The world of media communication can be intimidating, and not just because speaking to crowds of reporters can be discomforting. For those with limited experience in the industry, there can also be uncertainty when it comes to the various formats of media communications.
In this article, we’d like to take the time to remove some of the obscurity from two of those formats: media statements and crisis statements. Both of these methods generally involve a written statement which is delivered to the media for distribution, and which may be spoken, as well.
On their face, these formats are quite similar – but they do have several key differences. Understanding these distinctions, and the subtleties of the two formats, can help you to become more comfortable with both. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between media statements and crisis statements.
The Urgency of a Response
The primary difference between a media statement and a crisis statement is the degree of urgency with which a statement must be issued.
A crisis statement is created under a high degree of urgency. Crisis statements are formulated when an organization’s response to a situation is expected right away. That means that organizations can’t afford to spend days crafting, editing, and refining a statement.
Due to that urgency, crisis statements are nearly always delivered orally, although they are generally written beforehand.
This is often the case with breaking news stories in crisis situations. If there is a high level of urgency for your organization to communicate with stakeholders quickly, then you’ll need to use a crisis statement.
A media statement, on the other hand, has a lower degree of urgency associated with its issuance. There is not necessarily the burden of expectation on an organization to respond – in fact, the organization may even choose not to respond at all. Rather, the organization is choosing to speak into the situation in order to express its voice and lend perspective to the discussion.
For example, we worked with one client that offered services across several states. The legislation in one of those states was working to pass restrictions that would affect the client’s provision of services in that state.
Our client could see these circumstances developing and wanted to release a statement that would speak to the situation. Over the course of several days, a media statement was created, edited, and passed through the legal department for approval. The final statement was substantially different from what had originally been drafted, thanks to the luxury of time to edit and refine the statement.
The Individual Responsible for Speaking
As a consequence of their differing levels of urgency, different sorts of individuals generally deliver crisis statements and media statements.
Because crisis statements involve an immediate response, individuals with limited media experience are often called upon to deliver them.
For example, one of our international clients was performing a demo of a product in Scotland when things went awry. The result, which ended up on social media, called for a quick response by those involved in the situation locally. Those people were obligated to respond to media inquiries about the incident, despite the fact that they weren’t necessarily media professionals.
Conversely, a media statement is nearly always delivered by an individual who has had substantive experience speaking with the media. A media statement is not reactive, so the individual delivering the response can be selected by the organization, instead of being forced into action by circumstances outside of the organization’s control.
Of course, media statements and crisis statements also share several similarities.
Like all forms of communication, both media statements and crisis statements are far more likely to be successful if proper preparation is involved.
Preparation for Crisis Statements
For a crisis statement, that means preparing employees who are not media professionals for potential media interactions. While more organizations are giving employees in managerial positions permission to speak with the press, it’s important to keep in mind that if you grant these positions the permission to respond, you also need to equip them with the ability.
So, what are the tools that equip people to respond? Two of the most effective are training and templates.
First response media training is the training we use for this purpose. It’s a half-day training for everyone who could potentially be called upon to respond to media inquiries – from security, to nightshift employees, to supervisors.
While you may hope that these individuals will never need to put their training to use, crises are inevitable. It’s essential that they be prepared to communicate well when the time comes.
Templates can also be helpful in facilitating a good crisis statement. If you prepare a template in advance, when a crisis does hit, employees across your organization will be able to quickly fill in the blanks with the details of the relevant situation. This will help you to get a decent statement out quickly that your attorneys will be comfortable with, and it will give your employees guidance as they respond.
Preparation for Media Statements
Training and templates are also beneficial planning tools for creating media statements.
While individuals with media experience often read media statements, there is a misconception that past experience eliminates the need for training. As we’ve discussed before, media training, like practice for a sport or an instrument, isn’t a once-and-done event. To stay in top form, repetition is needed.
Additionally, there are many executives who, despite their position of prevalence, are uncomfortable with the media. Media training, in this case, is a necessity.
Creating a template is also a useful tool for media statements. Formulating an outline beforehand can greatly expedite the process of crafting a statement when the need actually arises.
They’re Tools to Reach Your Audience
Remember, both crisis statements and media statements have this purpose: to speak to the interests of your stakeholders.
When your organization uses a crisis statement or a media statement to present information to the media, it’s important to keep in mind that the media is not your final audience. Don’t be intimidated by the inquiries of reporters; instead, see reporters as a means to reaching your stakeholders with good information.
The better you understand these formats and equip your organization to use them, the better you’ll be able to reach your stakeholders with the information they need to hear.