Every crisis situation is unique and requires a unique strategy for handling the media. It may be that the smartest strategy is to reach out to the media in a managed and controlled way such as regularly scheduled briefings hosted by a trained company spokesperson where all media are invited and provided ample time for questions.
Or how about the strategy that Sheila Dixon, mayor of the City of Baltimore, recently put into practice as she continues to receive ongoing media attention and scrutiny about an investigation that is just beginning to unfold and that promises to be messy at the least!
After days of coverage by all of the Baltimore media and answering reporters’ questions wherever she went, you’d think she’d give herself a break when she was off the clock. Nope. Instead, she made an unannounced, solo appearance at a downtown restaurant where members of various local media were gathered for their regularly scheduled get together to talk shop over adult beverages.
According to Baltimore Sun columnist Laura Vozzella, Mayor Dixon joined in the small talk chatter, bought her own drink and disarmed those who had likely earlier in the day held a microphone to her face asking her to comment on the investigation. Of course, the current situation never came up and the reporters had a front row seat to see that the Mayor was in many ways just like they were: enjoying a couple of relaxing minutes with friends and colleagues after a long day at the office.
This strategy is not for everyone. It takes a level of courage, confidence and poise that not every executive can muster – especially in a crisis situation. However, the benefit of the Mayor’s strategy – taking deliberate steps to be one-on-one with them on their own turf and in a neutral situation – allows the media to see her as an individual and not only as an elected official which is almost guaranteed to be reflected in their upcoming coverage of the investigation.