Media Relations – your key to passing crisis 101

imageCrisis 101. Regrettably that’s as far as even the most advanced communications professional in the Caribbean gets. Possibly it can be considered fortunate to learn about crisis management only in the classroom but that fortune quickly runs out when your company is thrown under public scrutiny for an accident or incident.

Two years post the Caribbean Airlines (CAL) emergency landing (insert link), few of sour companies have upped their crisis response game to meet the demands of today’s instant news cycle. CAL was “lucky” the first pics came from staff (via blackberry messenger) and the emergency landing offered up none of the now much sort after bad news type images of fatalities or dead wildlife.

In fact, during their now barely remembered “crisis” the airline earned some PR kudos by being upfront with facts, response plans and ways lessons learned would be implemented.

Today, few companies would be so lucky. CAL had a pre existing social media voice and they beat the news cycle by using same to reach the public. Is your company so prepared?

If not, at least we hope that you are at least where I was media relations wise six years ago when I handled the response to Trinidad’s largest construction accident. I may not have had a social media strategy or a defined crisis communications strategy but back then at least I had a media relations strategy that worked well.

At that time, as I am now, I was/am pretty aggressive about keeping media contact listings up to date. By media contact listings I also do not simply mean the main lines at each media house – I mean I had a listing of people in the media most likely to take my call and be ready to record an interview with short notice. This listing was not, at that time, a list of the “jefes” either. I believe many times you can be very successful knowing those climbing the ranks in the media as opposed to simply knowing the editors.

I chose my words carefully there. I said KNOW. You can’t wait for a crisis to meet the media. Six years ago I had no cushy budget or fancy annual media luncheons, I had crisis training 101- the knowledge and ability to get to know the people who were important in my field who could help if I needed it. Sounds like networking skills? To a certain extent, that’s the basics of media relations. Getting to know people. Knowing their names, their beat, their career goals and H E double hockey sticks, getting to know their mobile numbers.

Knowing the media is crisis preparedness 101. Understanding the importance of who will be covering your story in the event of a crisis is as important as knowing the facts of your story.

Hopefully you’ve taken that step towards being prepared in a crisis. The basic step of getting to know and understand the reporters who will either help or hurt you in a time of crisis.

 

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