In order to be proactive in handling a potential media crisis, you should have a defensive public-relations strategy and it should start with how to handle incoming media calls.
A media caller who is looking to see if there is any merit to a claim can usually make a determination by the reaction of the first phone call.
By being prepared and creating a procedure, you can avoid a media headache.
Create a point of contact to handle media inquiries and a media-inquiry sheet for the staff.
Everyone should follow these simple media instructions, which should be placed near the phone. Use the sample below as a guide for your nonprofit.
Instructions for responding to media inquiries received via phone, email or in person.
* Get the media caller’s name, affiliation and contact information. Put all media inquiries through to [insert designated point of contact – usually the communications director or public-relations consultant or agency].
* If the designated point of contact is not available, take down the caller’s name, affiliation, contact information, deadline and the nature of their inquiry.
* Let them know the designated contact person will get back to them as soon as possible, and immediately notify the contact person.
* If the caller asks for a specific person other than the designated point of contact, or starts to ask you questions, state the organization’s media policy (example below) and put the inquiry through to the designated point of contact.
* Sample media policy: It is the policy of [insert organization name] to direct all media inquires through to [insert designated point of contact]. This individual will help you with your questions.
* Designated point of contact’s response to media: If you are the designated point of contact and are caught off guard by a media caller’s inquiry or need more time to answer, follow these steps.
Politely say something like “I’m right in the middle of something, can I get back to you?” Find out the media caller’s deadline and assure you will get back to them in plenty
Quickly do an Internet search on your organization to see what, if anything, is being said. If you find something create some talking points.
Make sure all information on your organization is current.
* Research media caller and affiliate.
* Contact media caller and answer questions.
Should questioning become in-depth it is acceptable to tell the caller you will need to get additional information and get back to them before their deadline.
By putting a few simple media procedures in place, your organization could prevent a potential crisis situation – as well as a headache that could last many hours, day or even week).
Michele Savoldi is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Columbus, Ohio and an Affiliate with Shoestring Creative Group (www.shoestringgroup.com/MicheleSavoldi).