9 Rules of Media Relations Crisis Management

9 Rules of Media Relations Crisis Management

As the tragedy at the Sago mine in West Virginia unfolded on our televisions and front pages in January of 2006, I'm certain we all surprised how the story could have become such a terrific example of corporate media-relations bungling.

Perhaps I was in the minority thinking the bungling was terrific, but I'm in the media relations business – this mess was going to be a terrific teaching tool.

How did such utterly wrong "facts" get released? And why did International Coal Group, the company that owns the Sago mine, let the wrong story spread for three hours before admitting to the real facts – twelve miners were dead. There was only one survivor. Not twelve, as had been joyfully reported by broadcasters and news around the world.

There is one primary rule in media relationships – never let the story get away from you. International Coal Group violated that rule, and wounded up the poster child for corporate blundering. ICG will have "Sago mine disaster" inserted in every story about their company for years to come. The coal industry is not known for its safety record – now ICG has the dubious distinction of joining the "worst mining disasters" list.

Most business owners, large and small, will never face a media disaster of these epic proportions. They can, however, learn some valuable lessons by being aware of what can happen if you violate that one primary media relations rule – never let the story get away from you.

Every company should have a media plan – even if you will only end up talking to a community newspaper. Plans for any size company should follow these guidelines:

Be prepared

Tell the truth

Establish one point of contact

Tell the truth

Maintain your message – know what to say, and say only that

Tell the truth

Know what is, and is not, newsworthy

Tell the truth

Be aware of deadlines

One rule is so important, it's in there four times – no matter what you have to say, if it is not true, you'll be found out. It might be within three hours, like it was for ICG. It might be three weeks, three months – but you will be found out, and you'll have an accelerating disaster on your hands. Your business may not survive.

Tell the truth.

You should have a media plan in place before you speak to a community calendar newsletter, your local paper's business editor, a local radio or television reporter, or launch a product or service at a trade show. Having a plan in place gives you the confidence to speak your message, stay on track, and stay in control of your company's news.

In the fast-moving, 24-hour spin cycle that is today's news business, you do not want to get sucked down the drain – getting caught off guard if your company suddenly becomes newsworthy. If you're lucky enough to come up with that fresh take on the mousetrap that has the world, and the media, beating a path to your door, you do not want to answer the door in your underwear.

By being prepared with a media plan, developed by using the guidelines I've given you, you'll answer your door looking (and sounding) sharp, successful and newsworthy. And you'll enjoy your ride on the media train, instead of finding yourself ground under its wheels!



Source by Casey Quinlan

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