If you or your business has ever been the subject of intense media scrutiny, it can be a daunting experience. Reputations can be made and lost in the heat of a battle.
Some people and companies try to duck for cover when the media comes knocking on the door, hoping the story will go away. And sometimes it does.
But what if it doesn’t? And who do you want controlling the agenda when your reputation is at stake?
Let’s look at a recent example we all remember well.
Following the devastating accident at Beaconsfield Mine in Tasmania, Australian Worker’s Union secretary Bill Shorten immediately put himself up as a spokesman for the workers. As the events unfolded, he was the one the media turned to to find out what was going on.
While mine managers said "no comment" and promised to provide details soon, Bill Shorten was expressing concern for the families, questioning the safety credentials of mine management and generally setting the agenda of the day.
Put simply, Bill Shorten owned the story. Not the mine, not the families, not the town or the Mayor or the Government.
While mine management did reclaim some ground once it sorted itself out (and who could not feel for Matthew Gill as he faced the media day in and day out), the agenda had already been stolen.
How different things might have been had Beaconsfield Mine taken the early lead and owned its own story right from the start. The trapped miners would not have been released any earlier.
No lives would have been saved. But Beaconsfield Mine management would have come out with a stronger reputation as a result. And in business, reputation equals money.
Have a look at it the other way around. Bill Shorten came across as a person in control, concerned for the future and doing something. He came out at the end of the day as the media's next candidate for Prime Minister. Not bad for your reputation, eh? (assuming one would want to actually be the Prime Minister!)
If you ever find yourself the subject of media scrutiny, here's five golden rules to help you through:
1. Tell the truth - every single time.
2. Be the first to talk to the media about your issue.
3. Be open and honest. If you can't talk about something then say so.
4. Plan for interviews. Find out what the reporter wants to know so you can answer their questions.
5. Know your message and make sure you get it in.