Doorstepping strategies

In late 2012 there were a hugely interesting few weeks in terms of media stories, Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Savile to name but two.  The fallout from these stories will continue for sometime and as I write, my belief is that they both have still have some distance to run.

I picked up from LinkedIn a video clip of Jeremy Paxman being doorstepped outside the BBC.,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bclid=0&bctid=1916835465001  As far as an example of doorstepping is concerned it was a pretty feeble effort. The gathered media were a pretty tame bunch and the grand inquisitor bestrode the concourse outside the BBC like a colossus scattering the assembled cameramen and photographers from his path.

Such was the lack of energy in the media gathering the cynic in me is inclined to think this might have been set up to promote the BBC’s scheduling of Panorama’s Jimmy Savile / Newsnight investigation.  Perish the thought.

The footage did get me thinking about the strategies of dealing with journalists and camera crews who want an impromptu interview, especially when your organisation is at the centre of a news story.

A positive approach will always be the way forward - give people tools around a way to act and respond and doorstepping becomes a more proactive and less reactive process. This will not make the engagement easy but it will be manageable. 

Here are my top tips;

1. Firstly, I think it is important to ensure people within an organisation understand that doorstepping can and does happen. "It couldn't happen here / now / to me..." is a very dangerous mentality to have for all aspects of incident management and business continuity. So if your organisation becomes the story then expect you might be doorstepped – ensure your colleagues, especially those in senior positions understand that.

2. The second tip is to understand where safety is and keep moving towards it.  Maintain a steady momentum, don’t run. Move around any obstructions presented in front of you and don’t stop. Keep your head and eye line up.

I know there is an argument that says stop and talk and whilst there are no absolute “rights and wrongs” in this, I base my advice upon the fact that in an impromptu interiew outside you are not in control of much, if anything.  You have little chance of communicating anything clearly and when you add to this the fact that only inside your building will you have access to the latest information, the risks of unguarded or misinformed comment are very high.

3. The third tip is that, in expecting you might be doorstepped, have something to say.   Silence is not good (plus difficult to maintain) and the dreaded “no comment” should be avoided at all costs.  Offering a short line around the nature of the incident, that you are responding positively to it and some general indication of what that response is, will suffice for content of the one liner. The only additional comment should be a commitment to continue to communicate, which is very important to the media.

4. This message should be shared across all those people who might be expected to speak on behalf of the organisation.  This way the media get a coherent and consistent message. The ability to share this message at short notice across a senior executive team might be a challenge so it should be a part of any crisis training.

None of this is rocket science, but you can’t train people effectively “on the hoof” any more than you can invent policy.  The doorstep interview is a favourite of the media so forewarned is forearmed!



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