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Dealing with the Press During Family Crisis

By August 30, 2010October 31st, 2023One Comment

Photographers taking photosFamily feuds can be thrilling to the public, especially if the family feuding owns a prominent business together.  Reporters may come knocking if they get wind of division, trouble, or even tragedy within the family or business.

It is important not to be caught by surprise and say something that might later be regretted when a reporter calls due to do not being prepared.  This is why it is important to think about crisis communication before it is needed.

First, owners should know that they do not have to speak to reporters.  A reporter’s job is to get information, so the reporter may make you feel as if you must return phone calls or talk to them, but this is not true, no matter how adamant he or she may be.

Second, there are communication professionals that can help handle the press in times of need.  Communication experts can act as a liaison between the owner and reporters, releasing statements and answering questions.  If the business is large enough, it may already have a corporate communications department to which questions can be forwarded.  Also, there are specific crisis communications experts who can manage press during a crisis situation.

Some acceptable answers if owners do choose to engage a reporter, but are faced with questions they are uncomfortable answering are:

  • I prefer not to speak about that at this time.
  • That is a personal and private family matter.
  • That information is confidential.
  • I have no comment.

Also, if speaking to a reporter, assume everything said is “on record.”  It is better to be safe than sorry by thinking something said is “off the record” or “background,” only to see it show up in print later.  If you do not want certain information to go public, then do not mention it.

It is important to know when the story is scheduled to run so owners can be sure they are not caught unaware by the article.  Sometimes it may the run next day, other times not for a week.  For those quoted, it is good to know when others will be reading about the event and possibly asking more questions.

Finally, it is important to know who else a reporter spoke to about any situation.  Good reporters aim for balanced reporting and will try to get multiple sides to any story.

Marissa Hopkins, Communications