So, you are preparing for a crisis news briefing or a public meeting in which you expect emotions to run high. You have developed key messages that you believe will inform the media or calm angry residents who are unhappy with your company. But before getting a chance to deliver your messages, you make a mistake that ensures your news briefing or meeting will fail and possibly descend into chaos.

What was the mistake? You didn’t immediately set the ground rules for the event. By not doing so, you inadvertently invited your audience to wrestle control of the event from you.

What are the ground rules? They include identifying yourself, addressing if or when you will take questions, providing a road map for the event and doing so in a welcoming and open way.

We found an excellent example of how this is done. With the McKinney Fire raging in California, the U.S. Forest Service held a news briefing with both the media and residents present. Click on the video below to see how the spokesperson correctly opened the briefing.

In just under a minute, spokesperson Adrienne Freeman cordially set the ground rules and laid out the road map that would be followed. Freeman was authoritative, yet reassuring, and probably diffused some of the anxiety in the room. If you follow her example, we are confident your next crisis briefing or public meeting will stand a great chance to succeed.