PROACTIVE AND REACTIVE MEDIA OUTREACH DURING A CRISIS

Emi Hashisaki / July 22, 2020

It’s the final week of Fearey’s Fearless Series on CRISIS.

Today, we bring you our guidance on navigating PROACTIVE AND REACTIVE MEDIA OUTREACH during a crisis.

In this series, we’ve walked through critical elements of every crisis communications plan, discussed how to craft the right message during a crisis and reviewed the basics of crisis media training. For the final installment of our CRISIS series, we’ll explain how to approach proactive and reactive media outreach during a crisis.

Before you consider media outreach during a crisis, your first step should be to review who is assigned to your crisis communications team. Do your employees know who those individuals are and how to reach them in an emergency situation?

The crisis team should be the gatekeepers of all communication with the press, whether proactive or reactive. Be sure to identify these spokespeople clearly to your staff, so your employees know who to contact during a crisis.

Both proactive and reactive outreach in a crisis have potential upsides and downsides. Knowing which approach to take requires a quick, calm assessment of the situation and evaluation of all possible outcomes for the groups involved.

Facing a crisis situation? Curious how to prepare for one? Read on for what you should consider to determine whether proactive or reactive media outreach is the best option for the crisis at hand:

 

  1. Benefits to Proactive Media Outreach

Depending on the nature of the crisis, you may decide to put out a proactive statement, conduct media outreach or even hold a press conference before you are contacted by members of the press. A carefully crafted, proactive statement and regular, ongoing communication with members of the media during the crisis demonstrates transparency and compassion from leadership and builds trust with the press and general public. A proactive approach also shows that you are both aware of and in control of the situation, even if there are elements of the crisis that are still unfolding.

 

  1. Downsides to Proactive Media Outreach

If you decide to speak proactively on an issue, you may generate unwanted media attention. However, by training your crisis communications team and spokespeople in advance, they’ll be prepared to handle aggressive inquiries that may come your way.

There are situations where proactive media outreach may not be advisable. For instance, if your crisis involves legal issues, you’ll need to work closely with your attorney on proactive or reactive statements to ensure you are only sharing information that is legally permitted and not incriminating.

 

  1. Benefits to Reactive Media Outreach

In some scenarios, a carefully worded, reactive statement may help calm negative commentary by appropriately answering questions about the situation without elevating it to an urgent level.

If you react with a written statement, you have full control over the language you use to describe the situation and can be as brief or detailed as you wish. Your statement is your statement, and your chances of being misquoted are less so than if you opt to conduct a full-length interview.

 

  1. Downsides to Reactive Media Outreach

If you do not issue a reactive statement quickly enough in response to an inquiry, you risk appearing unprepared or worse, at fault. Check out our PR Failure Newsletter on Boeing for an example of how a delayed response to a crisis can result in long term reputational damage.

Always take time to weigh the pros and cons of proactive or reactive outreach with your crisis team as soon as possible after the crisis is identified. The better option isn’t always apparent, but maintaining honesty and sincerity in either type of outreach will go a long way.

 

This marks the end of our CRISIS series. We hope the tips and strategies we’ve shared leave you on more solid footing when you find yourself face to face with a crisis.

Still feeling like you need more crisis support or further training? Contact our team today to learn about the customizable and on-call crisis communication support we provide for our clients.