If you’ve been invited to do a media interview while you’re trying to manage a crisis, you may be well be asked to make promises. How you handle these important guarantee questions can have a huge impact on your reputation and future success.
Let’s say your company has had a significant data breach. It’s made the news and your customers are starting to call, worried about what has happened to their information. You also get a call from the local news to have an interview.
Your strategy is to reassure your clients and show that you have put in the appropriate measures to save their data and keep it safe. The interviewer asks whether you can guarantee that this kind of breach won’t occur again in your business.
You want to be reassuring and answer with a certain strength. But can you really say another breach won’t occur? What happens to your reputation if it does? You are making a guarantee which your business may well never be able to deliver on.
On the other hand, if you say that you can’t be sure another breach will happen, however many safeguards you put in, what message does that send to the wider world? Will you start to lose customers or clients because they don’t think you can safeguard their data? Is the fact that you can’t guarantee likely to become the headline rather than the measures you have already put in?
Avoiding Negative Headlines
In most cases, guarantee questions can only lead to negative headlines, either immediately because you can’t promise or at a later date when something else goes wrong with your business.
The trick here is to try and avoid answering the question, at least in the way that the interviewer is trying to frame it. This might seem like a hazardous course, but you need to focus on the things that you can guarantee rather than the ones you can’t.
For example, you might like to say that you can guarantee you have the best team on the problem and they working-hard to ensure future breaches or problems won’t occur. That’s a little way off from a formal guarantee but closer to answering the question than refusing to promise at all.
You may say that you are investigating the cause of your crisis and that you will learn from the mistakes that have been made. Perhaps you can introduce some extra training for staff, or you are going to review your current policies.
Of course, a lot will depend on the type of crisis you are trying to manage. The key is to anticipate that this question of guarantees might be asked, and you need to be prepared for it. This way you are not fully committing your business to the guarantee and, at the same time, not entirely avoiding the question. The reporter may well try to push you, especially if it is a serious crisis that has got national attention and it can be tricky to stick to the same line but that’s exactly what you must do.