You have seen these “ambush” interviews before. The reporter approaches a person accused of doing wrong when they are least suspecting it. They wait for them outside their place of work, approach them as they step out of their home or simply try and barge through the front door of that office/home and demand answers.
Recently a Valley Salon owner got to experience it first hand.
So what can we learn from this woman’s experience?
1. It can happen to you. This is a salon owner, apparently struggling financially, no matter her struggles you can bet she did not expect to be the lead story on the local evening news.
2. As a former journalist I participated in this type of interview. 90% of the time we made at least 2 attempts to schedule a sit down interview before proceeding with an ambush interview. I do not know if that happend here, but for most journalists this type of interview is not their first course of action.
A scheduled sit down interview would have given this woman the opportunity to collect her thoughts, decide what her message is and how she plans to deliver it. It would also give her the time to call a professional like myself.
3. Don’t shut the door. Shutting the door in the reporter’s face sets you up for punishment. By doing that you appear to be running and who runs? The guilty. The bad guy.
By shutting that door you also pretty much guarantee the TV station is going to play that clip over and over again in promos and teases for that night’s newscast.
What you should do is tell them you will sit down with them in one hour. Do not answer any questions at that time. Explain to the reporter off camera that you understand how bad it will look if you do not show up for that interview in an hour and that you will be there.
Then call a media coach or your PR agency immediately.
4. This business owner did come back and do an interview, but it did her no good. She was mad, defensive and continually contradicted the reporter. She was not prepared.
In this economy she could have easily gone from the villain to the victim. By explaining that times are tough, she is very sorry for the situation but like many small business owners she is struggling, she could have changed the direction of the story. She then should have told the reporter she now has the money and will pay the women immediately.
5. Had this business owner had a media crisis plan in place the outcome would have been much different.
As business owners we create business plans, sales plans, evacuation plans, but we don’t prepare for a media emergency.
Why? We don’t believe it can happen to us. Whether it is an angry former employee airing your dirty laundry, a lawsuit, a recall or a social media blunder, it can happen to you. It happens to people like you everyday. When handled poorly by the company this type of coverage ruins reputations and can put businesses under. Be prepared.