Making a Statement

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    How you communicate is just as important as what’s actually said

    Many business execs think of written statements as powerful tools, tools that satisfy reporters and the public while quelling any questioning or doubt. The rest of the world…not so much. In an article for his website, Mr. Media Training, Brad Phillips composed a solid list of reasons why you should not use written statements as your primary communication method:

    1. They Don’t Make You the “Go-To” Source: One of the most important things in the early hours of a crisis is to establish your company or organization as the primary source for information. If reporters believe they can get the relevant facts of the story directly from you in a timely and transparent manner, they will have less incentive to seek out alternative sources.

    2. They Make You Look Guilty: A written statement too often looks like the Fifth Amendment – an obstruction guilty parties hide behind when they want to avoid saying something self-incriminating. Sources that communicate openly are usually treated better by reporters than those who refuse to talk or speak only through the written word.

    3. Reporters Hate Them: Reporters want the opportunity to ask questions, clarify points, and pursue their own angles. Sources that don’t speak to reporters often suffer more hostile coverage.

    These are three HUGE negatives that combine to make battling a crisis much harder than it would be had you simply spoken in person with reporters. Throwing a new wrench in this theory is the ongoing infatuation with social media. Are these new media platforms responsive and pervasive enough to act as a primary communication tools, or should they be relegated to the role of support? What do you think?

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]