear Cropping </li></ul>
  10. 10. 25 Steps for Handling a Media Crisis:
  11. 11. <ul><li>Bring the situation </li></ul><ul><li>under control </li></ul><ul><li>Protect people and pets and property. Stop the crisis / damage / danger. </li></ul>
  12. 12. 2. Is it newsworthy? The issue may settle in a few days or weeks. While it may seem like a crisis to you (because it’s personal, or emotional)… you do not want give “life” to an issue that has short media legs.
  13. 13. 3. Assess the need for your immediate response If the issue is a small flash in the pan, it’s best not to make a statement for 24-48 hours and see how quickly it goes away. May dramatically decrease your response and need for damage control.
  14. 14. 4. Gather all the facts Don’t speculate. Crisis communications is a time for delivery of facts, not assumptions. Anything you say, you may have to return to defend or explain, and you are under the microscope.
  15. 15. 5. Put public interest ahead of yours Decide on your main message. Do the right thing. You will have to live with what you do here.
  16. 16. 6. Develop a list of message points Short, to the point, statements that cut to the heart of the issue. Include the “hot seat” questions. Get everyone to approve. Practice them many times.
  17. 17. 7. Assign a spokesperson Confirm or change your pre-assigned spokesperson, back up and technical support persons. Remind them that money estimates, insurance coverages, speculation and placing blame are not to be discussed. Nothing is “off the record”.
  18. 18. <ul><li>Unless the reporter has agreed in advance, </li></ul><ul><li>whatever you say is fair game. </li></ul><ul><li>Just because you say something is off the record, doesn’t mean that reporter can’t bring it up with someone else and get it on the record. </li></ul><ul><li>In going “off the record” you are really asking the reporter not to do their job. </li></ul><ul><li>In government or public agencies everything is public record and it is actually illegal for information to be off the record. </li></ul><ul><li>BottomLine: Never expect anything you say around a reporter not to hit the press. </li></ul>A Word About “ Off The Record”
  19. 19. 8. Establish a phone message Establish the message and have operators strictly adhere to it – no ad-libing! “ We’ve just learned of the situation and we are gathering all the facts now. We will have more information later. “ We are working hard to bring the situation under control now so we can’t speculate on that…We will have more information later today.”
  20. 20. 9. Write a press release with only basic facts In this initial communication, show concern for the public and your employees. Make sure an audience is left with an impression of concern and compassion.
  21. 21. 10. Share the situation with employees If employees don’t feel like insiders, they will act like outsiders. That can cause you to lose control of the information flow.
  22. 22. 11. Rehearse all media message points This is essential and must be done. Your spokesperson team must get in a quiet place and practice. Role-play and coach. Practice staying on message. All expected difficult questions should be rehearsed many times and asked in different ways. Practice bridging to positive points. Do not skip this vital rehearsal!!
  23. 23. 12. Give the media all the information you can Give them the bad news too. This allows you to be in control of the release of bad news. In a crisis, you always attempt to control the flow of information. Be confident, tough and prepared.
  24. 24. 13. Be honest confident, sincere Tell the media you are being honest and you have nothing to hide. Tell them you have corrected the situation and are taking all proper steps. When you have done the right thing, you come across as honest and sincere. Do not volunteer information and stay with message points.
  25. 25. 14. Be prepared to answer ALL hot seat questions Answer them, then bridge to a positive position. Don’t get caught in a Q&A session because all of the questions will be about the crisis. Direct them to the good news. Now is the time to tell the press about the positive aspects of what you do and what you will do to prevent this from happening again.
  26. 26. 15. Be compassionate More image and impression than fact is delivered in the media. Therefore always be compassionate, understanding, honest, hold your head high and deliver your position.
  27. 27. <ul><li>More image and impression than fact is delivered in the media. </li></ul>
  28. 28. 16. Perform some act of goodwill If it is not too contrived, do something good for the community either during or immediately after a crisis. This takes the “sting” out of bad press and proves you have gone the extra mile to help the situation.
  29. 29. 17. Follow-up on all information you promised Make sure the media receives any promised detailed information as quickly as possible. Correct any problems with those affected by the crisis and do whatever is required to restore your reputation and public confidence.
  30. 30. 18. Change! Actively correct problems . Do something different in an effort to forestall this happening again. Revise your communications plan based on what you learn.
  31. 31. 19. Never Wing It! Winging an interview, much less a crisis situation, is asking for a much bigger disaster. No one speaks in controlled message point sound bites, therefore things will be said that will cause further investigation and probing . Especially in a crisis, stick with your plan and never wing it.
  32. 32. 20. Do not get into confrontations If you feel yourself getting mad, don’t. Force yourself to calm down and go into “message point robot mode”. Your job is to deliver pre-arranged positions and show compassion, humility and honesty.
  33. 33. 21. Stay with the issue at hand It is easy, especially with issues where you are personally involved, or where there is a great deal of emotion, to feel the need to say too much, explain details, give background information or try to win the reporters over to your side. Just stay on message and with the subject at hand and then leave. (time limit, a place to go)
  34. 34. 22. Never look surprised by a question You may be caught by surprise by a reporter’s question. You should never LOOK like you are surprised. Your sure-fire “out” is to say “I don’t know, but I can get you an answer by this afternoon”. Makes you look human, real and honest.
