You may have seen us write about crisis communications lately and the importance of building a preventative culture – that is, being prepared to respond to a crisis situation without harming company reputation and thus avoid the risk of becoming another NewsCorp. One important (although seemingly small) step of being well-prepared is knowing how to communicate well during breaking news that affects your company and subsequent handling of enquiries from the media. This post brings to you some key steps to think about when creating news/press releases and more generally handling questions from the media.
Many communicators’ tendency will be to immediately think about the channels through which to release the news, but there are some pre-steps to consider before distributing the information.
Firstly, before even thinking through how to write the release, decide if the event is worthy of a news release or if you should communicate about it in some other way. Consider these questions:
- Would my company’s brand/reputation suffer if I don’t put out a news release?
- Would there be legal implications? (i.e. might we be accused of a cover up if there is no official statement?)
- Can we stay ahead of the story and limit damage by being proactive in offering information?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is best to issue a formal news release.
Secondly, once you have determined that issuing a release is the way to go (and odds are in most cases, the answer will be yes), think through what it should contain. Aside from the more obvious tips of having a catchy title or avoiding typos and grammar mistakes, there are three key steps you always need to consider and think through before you even begin to write your news release: context, format, and content.
1. Context: this means having a strong general awareness of how you are perceived in the major media channels in the geographies you operate in/care about/are affected by the story. Who are the major media players you need to worry about? How do they view your company – as the big, bad wolf or as an ethical and responsible contributor in their country’s market?
- How CEC can help: Check out Monsanto’s integrated stakeholder listening system to monitor how you are being perceived in the different markets and media outlets. Also compare media monitoring providers to find what is best for your needs.
2. Format: think about which format(s) are best for your news release. Should you have just a written statement? A written statement and clip/comment on your website? And is it necessary to also hold a press conference? (Press conferences raise the profile of the story, so consider having one if there are serious questions you are being asked that you need to address). Think about the degree of severity of the news and the level of complexity of questions that it will raise as a result. Also consider how you might need to tweak the format of the clip/release for sharing through social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
3. Content: finally, also carefully consider what actually goes on the news release. Make sure your language is factual, concise, direct, and unambiguous (unless the story is fast-evolving and you are releasing information as the situation unfolds). The best press release is short and contains all the facts your audience would want to know.
- How the CEC can help: Check out these 7 techniques for writing in a more engaging way.
While these may seem like common-sense tips, it is easy to lose sight when an event occurs and you need to scramble to quickly send out a message. Don’t forget to step back for a moment and think through the implications and potential impact of that event across markets that you operate in.
On a final note, it is important to also have clear escalation protocols for breaking news, as not everyone on your team will be in a position to handle these communications on their own. Share this framework for central/local partnerships with your teams to ensure that everyone is clear on how to coordinate news communications. What other techniques and tips have you discovered to be helpful in handling news releases and media queries? Please share through the comments field below.
CEC Related Resources:
- How to Build a Leading Online Newsroom (Press Releases, p.25)
- Write in a More Engaging Way
- Media Monitoring System Providers
- Monstanto’s Stakeholder-Centric Monitoring System
CEC Related Blogs: