Press Conference Tips: Responding in a Crisis

Crisis Whisperer Press Conference TipsWhether you are a communications pro or an expert called upon to provide insight to the situation, these tips will help you represent your organization (and yourself) in the best possible light.

1.  Prepare

  • Pre-identify spokespersons for every shift
  • Require annual media relations training for identified spokespersons and set expectations for all employees about being contacted by or speaking with the media
  • Have pre-determined primary and backup areas for a press conference and make certain the backdrop is branded

2.  Before the Press Conference

  • Assume every microphone is hot and every camera is live ALWAYS
  • Spokespersons should meet away from microphones and cameras to prep (e.g., determine speaking order, ask questions about the press conference, etc.)
  • Conduct yourself in a manner reflective of the situation (e.g., laughing or joking in a tragic situation are perceived as inappropriate behavior and could reflect poorly upon you and your organization)
  • Give your name, title, area of expertise (or scope of your comments) and contact information to reporters
  • Set expectations with the reporters, e.g., are you just making a statement or will you take questions, how long will you field questions, etc.

3.  During the Press Conference

  • Watch your body language; you want to present an authoritative figure (be mindful of nervous tics like hair flipping, exaggerated hand movements, “rocking,” etc.)
  • Only answer questions when you are the primary speaker; answering reporter’s questions in an “aside” takes away from the primary message and might cause your audience to miss key information
  • Know what you can and should say (e.g., HIPAA, privacy, managing your reputation, etc.)
  • Be yourself and humanize your comments; it may be situation normal for you, but remember that you’re speaking about people’s loved ones
  • Immediately correct misinformation or misstatements

4.  After the Press Conference

  • Follow up with reporters on any questions you may not have been able to answer given the fluid nature of crises
  • Prepare notes on what went well and what corrective actions/improvements you would make
  • Ensure that communications is included in the operational hot wash / post-mortem / after action report
  • Share lessons learned in media training

Tensions run high in a crisis situation, but training and practice will go a long way to putting your best foot forward.