Facing a high-profile crisis could have serious ramifications for your company for years to come. When a crisis situation arises, you will need to act right away to put your crisis management plan into full swing. Form a response team in advance of such a potential future situation and conduct the proper crisis media training.

Here are 5 tips for training your response team effectively on how to prepare for interfacing with the media in crisis situations:

Tip #1: Mobilize your media crisis response effort as soon as the crisis arises: In the era of when traditional media like TV, radio and print dominated, negative publicity about companies spread like wildfire. In today's wired world of the Internet, viral videos and text messaging, such news literally spreads at light speed. With the ability to produce and spread news and gossip lying in the hands of the general public, it is imperative that your response team act swiftly to get out the right message about your position on the issue at hand. The history of PR is littered with companies who waited too long to respond credibly and promptly to a crisis situation and ended up paying the consequences with a damaged reputation and lost sales.

Tip #2: Understand first, respond second: It is important that your team not just fire off a knee-jerk response or quickly take an official position on a newly-released media story or viral campaign that portrays your company in a negative light. As any seasoned media veteran will tell you, perception equals reality. Stated another way, in the world of PR there is no distinction between perception and misperception. The way the public perceives a breaking story is precisely the reality that your message needs to address.

Tip #3: Get the facts: Just as it is when meeting new people, it holds true for crisis management that you only get one chance to make a first impression. The last thing you want to do when making media statements is to come across as unsure, nervous, or uninformed about the facts or about your official position on the situation. Instead, be sure to spend ample time separating the facts from the fiction about a developing crisis and how it is being spun in the media.

Tip #4: Master the art of the sound bite: Regardless of how well you control your message and choose your words in your public communications, the media will find ways to break it into sound bites that they can easily use in broadcasted news segments or quote in print. There are ways you can learn to effectively serve up these sound bites to the media so that you can better control the message that reaches the public. Remember, it is not what you say to the media but rather what they choose to report on that becomes the news. Master the art of creating effective sound bites in order to gain better control over how your message is received.

Tip #5: Practice media interviews in advance with a hands-on television crew: There is no better way to polish a skill than by actually doing it over and over again in a realistic setting. You cannot get any more realistic than actually hiring a professional television crew to interview you in preparation for a media statement. Sound like overkill? Think again. Imagine the confidence your spokesperson will feel after having rehearsed your media statement two or three times in front of an aggressive (mock) reporter while the cameras are rolling! By the time the actual media statement is made, your spokesperson will come across as cool, confident, and in control.

Preparing a crisis media training plan will significantly increase your organization's ability to position itself in the best-possible light. The control your organization has over your message all comes down to mobilizing your team quickly, understanding current public perception about the situation, separating fact from fiction, mastering the art of the sound bite, and rehearsing in a realistic setting.

anthonyBarnum is an Austin-based PR firm that has conducted crisis response training for international, U.S., and Texas-based clients. You can contact Melissa Anthony, founder of anthonyBarnum, by visiting: www.anthonybarnum.com
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