Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Imagine this. You're walking past a shop with a sign Come on in! New customers welcome. There's a manager in the doorway trying to look welcoming. You point at the sign, and speak with a sceptical tone.

"I dont think so," you say. "I saw on TV that four of your customers just died in there."
The manager replies, "Here at Ace Services we take health and safety very seriously." Then he walks away.
You call questions after him, but he doesn't turn around and answer.

Are you reassured now? 

Of course not. And yet that bland, single-serve, meaningless reassurance is what many organisations issue when faced with a crisis. They send the mainstream media a statement with minimal relevance to the central issue, then make themselves unavailable for follow-up questions, hoping to starve the issue of oxygen. 

That's credibility suicide. It looks shifty. It looks as if you've been caught out doing something embarrassing and cannot look the public in the eye. If all you issue is that one bland statement, you can't blame the mainstream media for publishing it, nor social media for jumping right into attack mode.

Even when legal or procedural issues mean you can't yet comment on some details, you have to front up saying so. The question is not, do you front up. It's how you front up.  In a crisis get expert media consultant advice on what to say and when. In the meantime here are a few of my blogs that might help.

Now, what if it's not a crisis? Just something you think the public should know.  The short answer is that the same make-yourself-available principle applies - you're happy to give interviews to mainstream media and reputable bloggers, and you're happy to interact on social media. You're happy to be known. Obviously there is a longer answer, but that's for another time. 



Interested in a workshop on media skills for your team?





I'm often asked, 'How do I handle social media trolls?'

If the social media comments really are at that extreme - abusive hate attacks from anonymous cowards - the answer is simple. Do nothing. Any response validates their existence, gives them pleasure and invites them to continue eating you.  If their comments promote hatred directly, or rely on extreme emotional labelling (watch for the presence of 'f' and 'c' words), ignore them.

But many who ask that question are not really talking about trolls.  They're wondering whether or how to reply to hurtful social media comment. Here's a general guide.

  • If the negative social comment is based on ignorance of key facts, then enter the social fray with the correct facts - but leave your emotion out of it. Just politely state the facts, and let others spread those facts for you. Many councils do exactly that, with social and mainstream media.
  • If the facts are not an issue and the hurtful comment is simply opinion, it's usually best to ignore the comments.

Here's another possibility. Imagine reading a social media comment (about you, your product, your organisation) is like walking along the street past clusters of people talking about you. You wouldn't seriously try to persuade each small group and correct their way of thinking. But if you saw one large crowd listening to an influential speaker, you might want to get involved.

So I salute the entreprenuer Sir Michael Hill, who saw that all the negative Twitter comment was generated by one key player with a heap of followers. He entered the fray, on Twitter, like this:

Influential tweeter:  Have you seen that new Michael Hill ad? It sucks.
Michael Hill:  Hey, I hear you don't like my new ad... what's wrong with it?
Influential tweeter:  It's too soppy.
Michael Hill:  Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.
Influential tweeter: Hey, that Michael Hill is okay!


Have fun, but don't feed the trolls. 



Interested in a workshop on media skills for your team?



About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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