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November 17, 2010
In a Crisis, Don't Hide Behind News Releases
 
In a crisis, a written news release alone won't do. The key thing you want to establish is that someone responsible is in charge and willing and able to answer questions. That means providing a spokesperson to explain the situation and answer reporters' questions. Brad Phillips makes this point in a Mr. Media Training post, and he's right on.  

Phillips gives three reasons for discouraging "stand-in" press releases:

1. They Don't Make You the "Go-To Source."  If in the early hours of a crisis, "reporters believe they can get the relevant facts of the story directly from you in a timely and transparent manner, they will have less incentive to seek out alternative sources."

2. They Make You Look Guilty. "A written statement too often looks like the Fifth Amendment..."

3. Reporters Hate Them. "Sources that don't speak to reporters often suffer more hostile coverage."

However expedient issuing a news release may seem, there's no substitute for having a well-drilled crisis communication plan focused on a media center -- a facility of your choosing and design -- that's ready to open should a crisis occur. News releases can be issued there as support for the spokesperson. Especially in a crisis, interaction is what makes for successful media relations. You want to demonstrate accountability, and news releases alone don't do that. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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