There are few, if any, better training grounds for journalists and Crisis PR people than The Associated Press. It’s unrelenting and unforgiving — a lifestyle that fuels and feeds upon adrenaline junkies. If you prosper there, you can excel anywhere.
The AP’s mantra is simple and exacting: Be fast. Be first. Be accurate.
This isn’t multiple choice. You must achieve them all, and the punishment for failure isn’t pretty. Too slow and you’ll never move up, although you may be shown the door. Even the slightest error must be accounted for in triplicate and becomes a black mark on your future.
Crisis & Reputation Management attracts the same Type-A personalities. Those who can quickly assess and explain a new situation. Who don’t make mistakes. Who can distinguish between what journalists say they need versus what they really need, and can cope effortlessly under pressure. Who are skilled at shifting strategies on the fly and have no tolerance for evasiveness or wasting time.
To an outsider, the speed with which their mind works can be daunting. Sometimes the Crisis PR guy has only a few seconds to size up a journalist, analyze a question and formulate a response that guides the reporter where you want him to go. If you’re lucky, you may be able to squeeze an hour or two to refine the message and polish the tone so it’s just right, but that’s increasingly rare as the journalistic world becomes more digital and faster-moving.
Only a few decades ago, newspaper reporters were working on stories for the next day, so deadlines were often hours away. Wire services and TV news historically operated on AM and PM cycles. In today’s digital world and 24/7 news cycles, deadlines are measured in minutes.
The world isn’t going to slow down. It will only get faster. Which means you will have even less time to act to protect your reputation.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.