Crisis communications is no easy job. In this week’s PRNewser interview, we chat with Andrew Gilman, president of CommCore Consulting Group. Andrew has been a communications strategist, crisis counselor and keynote speaker for more than twenty years.
He is Co-author of the best-selling book Get To The Point (Bantam 1990), and is also a lawyer and award-winning journalist.
As a crisis communications expert, Andrew’s experience includes providing advice to the University of Virginia Medical Center in the baby-switching incident and counsel to Johnson & Johnson during Tylenol I.
He talks to PRNewser about the biggest crisis’ of the last year, how social media is changing crisis communications, and whether or not Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick is “media trainable.”
What are some of the biggest misconceptions executives have when it comes to media training?
The biggest hurdle for an executive to understand is that they can’t control the interview the way they run most of their business lives. However, with planning and preparation you can increase the quotes or positive mentions in an article.
Do you have any funny horror stories that you can share?
Most of our client work is confidential so we can’t share specifics. Suffice it to say it’s like a good sports scrimmage; we like to make mistakes on the practice field.
Who are some well known executives that had a big change after their media training? (i.e. they came in really green, but left as a pro)
Wish I could provide names. Unless I get clearance, I can’t supply names.
How has media training changed with the growth of social and online media?
Social Media changes a good deal. First, more interviews like this are done via email. Email is good for basic information interviews. Second, social media allows you to add video. Online provides the ability to post the entire interview, not just the one or two answers that a reporter will quote.
Tell us about your role in providing counsel to Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol tampering scare of the 1980’s.
First, J&J gets all the credit. They made the right decisions; their culture served them well. I had the privilege of working with Chairman James Burke and other senior leaders. I specifically prepared Mr. Burke for his key interview on “60 Minutes.” I also prepared marketing executives for a grass roots campaign in local markets.
What are some ways your previous career as a journalist helped you get into media training?
One of the great things I can help clients with is the understanding of how reporters think. It’s hard to learn this from books; you learn it from asking questions, writing or producing stories and interacting with editors. If our clients can think like a journalist, they’ll do better in a media interview.
How does CommCore’s Crisis Plan wRiter help clients prepare and react to a crisis?
We like to think we are early movers; we developed the product 4 years before 9/11. We don’t actively sell CPR any more; most plans are direct and simple.
What do you think were some of the biggest crisis’ of the last year and how were they handled, from a communications standpoint?
Virginia Tech – The lessons improved crisis preparation at most universities.
Chinese Products – Not sure whether this spills over into the Olympics, but it’s a crisis with legs.
Sports and Drugs – The irony is that everyone says sports and drugs are bad, yet attendance continues to go up and people still buy products.
Sub-Prime Mortgage – This is an economic crisis. It’s hard to spin when the facts keep getting worse.
Are there any clients that you wouldn’t take on?
Yes. However, in general, my training as a lawyer teaches that all clients deserve representation.
What do you make of the current field of presidential candidates and their communication’s staffs?
They all have good professionals. Most important learning for the rest of the world is how quickly they respond to charges within the news cycle.
If you had to media train Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick, what would you touch on?
As his comments after the Super Bowl indicate, he might be “untrainable.” He was monosyllabic and not gracious. That may be understandable but it doesnâ€™t seem to matter to him if he doesn’t score well in the media. He cares about Mr. Kraft and his team.
What will CommCore Consulting Group focus on in 2008?
We’ve been consistent for 24 years. Prepare, practice and communication with passion. We’re helping clients more with Social Media applications and a good deal more crisis communications planning and response.