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After the Incident: 10 Rules for Dealing With the Media

Jeffrey Greenberger Comments

I was recently contacted by a self-storage owner who had a break-in at his facility. More than 50 units were compromised, and he was concerned about media coverage and how it would affect his business.

Although a break-in is not a disaster like a fire or flood, it can be an insurance and public-relations nightmare. You should have procedures in place—and your staff trained—long before the reporters arrive on your doorstep. Here are 10 rules you should always follow.

No. 1: Brief everyone.

Include this simple statement in the employee handbook or operations manual: No employee is ever permitted to speak to the media. This, by the way, is true of even the “good” stories.

The company should have one official spokesperson—usually the owner, regional manager, attorney, etc. Beyond that no one should speak to the media. If a conflicting answer is given by two different representatives, it could reflect poorly on your facility.

No. 2: Prepare a written statement.

If there is a break-in or other crisis at the facility, prepare a written statement and distribute it in response to any requests for an interview or information. If you give a statement to the media in writing your words cannot be twisted or taken out of context. It should be well-written, free of grammatical and spelling errors. If possible, craft a statement before something happens, leaving blanks that can be filled in the event of a crisis. This should include general facility information, how long you have been in business, etc. If you know someone with public relations experience, ask for assistance.

No. 3: Stick to the facts.

You may think you know other “facts” about the event, you suspect someone was involved, you heard something or there is something you saw on the videotape; however, if you do not know these facts with 100 percent certainty, do not comment on them. Here’s an example of a generic statement:

We are aware there was a break-in at the facility and property appears to have been taken. The facility and the company are cooperating with the authorities. We are trying to reach our valuable tenants to notify them that their unit may have been involved. We will be making arrangements with the tenants to let them in on a one-by-one basis to allow them to assess any loss and assist them with reporting the loss to the occupant’s insurance carrier. Our rental agreements require occupants carry insurance on their stored property, so we expect that insurance companies will allow our occupants to make a full recovery of any loss they suffered.

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