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How to Respond to the Media in a Crisis, Part 3

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

March 23, 2016
How to Respond to the Media in a Crisis, Part 3

If you aren't ready to respond immediately, that's OK. Tell the reporter you are busy and ask if you can call them back in fifteen minutes or set up a later time to conduct the interview. Remember that reporters work on very tight deadlines and may be unwilling to put the interview off too long, but even a few minutes to collect your thoughts can help you prepare.

If you are being interviewed by radio or television reporters, chances are that only a fraction of what you say will actually be aired. Most news stories are only about 90 seconds long! With that in mind, make sure to lead with the most important thing that you want to get across-- your key message. Try to organize your overall message into no more than three main points. Research shows that in general people can only remember three messages at a time during a crisis, so establishing this format from the beginning will increase the likelihood of getting your message across.

During the interview, your goal is to create trust with listeners. Starting the interview by showing empathy for anyone negatively affected by the crisis and expressing how much you care about your animals, employees, the environment and/or the consumers can go a long way in swaying the listener to believe your message. Your next step is to tell the listeners what your farm is going to do in response to the crisis. Action steps make people feel better and will further your intent to create trust.

A few more tips:
  • Body language is important! If you don't look like you mean what you are saying, then nobody is going to believe you. Just be genuine.
  • If the interviewer takes the conversation in a direction that you aren't comfortable with, remember to stay calm and stick with your key message. Don't be afraid to say that you don't know, and never say "no comment" -- that always make you look guilty. Instead, explain why you can't answer.
  • Repeat your key message more than once, and be ready to summarize it at the end of the interview.
While I wouldn't wish this uncomfortable situation on anyone, I hope that after reading this article you take a few moments to imagine what you would do if you were asked to give an interview in response to a crisis on your dairy. What are your core beliefs as a farm? What might be your key messages?

Sources: "Telling Your Story: Talking About Animal Care." Presentation by Beth Meyer, ADADC. January 20th, 2016. WCDI Animal Welfare Course.



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