In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about how effective interviews are during a PR crisis, following Prince Andrew’s interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis. Many have speculated about whether the interview helped provide any calm and clarity or whether it simply added fuel to the flames of a burgeoning scandal. As you can see, conducting interviews during a PR crisis can either be extremely effective or it can have detrimental effects on a brand. Naturally, the interview environment can place a huge amount of pressure on the interviewee to say the “right” thing or  to behave in the right way, which can often lead to a misalignment between brand values and words spoken and the action being taken as a result.

How Can I Prepare for an Interview in a PR Crisis? 

Meltwater recently partnered with Sean Ryan, former senior editor of the Sunday Times, to provide our clients with an in-depth session on ‘How to Handle PR Interviews in a Media Crisis’. Sean tucked into the power of a strong interview in a PR crisis and the value it can have as a tool for mitigation. With the right preparation, interviews during a crisis can become an opportunity to reinstate your brand values and rebuild after damage caused by a PR storm. However, there are important guidelines to follow if you want to ensure it does more good than harm.

6 Steps to Handling Interviews in Times of Crisis

The first step for any brand is preparation. This step needs to originate from your brand crisis strategy and be part of your business infrastructure. First, you must establish a structured guide for each potential crisis scenario. If your strategy is vague, or the first point of action is unclear this will lead to an unorganised response and will be less effective than really tucking into the nitty-gritty of what could go wrong. A daunting task, to be sure, but critical in these uncertain times. Decide, prior to a crisis, who will speak for your brand, and what makes them uniquely equipped to handle this responsibility. When these steps are clear, the real preparation can begin.

  1. Prepare: For the interviewee, it is important to know your interviewer – their interrogation style, their previous work, their political views and potential biases. With this information, you can gauge the nature of the questions and more efficiently prepare your responses and the appropriate information to support your stance. In doing so, you will be less likely to feel flustered in a stressful interview scenario and be able to hold your place in the conversation.
  2. Envoke your empathy: In a crisis, the most important first response from brands is their display of empathy for those involved and affected by the issue. When doing so, we must consider more than our language choices. Our non-verbal signals can be more powerful to the viewer in times of crisis and will make a meaningful statement. For example, maintaining eye contact with the interviewer and keeping your hands visible are both good ways to give off positive body language.
  3. Be knowledgable: Like the old saying goes, knowledge is power. In a crisis situation, knowing the full scope of an incident and being able to explain this with solid facts will show you have control over the situation. A confident statement of apology/explanation from a senior member in your team shows the brand’s commitment to rectifying the issue.
  4. Use social media well: During a crisis, it can be useful to communicate to your consumers through social media, in order to to rectify an issue. With a likely increase in brand mentions and heightened exposure, knowing when and how to respond is key. Using social media listening you can prevent and control crisis communications. Receive alerts and real-time insights for your social exposure and stay in the know about major developments, so you can best refine your approach.
  5. Create and follow the procedure: Often, during a crisis, internal communications can be leaked to the press. To avoid showing misalignment in your strategy, be sure to have a structured procedure, in each scenario, so the next steps are clear for both internal and external parties.
  6. Regain control: In an interview or press conference – be sure to keep structure at the foundation of everything you do. Consider having a PR advisor that can state, prior to the interview, what you are able to answer – to avoid unexpected questions. Also, have your advisor recommend and set a time limit, this will help you avoid going on a tangent and forces everyone to keep questions and answers clear and concise.

Source: Meltwater Media Monitoring 

Using Social Listening in Crisis Situations

Social listening refers to the monitoring and analysis of social media content, published in real-time across social networks. By not only counting the mentions but finding the mentions that count, social media listening allows brands to cut through the noise and establish the roots of their positive and negative exposure. 

Using the Meltwater social listening tool, brands can gain a clear view of core analytics from mentions, sentiment, and geographical spread of conversations, to more in-depth social analytics, such as the use of emojis, most retweeted tweets and top social media authors. By setting up alerts for these analytics, brands can be the first to know when their name is mentioned, and filter through the noise, to understand more about where a social media crisis originated from. 

Key Takeaways 

Key learnings were taken from the recent Meltwater masterclass to provide guidelines on how to approach interviews in a PR crisis. A key takeaway is the importance of preparation and knowledge and your ability to react by getting one step ahead and staying fully informed. Failing to see the bigger picture will limit the success of your response. By ensuring your business has a fully consolidated crisis plan, you and your employees are fully aware of the next steps – meaning you can react quickly and efficiently. Using these guidelines you can then best direct your responses to interview questions. 

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