It’s every executive’s nightmare. There’s been a big fraud and the press is calling with questions. Efforts to contain the issue internally have obviously sprung a leak, and now the difficult decision has to be made about what to say to the press.
As with all decisions covering any organization information to make available to outsiders, developing guidelines and protocols on handling the press should be addressed during periods of calm when no fraud issue is being pursued.
Here are a few variables to consider as you develop your own plan.
1. Be clear about who is authorized to speak with the press.
2. Make just as certain that all other employees know that they are not authorized to do so. Everyone should know how to refer press inquiries to the correct leaders.
3. When speaking with the press, be explicit. If the decision is made to reveal details, then be very explicit and stick to the facts. Avoid being pulled into conjecture by experienced reporters who are highly skilled at pushing ‘what if’ and ‘what else’ questions during interviews.
4. Craft the basics of your message in advance. Creating the framework of your generic message helps with decisions made in the heat of the moment.
5. It’s OK to smile politely and walk away. To say nothing – not even “No comment” (which automatically sounds like you’re hiding something!)
Would your leaders be ready to talk to the press tomorrow if a fraud surfaced today? Would you?
If not, start the discussion now. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency.
John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”