As a self storage facility owner, it can sometimes be hard to predict if and when you may face an emergency situation, after all the very nature of emergencies are that they are unpredictable and no one is immune to the risks. They typically given no warning and facility operators need to be able to act swiftly, confidently and knowledgeably in the midst of chaos.
In addition to dealing with the business and customer related effects of such emergencies, self storage operators also at times have to deal with the media and the public interest that some instances create within the market. Your response to media enquiries that can follow instances such as fire, flood, burglary, explosions and/or crime, can directly reflect on a facilities image and competence in a crisis. Negative media coverage can have long-term effects on your business and even the industry as a whole.
An effective media relations policy can help deal with potentially negative situations and can assist in a positive publicity outcome for your facility. All businesses with more than one employee should have a clearly written media policy that spells out who in the organization may respond to media inquiries, what kinds of information can or should be released to journalists, and what information must be kept confidential.
It’s important to assure your employees that talking to the media, and establishing good relationships with them, can and should be constructive. It can help to establish an accurate public perception of who you are and what you do. There’s no need to feel intimidates: Journalists need you as a source of news and background information as much as you need them to give you positive publicity and clarify your point of view.
A good media policy should incorporate or take into account the following elements:
– A list (by name or position) of who in the company may respond to media inquiries; and to whom they should direct media inquiries.
– Be sure you’re familiar with the publication or broadcast that the journalist represents.
– Treat journalists, editors and program directors courteously. Their impression of each individual in your business, all the way down to the receptionist, affects their impression of the entire business, and that may influence how they report about you.
– If possible return journalists calls within the hour. They are usually on tight deadlines and they appreciate (and occasionally reward) promptness. If they leave a message for a member of your staff who is not available or can’t be reached, another staffer should return their call. You don’t want to hear on the evening newscast that your business ‘could not be reached for comment’.
– Explain to the media who you are and what you do, as you would at the end of a written media release. Prepare a brief statement to which all authorized business members can refer. Aside from that brief statement, don’t try to promote yourself – just answer the questions.
– Speak in plain English that average readers and listeners can understand. Don’t use industry jargon or bureaucratic language.
– Your media relations policy should describe what kinds of data or information must remain confidential.
– Feel free to ask the journalist questions about the story such as what’s the theme, what’s the point of view, who else is being interviewed.
– If the reporter asks for information that is already a matter of public record, don’t hesitate to share it. Withholding such information will only force the reporter to develop other sources.
– Always be truthful and accurate. Never exaggerate or inflate. Understatement usually works better than hyperbole, especially when dealing with experienced journalists. Trust, as in most good relationships, is key to good media relations.
– Discuss with reporters only what is in your area of expertise. Do not speculate. If you don’t have personal knowledge about a subject, help the journalist reach a source who does, even if that source is not a member of your business. Providing reliable resources enhances your credibility with the media, and they will likely come back to you in the future.
– When you talk to a journalist, remember that you’re really talking to the public.
– If you need time to research or think about how to answer a question, it’s okay to tell the journalist that you need more time. Ask what his or her deadline is, and then assure them you’ll call back with an answer before that time.
– Avoid disparaging other businesses or defaming other people. Not only is it actionable, but it makes you appear unprofessional.
– Refer media questions about your businesses policies or political views to the businesses designated executive or spokesperson.
– If you cannot answer a question, make sure the journalist understands why. Don’t simply say ‘no comment’ as this may be interpreted as evasiveness. You might say, for example, ‘I’m sorry but this matter is the subject of a pending investigation’ or ‘I’m sorry but I’m legally obligated to protect my customer’s confidentiality’.
– Keep it simple. If you finish answering the question and the journalist remains silent, don’t feel pressured to elaborate. It may only serve to dilute your message. Instead ask, ‘have I answered your question?’
– If a reporter asks about a pending lawsuit or criminal action, it’s normally not advisable – and in many cases it’s improper – to discuss it.
– Record or take notes on any interview you have with the media, and send a memo about the interview to a designated executive as soon as possible. That person needs to be aware of stories in progress that involve your business, in the event additional information or clarification is needed. If you plan to record the interview be sure to ask the journalist’s permission to do so.
– Unless you’re an experience public relations professional, assume that everything you say to a journalist is on the record. If you don’t want to see it in print or on the air, don’t say it.
– Don’t argue with the reporter. You can be persuasive, but never confrontational.
– Don’t ask the reporter if you can review the story before it’s published. If the story is highly controversial, you may ask the journalist during the interview to read back your quotes to confirm accuracy.
– If the published story contains minor factual errors or omissions, endure it – in fact, expect it! If the story seriously misrepresents your position or miss-states an important fact, call it to the journalists attention in a polite email or letter, requesting a correction. Unless the timeliness of the correction is critical, do not call to complain. Never go over the journalists head to complain to their editor or news executive unless their response is wholly unsatisfactory. Again, be careful, you never want to alienate journalists.