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  • Writer's pictureAlistair Nicholas

Media interviews during issues and crisis management situations

At some point during a major issue or crisis situation the CEO or a senior executive of an organisation must front the media. You cannot run and you cannot hide. Attempting to do so could seriously impact your organisation's brand reputation, and very likely your personal reputation.

Success in an interview during an issue or crisis situation is not easy. Often the circumstances surrounding an issue or crisis are complex and, sadly, most media today don't have time for complexity and nuanced discussion.

For example, in my most recent position as CEO of policy institute China Matters, prior to establishing Alistair Nicholas Consulting, I had to deal with an issue on why the Chinese Government had decided two Australian politicians would not be welcome on a Study Tour to the People's Republic of China. The matter was much more complex than a lot of media were reporting, with considerable nuances that warranted explanation.

However, the media were unable to afford me the time and space needed for a proper explanation of the issue. Although I did two pre-record interviews with TV news channels, the 10 or 15 minutes I spent with them was cut to less than a minute of air time. Obviously not enough time to explain all the nuances of the situation to the viewing public. And one print jounalist said to me at the end of a 20 minute telephone interview: "There's a lot of nuances there Alistair, but unfortunately my editor's only giving me 800 words for the story."

Much was lost in translation, as the saying goes.

That's why it's important to try and do live interviews whenever possible when dealing with an issue or crisis. During the China Matters situation, the best interview turned out to be a live one that I did with ABC TV's News 24. As this was live it was not possible for the program's producers to edit it down to a few "grabs". I had an opportunity to get across all my messages, correct reporting inaccuracies, and explain the nuances of the situation. I even managed to get an analogy in to better explain the point I was making - not something often reported in pre-recorded broadcast interviews or by print media.

The only flaw with the interview was that I should have got into the studio earlier and asked for makeup. As my mother used to say, I have a perfect face for radio.

Nonetheless, the interview does highlight the importance of media and crisis training. If you'd like to know more about my training services contact me via the links at the bottom of this page.

In the meantime, if you'd like to view the News 24 live interview, here it is:

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