How to Media Train a Spokesperson for a Crisis?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In the world of media training and media interviews, there are some serious flaws that you should avoid. These are especially true when you have to do a media interview during a crisis.

Here are a few:

  • Media training is not about how to be fast on your feet; it is about how to be prepared so there are no surprise questions.
  • Your goal is not to answer every question. Your goal should be to control the questions you get asked, the answers you give, and ultimately, to control the final edit of the news stories about your crisis.
  • Three key messages based on bullet points is an asinine concept and needs to be eradicated. Well-worded, internalized, verbatim sentences and quotes must be your spokesperson’s secret weapon.

Your best bet for your spokesperson? Read from a script.

(Get more details when you download our free video course on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications)

The pre-written news release we spoke of in yesterday’s blog should be your script for your news conference.

In addition to the tips we offered on how to write a great crisis news release, here is one more: Your news release, and ultimately that news release as the script you will read, should pro-actively answer every question you are going to be asked in the news conference.

“That’s impossible,” you say?

“How can that be done,” you ask?

I bet you are thinking, “No one knows every question you are going to be asked in a news conference.”

Surprise. There are only two types of questions that get asked in a news conference.

  • News conference question type #1: Factual based questions, such as who, what, when, where.
  • News conference question type #2: Speculation based questions, such as how and why.

Put the facts in your news release.  Read the facts in your news conference from your script. Next, deflect speculative questions with pre-written answers such as,

Regarding the exact cause of the explosion, at this time it would be inappropriate for us to speculate on the cause. We will have to wait for an investigation to tell us what happened, how it happened, and how we might keep it from happening again.

In media training for a crisis, your spokesperson must be trained to internalize the sentence that deflects speculations. In media training, your spokesperson must be given permission to say that line multiple times, until the reporters understand that despite rephrasing the question many times, the answer is still the same.

Also in media training for a crisis, your spokesperson needs to internalize the above sentence so that it sounds thoughtful and spontaneous. You don’t want your spokesperson delivering the line with anger or frustration.

As for reading from a script, recognize that it isn’t easy. Remember:

  • There is an art to reading slow.
  • There is an art to being able to read and look up to make eye contact with the audience.
  • There is an art to being able to look back at your script when the questions start coming, so you can repeat an answer that you’ve used before.

Lastly, media training for a crisis is something that every spokesperson should do at least once a year. Media training is not a bucket-list item that you do once in life. Media training is a skill-set that requires regular practice with a great coach who will be brutally honest with you and perpetually challenge you to be a crisis communications expert.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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