Do’s & Don’ts of Media Communication – Covid-19

Media communication, and by this we mean briefing a team, the public, interviews with journalists, presentations or Q&A sessions, can be a minefield. One wrong step and what should have been the simple delivery of a message can turn into a media circus.

After many months away from their usual workplace your employees may now be returning to work. This could be an office space, a site, a stage, place of retail or any other enclosed space where business occurs. You may also have clients, consumers or members of the general public having to meet and interact with you. Not every meeting can happen over Zoom or Microsoft Teams so there will now be an element of risk assessment to every situation which requires interaction. With this staged return there will be health and safety guidelines that will have to be met, a certain level of care-of-duty and inevitably the issue of blame should anything go wrong.

Media training prepares you to handle difficult situations and difficult questions, but as we have seen from media interviews over the last few months, even those who deal with the media every day have not always been prepared. Questions have been badly handled, often leaving the media and members of the public confused and even angry.

If you have attended any of our media training sessions you will know some of the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of media interviews, briefings and interacting with your audience, but in this post we will make them more Covid specific.

  • Do think about your audience – they may be angry if there has been an outbreak of the virus in your company and they, or their loved ones have been put at risk. The audience could be the media or family members wanting answers. Emotions may be heightened so consider the words you plan on using carefully.
  • Do prepare your story and stick to the facts. If the issue is based on a timeline make sure that you present this correctly. Don’t confuse your audience or make them question the accuracy of your story.
  • We all know how the virus spreads, so don’t give your audience a science lesson they have heard a thousand times since March. Keep your explanation short and simple.
  • Use facts to inform them as to how you have resolved the situation. Concentrate on moving the issue forward. Don’t dwell on the ‘what ifs’.
  • Don’t provide information that you have not verified. The public have already been given different statistics by the government, research bodies, private companies and other sources.
  • Don’t try to blame a specific person or group. Pointing the finger will not make the situation better. Blame will not make the problem disappear. Making sure the virus is no longer spreading and confirming actions have been taken to guarantee it will not happen again is what needs to be heard and remembered by your audience. Offer positive solutions, not excuses.
  • Don’t use visual aids unless you really have to. Think back to some of the ones used in the daily government briefings which made the situation more confusing, not less.
  • If you are only briefing the media and not answering questions, make this clear at the start of your briefing.
  • If you are conducting the briefing or interview over Zoom then check everything is working before you start – getting flustered with IT issues will affect the delivery of your briefing and maybe even change how you respond to questions.
  • Do use confident body language. Whether you are physically in a room or using a screen. For more tips on body language read our “Presenting Your Best Self” Guide – due to be released in August 2020.
  • If you get asked a question you don’t know the answer to or get presented with a fact that you can’t or don’t want to comment on, avoid saying “no comment”. To read more about “No Comment” – The worst phrase in communication, click here.
  • If you get asked a question that starts with “Would you say that…” don’t respond with “Yes…” or “No…” unless you are 110% sure either way. Try using these phrases instead:

 

“It is important to look at this in context…”

“If I had to sum it up using my own words…”

“With this situation it is important to….”

 

We don’t know what the next few months will bring, if the outbreak will be fully contained or eradicated, or if a second wave will occur. We don’t know how our working practices will be impacted, how society will respond, or how much blame will be put on organisations, employers or the government should the worst happen. InVision does know however how to help you be prepared to deliver briefings and interviews in a way that helps your audience understand the situation, the story and what it means for the future.

The InVision Media Training team can help you prepare for a face to face environment or a video conference call. For more information contact us on: info@invisioncomms.com or 01483 230756