In stressful moments, Ansell said, people tend to hold their breath, stop listening, feverishly ask how to answer the question and fall into every reporter trap. It often becomes an out-of-body experience.
What can a shop do if it finds itself dealing with bad or controversial news and its reputation is in peril? Ansell said it’s often helpful to tell a story.
“If you’re not there, others are going to tell it for you,” he observed. “How we come across in front of the media is critically important and clearly impacts how our story will be told.”
This involves being responsive to the questions asked, knowing how to answer them properly and then telling the story. However, if a shop plans to do multiple interviews, he recommended not telling the same story the exact same way with the same words every time.
The communications expert also suggested invoking what he called the “value compass,” which can be a valuable tool when the trust in an organization is threatened. This involves looking at the stakeholders’ emotions, asking what would enhance the well-being of the people directly affected, identifying the elements of the spokesperson’s nature and touching on the spokesperson’s standards.
“The value compass is the collection of words we would use to describe how we want and need our stakeholders to see us and perceive us when we find ourselves mired in the blinding glare of the media spotlight,” explained Ansell.
In a bad news situation, he stressed the importance of showing the business spokesperson is upset, genuine, honest, emphatic and trustworthy.
“When bad news happens, show you are among the most disturbed, aggrieved and outraged by what has happened,” Ansell advised. “The idea is to take every question asked, every answer given, the message delivered, and every policy, process and procedure talked about and filter it through the value compass, sentence-by-sentence, action-by-action.”
In addition to telling a story, Ansell also stressed the importance of creating messages for the media to report. He said to use simple language and short sentences that are focused, compelling and quotable.