Open Interview

The dangers of an ‘open’ interview

December 3rd, 2019

Here’s a simple question: Is the media your friend or your enemy in a crisis?

Before I answer, let’s look at some facts:

  1. Media are only interested in the story, not in you;
  2. Almost all news stories involve some sort of conflict. If you don’t believe me, scan through any Twitter account, newspaper or blog!
  3. If there is no conflict, there is no news.

In a crisis: The question is whether you should join the battle or stay aloof.

To ignore what’s going on around – (or ‘The Ostrich Syndrome’) – is really dangerous. If you stick your head in the sand, someone will come along and kick your ass.

On the other extreme: Giving total and unfettered access to the media is equally dangerous, especially if you put the CEO into battle. As Tony Hayward (the CEO of BP during the Deepwater Horizon disaster) said, ‘we tried to be open and transparent and gave access to the operation…we were completely overun and not prepared to deal with the intensity of the media scrutiny.’

Media must be treated with caution and respect during a crisis. There is very strong case for preparing a simple statement (say 280 characters, or a tweet) and sticking to it like glue.

This is not very media friendly, sure. But when facts are scarce, this is the only way!

What is very dangerous, and what media love, is the ‘open interview’, where journalists can ask you any questions they want.

If you don’t believe me, ask Price Andrew.

Have a good week.

Tom

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