A huge part of my practice is media training for executives who are planning for a crisis, or crisis communications. Typically we establish a scenario, say, there was an explosion at a factory 1 hour ago and 3 employees are injured and one is missing. I then ask the trainees to brainstorm on message points, that is, the things they would plan on saying to reporters at a mock press conference in the next 15 minutes.
Invariably, someone will say “One of our message points is that ‘Safety is our number 1 priority’ so we should say that now as well.” And everyone else in the room will nod in agreement.
There’s only one little problem with trying to use this as a media message immediately after a crisis: most reporters will think your message is complete BS and will not use that message in their story.
There are 2 main issues with using the ‘safety is our number 1 priority’ message immediately after a crisis has hit: 1. it just doesn’t seem relevant. and 2. It’s not true.
I don’t mean to suggest that my clients don’t give a great deal of importance to safety. But if you are producing oil or gas or some other potentially hazardous chemical, you can’t literally claim that safety is your number one priority. If safety were your number one priority, then you’d be sitting at home under the covers and advising everyone else to do the same.
The problems with relevancy are that some employees have just been injured, so everyone is, by definition, not safe.
My advice to organizations that are preparing messages in the immediate aftermath of a crisis is to focus on the following three messages:
- Here are the immediate actions we are taking to stop the problem…
- We have reached out to the following organizations (ex local, state, federal police/fire officials) and are working closely with them to solve the problem.
- We extend sympathies to our employees who have been injured and their families.
All of these messages will be seen by the media and the public as relevant and appropriate and will allow the organization to be positioned in a positive, pro-active way, not in a negative or defensive position.
If your organization would like to schedule crisis communications training, please call Media Training Worldwide at +1.212.764.4955