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TUNING IN

A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Using Radio During a Crisis

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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about a crisis? Speed, responsiveness and immediacy probably come to mind first and foremost. If you are an individual impacted by the crisis, you want information, and you want it now. If you are an organization responding to a crisis, you want to get out information, and you want to do it now.

Where these two worlds tend to intersect is in the media. Radio often provides the ability for people to respond quickly during a crisis. Without need for highly produced video, both radio stations and their affiliated websites provide media outlets with information that can be updated as quickly as news is breaking.

Recent examples of using radio during a crisis include coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which according to Radio Info, “News of the quake has taken over radio reports [with] Japan’s NHK Radio providing around-the-clock coverage.” The protests in Wisconsin are another example of radio use during a crisis. Union representatives and the Governor regularly engaged with radio reporters. Outlets like Fox News and ABC News Radio reported regularly from the frontlines of the debate to provide the latest developments in the budget battle and collective bargaining.

In a 24/7 news environment, it’s not only imperative to get there first, but for reporters to get it right. This means that as a communications organization, you must prepare in advance of a crisis in order to get the facts right when it counts most. Here are some tips for dealing with a crisis:

  • Identify your messaging in certain scenarios. Play out ways that a crisis could unfold taking into account the nuances of your organization and know what your messaging would be under each circumstance.
  • Once a crisis breaks, fine-tune your messaging. Depending on each circumstance, it will be vital to tweak your messaging to respond to the particulars of each circumstance. Don’t skip this step or you will seem like you aren’t credible and don’t know what is going on.
  • Keep it simple. Always keep in mind the issue you’re responding to and what your organization is doing about it. Avoid using overly complex explanations, ideas or legal wording.
  • Your primary mission is to communicate. This means to be clear and concise, and communicate in a forthright and confident manner with factual, helpful information and an action step for listeners to take if they have been impacted. The step could include providing a website or a phone number to get more information. No stonewalling and no “let me get back to you on that” messaging.
  • Go to the media contacts you know first and quickly. These are people with whom you have had a productive relationship in the past who can help get your message out quickly and accurately. This means prior to a crisis, you have to communicate with your news contacts regularly and build those ongoing relationships, not just reach out to them during a crisis.
  • Don’t offer exclusives. This is no time to get into a media competition about what outlet is going to break this story. Get the story out to the right contacts at the right time, and don’t delay. If a television station is coming out to interview your CEO, don’t wait for them to arrive to begin communicating. Every delay means that someone else is telling your story without your input, and those impacted by the crisis could be suffering in the meantime.

For more information and tips for spokespeople to review before conducting an interview, visit our Radio Resources.

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