A press conference is not to be undertaken lightly - but it is one of many options to be considered as part of a crisis communication plan.
In the face of negative press, an organisation may wish to get its message out quickly and effectively to a wider audience in order to establish credibility.
Perhaps it is considered important to go public with the facts as soon as they are available, and detail how the situation is going to be resolved, to turn bad press into good media coverage.
This can happen in a rolling crisis where there could be concerns for public health or wellbeing.
A credible spokesperson who can be the human face of the business may be useful for ensuring the media understands exactly what has happened. Remember the whole point of the exercise is building trust with customers or stakeholders.
Some see a press conference as a good way of seizing control of a fast-developing event, showing that the organisation is not afraid of answering difficult questions.
While the Press could be hounding a company’s headquarters during a crisis, bombarding staff with questions, an organised event such as this means that information can be given out on the organisation’s own terms – after which it is reasonable to ask reporters to wait for an update at a second press briefing.
On its own territory a company can plan access and exit routes, set a timescale for the press conference and use visual material/schematics if available to explain the situation.
Managing client relationships and protecting brand reputation in a crisis is all about dealing with the media to show business transparency.
Other equally effective communication strategies may be considered in place of the press conference. A written statement, for example, could be an acceptable way to make company announcements.
But effective public speaking is a great way to regain public confidence that the organisation has nothing to hide.
However, the latest White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave a stark example of how NOT to run a press conference in his first briefing to reporters.
In a rather bizarre exchange he broke several golden rules which any spokesperson addressing the Press should avoid:
Gripping the lectern with both hands and appearing angry, Spicer’s demeanor became more and more aggressive. His delivery deteriorated as he appeared to lose his patience and temper with the gathered reporters. A golden rule is to retain composure with the Press.
While stating the media was guilty of ‘deliberate false reporting’ and that ‘no-one had numbers’ on the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration, he went on to state “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe.”
Spicer kept reporters waiting for more than an hour before starting his press briefing. Not a move likely to help media relations, when an organisation has called the press conference in the first place.
Spicer makes a clear threat that President Trump will bypass the traditional media to use social media to speak to the American public. While an organisation may feel badly treated by the Press, stick to the facts and keep a positive tone. Better to win over reporters than start the equivalent of a playground fight.
Apart from a couple of brief updates on President Trump’s forthcoming engagements, there seemed little point to the press conference – other than to have a rant at the media.
Refusing to take questions appears both petulant and creates the impression there’s something to hide. While questions don’t have to be taken, it’s advisable to take at least a few – and again the organisation can control how many and from whom.
For help and advice with crisis communications, contact us on 0800 612 9890.