The company embedded journalists in meetings with top management so they could hear first-hand all the issues and problems the company faced. That move, and others, were brilliant. Johnson & Johnson remains as perhaps the greatest example of how a company should manage a crisis.
The tactic of embedding reporters can be just as effective if your company is experiencing a crisis on a smaller scale, too. An article in the June issue of PR Tactics, written by Ron McGee, a professor journalism at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, recommends that PR professionals include embedding reporters in their crisis communications plans.
“An electric company PR practitioner who asks a reporter to follow the daily activities of a techician, for example, is likely ot be met with a yawn…That electrical company technician who was so boring suddenly becomes much more interesting to a reporter when the lights don’t work for several days.”
Ron’s tips include:
- Identify certain workers who have the knowledge and personality to represent your organization.
- Perform practice drills. The employees you’ve identified should spend time showing mock reporters what they’d do. Offer feedback.
- Sell the idea of transparency to management before a crisis.
The media will scrutinize your organization during a crisis anyway. Embedding reporters will help them cover your story from the inside where they have a close-up view of what’s happening, and access to your experts who can help them understand it.
In an interview I conducted with crisis manager Jonathan Bernstein on How to Keep the Media Wolves at Bay, Jonathan said companies that are open and honest and show they have nothing to hide have a huge advantage over those that do stupid things like say “no comment.”