I am probably like many people, when I turn on the television; I find it hard not to get sucked into the news. It seems like more often than not, as a society, we are facing another obstacle or crisis. As much as I would love for everything to be simpler (I like to see the world through Pollyanna glasses), that is just not the reality of things.
Which brings me to a topic that has been gaining a lot of media coverage: The Flint Michigan water crisis. This one hits a little close to home for me since I am originally from Charleston West Virginia. Two years ago, Charleston faced its own water crisis. I won’t go into details now, but you can find out more information here.
So when I heard of the Flint story, I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the media coverage, especially the way each spokesperson handled situations differently.
Here’s a look at Freedom Enterprise’s President (who served as the spokesperson) during the West Virginia water crisis.
You don’t need to watch the whole video to notice that The President is irritated to be doing a press conference, does not feel sorry for those affected by the water situation and on top of that is drinking a bottle of water during the whole conference…yikes!
Here’s Flint Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder:
On the other hand, Governor Rick Snyder did a good job of answering the press’ questions, he apologized and said they were going to try to resolve the issue. The only critique of this video is that the Governor is in a suit, it’s always important to dress to reflect your message.
Let’s recap on what an organization can learn from other’s mistakes when choosing and preparing a spokesperson for a crisis:
• Always keep your stakeholder informed and in mind.
• Be clear, consistent, compassionate and show empathy with your messages.
• Be aware of body language. Your body needs to match the words coming out of your mouth.
• Don’t be afraid to admit when something is wrong.
• Make sure your attire reflects your message. Be aware of statements like “rolling up our sleeves to make it better.” If you are wearing a suit, you are probably not likely to be out in the field making things better.
Luckily, in today’s society, we are very digitally connected. We can learn from other’s mistakes. It makes you think twice about whether or not you want to be the next victim of a bad spokesperson during a crisis.
Just do your research and try to prepare as far in advance as possible. You can make it through a crisis. I promise.