This information was good fifteen years ago, and it's still good now. Adapted from: Communicators Guide for Federal, State, Regional, and Local Communicators, Federal Communicators Network, 2000, pp. 23-27. Information is quoted, condensed and slightly rearranged for readability and flow.
- Communicate. Don’t hide behind “no comment.” Even if all you can say is that you don’t know, say so, say why and when you think you will know. Reporters look favorably on people who are trying to be helpful.
- Put people first. Communicate your concern about the victims. Help the people most affected by the crisis. In the case of accidents, remember to deal with victims’ families before any other group. If they want you to, intercede on their behalf with the news media.
- Be available at all times to respond to your various publics. Take your time in explaining difficult issues to reporters. Know media deadlines and don’t rely only on news conferences. Monitor media accounts and quickly correct errors by contacting the reporter or correspondents. Follow up with the news media to keep them updated about what preventive actions were taken after the crisis ended.
- Prepare key points you want to make ahead of time. Make them short and to the point. Try to repeat them several times during the news conference or interview.
- Provide brief, precise answers to questions. Don’t ramble. Use plain language. Short answers also help alleviate nervousness.
- Be sensitive to legal restrictions regarding information, such as the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. Know what kind of information is public and what must be withheld.
- Stay with the crisis throughout its duration.
- Never lie or speculate. Provide only factual, confirmed information.
- Don’t be defensive. Be prepared for aggressive questioning. You might have to answer the same question several times.
- Don’t attempt legal battles in the media. Express assurances that matters of litigation or potential litigation will be investigated thoroughly.
This information is adapted from the FCN Communicators' Guide as a public service. This best practice guide was produced by independent volunteers. No representation of any individual, agency or other organization is expressed or implied. Photo via Wikipedia.