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Don’t Talk To The Media Until…

July 13, 2015

Gerard Braud is a highly sought-after professional speaker and media trainer. He is the author of Don’t Talk to the Media Until…, which I have read cover-to-cover, and is a PHENOMENAL resource for anybody serious about getting media attention. Gerard is known as the guy to call when the **** hits the fan, and is an expert in crisis communications.
In this episode, Gerard explains why you should NEVER answer a journalist’s question directly.

Gerard defines a crisis as: anything that could harm the reputation or revenue of a business. Social media is amping up the risk of communications crises–you never know when a disgruntled customer will take to a Twitter rant.

The best time to get crisis communications training? Before the crisis happens!

Prepare for the worst: sit yourself down on a sunny day, and think about possible crises your business might face, and how to address them.

  • Look at sudden (e.g. a fire or tornado) and smouldering (e.g. inappropriate employee conduct; sexual harassment; embezzlement) risks to the reputation and revenue of your business.
  • You usually have more time to prepare for smouldering events, because you will often know about them before they go public. With sudden events, you will usually have to respond immediately.
  • Then, start writing generic template press releases for the scenarios you’ve identified. You can fill in the details later, but a template, written when you aren’t in crisis, will serve you in spades later. This should be a communiqué that you could send to the media, post on your website, or send to your employees in the event of a crisis.

The worst day to deal with a crisis? The day of a crisis.

Why you should never answer a journalist’s question with a direct answer:
When you directly answer questions, your answers lack CONTEXT
Then, it is easy to have your answer taken OUT of context

Avoid being taken out of context by preparing 3 preambles:

1. A general explanation of what your company does and how it benefits the world. E.g. At (company name) our goal is to (a big, audacious statement about how you make the world better)

2. State two contrasting truths and then provide your opinion. E.g. Maybe you think A, maybe you think Z, but what I think is ________________)

3. An empathetic-type pre-amble you’d use in a crisis. E.g. “Our hearts are heavy with news we have to share…”

Pro tip: when describing your company’s impact, use the word “you” to bring customers in emotionally. For example rather than saying “At company XYZ our mission is to provide gas for cars and oil to heat houses”, say “”At company XYZ our mission is to provide gas for your car and oil to heat your home”.

The way to get booked over and over? Do a good job in your interview. Do a good job by:

  • Getting media training
  • Practicing often (interviews aren’t like regular conversations. Practice is CRUCIAL to coming across as confident and natural.

Become irresistible to journalists by giving them what they need in every interview right away. Give them:

  • A headline
  • A synopsis sentence of the story
  • A pithy quote with essence of what you believe

Pro tip: set up your expertise on your own. Don’t leave it to the journalist! Give them the words you want them to use in the intro you send. Describe yourself as an expert and guru, and they might too!

Details are not a major component of good interviews. They are only there to prove your point. BUT if you can convert the details into an emotional story, they can have a major impact.

A tip for nonprofits:

  • Be careful not to mask your work under ambiguity and political correctness. Help people wrap their hearts around your message through concrete language.
  • Make sure to explain jargon such as “barriers to employment” by adding concrete examples right away.
  • Accessible, simple language will help you reach more people, and will include more people in your message

Pro tip: If your audience can’t understand what you do, they can’t hire you.

For more:
Watch the Fox & Friends clip about kidney donor ethics to hear a Braud-approved sound byte.

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