Published: 16 May 2014

Managing a media frenzy

A media frenzy is one of the biggest challenges communications practitioners can face. How can you manage when your organisation's under the spotlight?

Here are some top tips:

Be prepared

While this may seem an obvious point, it's easy to let planning for a crisis sink to the bottom of your to-do list when faced with other day-to-day priorities.  However, you'll be grateful you did it when you are faced with a barrage of media calls.  The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to control and contain the situation.     

If you’re running a campaign that might attract some negative attention, for example, think about the angles the media might take and draft some appropriate responses in advance.

Make sure you have a process in place for taking media calls.  The team need to know who is and who is not authorised to comment, including on social media.

Keep an ear to the ground

When the crisis hits, you need to be aware of what is being said, both in the press and on social media.  This will help you decide how you can respond and influence the direction the media is going with the story.  While you may have drafted some media responses in preparation, these can change when you are faced with the reality of a backlash.   

Keep talking

Understandably what the media wants is information, information and information.  If the story has been picked up widely, you will need to distribute your statements on numerous channels including your website, social media pages and email.  Remember, when on the phone to a journalist, try to stick to your official statement.

Make sure you respond to all media requests quickly to ensure your side of the story is included in any article. If you need time, release a holding statement while you draft a longer one. 

Take the time to consider what is being said when drafting a statement.  If people are upset, think about what they want to hear from you and say as much of that as you reasonably can. 

Spokespeople

A personal response from a named spokesperson is always best. If your spokesperson is going to be interviewed, you need to make sure they are fully briefed on what is being said, and they are comfortable with how they should respond.  Ideally, they will have had media training. 

It’s also helpful to enlist supporters of the organisation who would be willing to speak to the media.  If you set up interviews for them, ensure you provide them with some tips on dealing with the media beforehand. 

After the dust has settled

While the crisis may be over, don't move on from it too quickly.  Sit down with your team and think about what worked and what didn't.  A good evaluation will help you be even more prepared should you be faced with a similar situation again.  ​


Natasha North, marketing and communications manager, Pancreatic Cancer Action

After over ten years in PR and marketing across a range of sectors, she is experienced in finding creative ways to engage the media and public, and inspire action. At the charity, she is also involved in managing social media, website content and talking directly with those affected by pancreatic cancer.