Maybe you have worded something awkwardly, and people have interpreted it differently than you originally intended. Maybe something you have said or done has been taken out of context. These news stories can happen suddenly, and spread quickly, thanks in part to social media.
If you’re on the receiving end of a damaging media storm, your instinct may be to panic. But what you need to do is take a moment as panic can cause you to make the wrong decisions – potentially making the situation even worse.
Media Training is Essential
It’s important to take a moment to breathe, and to think strategically about how to handle it. Strategies on dealing with the press are what we excel at in our media training courses, to ensure you or your entire team knows what to do in every media situation contact us for a discussion on your training needs and we will create something bespoke for you.
In the meantime, here are a few ways you can stop yourself, or others, from making an awkward media situation worse than it needs to be:
Don’t say something if you don’t want it published
It can be difficult to remember when speaking to a journalist that everything you say can be reported. In our most relaxed moments, it can be easy to say something that could later be misinterpreted. Of course, we don’t want to be paranoid, but it’s always important to bear that in mind. If a journalist says something is ‘off-the-record’, don’t think that it’s legally binding – it’s a vague term that doesn’t really mean anything concrete.
Don’t deny it
Before you go into denial about having said something, make 100% sure that you are correct in that assertion. If a recording later emerges of you having said or done the very thing you denied, it can make the situation much worse. If possible, ask to see the recording and watch or listen to it yourself before forming a response.
Break the news yourself
One thing you can do in the age of social media is to address the situation yourself before the story is published. This can be a scary thing to do, but it will show people that you value authenticity and transparency above all else. This can give you a little bit of control back.
Don’t give a knee-jerk reaction
It’s tempting to say, ‘my words have been taken out of context’. If possible, avoid using that phrase. It might well be true, but many people see that as an excuse, and won’t be sympathetic about it.
If you need to make a statement regarding the story, consider it carefully before responding, and if possible, sit down to write it with someone you trust (or consider turning to a professional who has experience in PR crisis management if you feel unsure).
Know when to take action
If you have been misquoted, but it doesn’t present a huge problem, it’s best to let it go. Yes, they may print a correction, but these are typically very small and often tucked away where people can’t easily see them. If you overreact to a misquote, it can cause more damage in the long run.
However, if you do feel that the misquote is damaging to your business or reputation, get in touch with the publication and let them know. You may be able to work out how it can be fixed.