PR pros: When not to talk to the media

Silence is golden, especially when you don’t have a crisis plan or when talking about a crisis will just make it worse.

Imagine you’re having a casual evening at home, enjoying cocktails and a documentary you’ve wanted a long time to see. Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s the vice president of your company, who sighs and asks you to turn on the news.

Your company’s president is involved in a major scandal, one that’s breaking at this very moment. You gather everyone at the office to discuss what to do next.

One of the most pressing questions is whether to talk to the media. So far, everyone—including the president—has avoided reporters. But someone will have to talk eventually. What do you do?

Is there ever a time you should not talk to the media? Here are two:

There is no plan

One of the worst times to talk the media is if your company doesn’t have a plan. To fully tackle any major controversy, you should always regroup and consider all your options.

All it takes is one slip-up for the media to come after you. Remember the BP oil spill? CEO Tony Hayward went on TV to try to ease everyone’s minds and answer questions regarding the company’s future. Unfortunately, his PR team didn’t seem to have a plan, or at least failed to coach him properly. As a result, he made the situation worse.

Without a focused plan, you risk causing a bigger mess. Regroup, put your heads together, and figure out what you want to say before anyone says anything.

It will make the situation worse

In most situations, you want the public to know your company is trying to solve the crisis. To do this, a representative of the company typically gives a statement or answers questions on TV.

However, this is not a good idea in certain situations. Sometimes the controversy is too extreme to talk about. In these cases, it’s more about what you do than what you say.

If someone found your president with a dead body, for example, you wouldn’t want to go on air and defend him. Whether or not the company lets him go sends a bigger statement than talking to a reporter. There is nothing anyone from the company could say that would smooth things over with the public.

At most, announce what the company intends to do about the situation, and let the controversy die down. In cases like these, it’s best to separate your president and the company. This way, people are less inclined to associate the two together.

Can you think of other times when a company shouldn’t talk to a reporter?

Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases and blogs at PR Fuel, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Topics: PR

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