Mike McCarthy has 30+ years as a radio and television personality, news director and talk show host as he warns security executives to be careful when handling the media.


You may feel pretty smug. Your security operation seems to be on auto-pilot. You have a solid reputation. There are no major issues relating to your company that are noteworthy much less newsworthy. Any thought or interest in the media is flying way under your radar screen.

Then one day, the unexplainable, undesirable or indescribable happens. These “screw up your day” events come in several varieties: natural disasters, workplace violence, fire, sabotage, product liability, hazmat leak, labor dispute or a financial investigation – to name a few. In this age of instant news (Have you been on YouTube yet?) your company’s security crisis may readily become a local, national, or international news story.

In addition to dealing with the turmoil of the crisis itself, now the news media wants to talk to you. All those anxious reporters are at your door-step, on your phone line, and bombarding your e-mail wanting your comment. The auto-pilot world you know today may be headed toward a crash landing if you are not prepared for your “15 Seconds of Media Fame.”

So how do you cope if you haven’t prepared or trained for the dreaded “media interview?” Likely, you won’t cope, much less succeed. Here’s why: “No Comment” is not only the wrong answer, it is not even a plausible answer to media inquiries. BZZZZZ! You fail! Your company fails! (Losing reputation, customers and market share in the process).

And (listen up here) . . . the reporters will get the (or a) story anyway despite your silence. The story should come from you, not from someone else’s mouth that could do a disservice to the truth of the matter (i.e. a competitor) As “no comment” becomes a story within itself, the resulting news reporting will not be your story, your spin or your message. But the distrust you have just established by not commenting at all will absolutely, positively, be yours to own. You have to ask yourself, “Is this truly the position I want to be in?” Likely not. Your company has created a disservice to itself if you have not planned and trained in basic media relations.

To get you started, here are some easy to understand steps leading to good media relations for the chief security officer or his or her advice to the CEO:

Ron Palmer, CPP, recently reappointed as the chief of police of the Tulsa Police Department and former chief of the Portsmouth, Va., police department, has numerous experiences with the media.

The Top 10 List of Wooing the Media

10. Understand the media agenda. The story they want/get should be your story.

9. Don’t create obstacles. Assist and provide information where you can.

8. Do your homework. Be prepared for all questions. Practice.

7. Recognize the differing needs of print, radio, and TV news.

6. Be concise. All you say will not be “aired” – usually only about 7 seconds.

5. Stay cool and professional. Signs of frustration or anger are not appropriate.

4. Get over it. Mistakes in reporting occur. If you can be misquoted, you will.

3. Craft your media message and agenda in line with your company values.

2. Provide routine updates as the story “unfolds.”

1. Tell the truth as you know it. Verify when possible.

Of course, the maxim: “never let them see you sweat” is a good one, but takes some practice to master. However, there are certain mistakes that can cause you and your company to go up in flames as you speak. If you don’t want to “become toast” while giving an interview, the following “don’t do rules” will help you survive to fight another day.

Media Rules to Die By:

  • Show a lack of empathy regarding the situation if injury or death is involved.

  • Speculate, overstate, understate, or showboat.

  • Hold a briefing or press conference without preparing.

  • Respond to hostile questions in a hostile manner.

  • Blame others for you own mistakes.

  • Reveal confidential information.

  • Show favoritism or give an “exclusive” interview.

  • TALK OFF THE RECORD - the corporate “kiss of death.”
Corporate media training for C-Level executives to first line supervisors only makes sense in this day and age. Why? Because, a “deer in the headlights” look and “no comment” just doesn’t cut it.

Visit: www.mediacrisisgurus.com for information, a course description, availability, other audio and printed products and more about how to survive and thrive in a media blitz.