When a crisis develops, you must respond in real time, says Charlie Powell, College of Veterinary Medicine at WashingtonStateUniversity. In the news media, coverage of events is 24/7. And if you won’t speak up to tell your side of the story, reporters will find someone else who will.

Powell, who fielded thousands of media calls about the cow that tested positive for BSE in 2003, has learned a lot about dealing with media.
He offered the following tips to producers attending a heifer-growers meeting in March:

  • Develop a crisis-communication plan for your operation. Test it regularly and distribute it widely throughout your organization. Be sure to include phone numbers for key people.
  •   Identify and train a spokesperson for your operation.
  • Truth and trust go hand in hand. If you lie to media representatives, and they find out, they will never trust you again. And, worse yet, if you lie to the media and get away with it, you will think that it is a good strategy. If you make a mistake, fess up and correct it.
  • Timing is everything. Return phone calls to reporters right away and set up a time for an interview. That way, the reporter knows that you are willing to help, and it also gives you time to prepare.
  •   Speak through the media to your audience. The media is your megaphone to consumers.