  35. 35. 23. Don’t speculate on “ What If” questions “ What If” questions are the tool the media uses to get you to speculate. Speculation can be reported as fact. Speculation can end up on the headlines. Military spokespersons now simply say “We don’t answer “what if” questions – NEXT!
  36. 36. 24. Always Bridge! This is your safety net and the way you control a potentially bad situation. Learn how to answer and or deflect then get to something you DO want to talk about . Practice these!
  37. 37. 25. Dress conservatively and professionally Look neat, conservative and trustworthy because on television your physical image is more than half your message! (80%?) More image and impression than fact is delivered in the media.
  38. 38. Why Is Vet Care So Expensive?: <ul><li>A reporter has had a recent case with her dog. She was shocked at the cost of the one week stay and diagnostic tests. She is now on a mission to expose veterinarians for being a little too money focused. You have agreed to do the interview for the State Association: </li></ul><ul><li>Questions: </li></ul><ul><li>Why is vet care so expensive? </li></ul><ul><li>What can pet owners do to decrease the costs? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any alternatives we should know about? </li></ul><ul><li>Why do they run all these tests? </li></ul><ul><li>Why don’t you have insurance? </li></ul><ul><li>Why don’t I know about it? </li></ul><ul><li>What has changed? </li></ul><ul><li>How do I know all that was done is necessary? </li></ul><ul><li>I found a mistake and the vet won’t correct it! </li></ul><ul><li>How much do vets make? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of services can I refuse? </li></ul><ul><li>What is happening in your profession about fees? Control or raise? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I save money with these Internet pharmacies? </li></ul><ul><li>How else can I save money? </li></ul>
  39. 39. Q: How much money do you make? A: (Sometimes you just can’t answer) It is our hospital policy not to talk about matters of finance, insurance or security…. (bridge) but what I CAN tell you is.. (key message point) Veterinarians make a comfortable living and we are proud of the service we offer for both our clients and the community. We’ve made a substantial personal investment in this hospital and we are proud to be a valuable part of our area’s public health. (bridge AGAIN) I can also tell you that today, these animals are being taken care of because of the time and dedication of our staff and volunteers.
  40. 40. The New Media Model: A national network of specialty news contributors who belong to an organization that organizes, empowers, equips and motivates these “reporters” to appear in local news outlets and other new media communications media.
  41. 41. Reporter “Add-On” Questions: <ul><li>After an interview a reporter can throw in some good ones. </li></ul><ul><li>Questions: </li></ul><ul><li>What would you do as a client in a situation like this? (putting an animal to sleep) </li></ul><ul><li>Do you think we have become too attached to our pets? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you ever mis-diagnosed a case and the animal died? </li></ul><ul><li>Where do we draw the line on what we will do when an animal gets sick? How do we know where to stop? </li></ul><ul><li>Are people obsessed with their pets? Why? </li></ul><ul><li>How has veterinary medicine advanced through the years? (there are so many, it is good to have a list ready in your head) </li></ul><ul><li>People really are guardians – not owners – right? (three categories, people, property and pets) </li></ul><ul><li>For years you have promoted the deep emotional bond we have with our pets, but now that economic damages are involved you see to be back tracking and setting severe limits. Do you see the irony in that? </li></ul><ul><li>Do pets go to heaven when they die? </li></ul><ul><li>Can dogs get Mad Cow Disease? </li></ul>
  42. 42. Standards for Confining Farm Animals Media Questions: <ul><li>Why are you concerned about a CA proposal here in NE? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you explain what is Prop 2? </li></ul><ul><li>What is good about it? How will it affect cattle? </li></ul><ul><li>What in this type of legislation do you oppose? </li></ul><ul><li>Why would you oppose efforts to help animals? </li></ul><ul><li>Would this type of initiative affect veterinarians income? </li></ul><ul><li>Such initiatives call for an animal to: lie down, stand up, full extent limbs and turn around freely. What is so wrong with that?? </li></ul><ul><li>Shouldn’t we be looking for new ways to improve the lives of farm animals? </li></ul><ul><li>Why aren’t veterinarians involved more in the development of such initiatives? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we have good production systems for food supply and still have humane environments for the animals? </li></ul><ul><li>Should both those who regulate and veterinarians should be involved in any such regulation? </li></ul>Nebraska VMA Workshop
  43. 43. <ul><li>Well intentioned – but flawed in many ways </li></ul><ul><li>Unintentional negative consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Language unclear </li></ul><ul><li>Behavioral but not scientific </li></ul><ul><li>Science tempered with compassion </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the animals other needs </li></ul><ul><li>Overall welfare </li></ul><ul><li>Legal definitions are not scientifically sound </li></ul><ul><li>Always look for opportunities to improve </li></ul><ul><li>Science based solutions involve veterinarians </li></ul><ul><li>Chicken based rules do not apply to beef and pork </li></ul><ul><li>CA rules doubles the cost… </li></ul><ul><li>Could drive industries from our state… </li></ul><ul><li>Hence we’d buy products from other states or countries where the rules apply to no one. </li></ul><ul><li>Hard to argue agains “humane” initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Full of ambiguities and bad far-reaching consequences </li></ul>Key Phrases:
  44. 44. Special Thanks To: And:
  45. 45. Contact Information: Dr. Jim Humphries [email_address] 719-495-2100