BH&HPA’s PR consultant Jon Boston talks about dealing with the press – on the occasions you’d rather not.
To their guests, holiday parks might seem the perfect escape from daily cares. But as parks know only too well, that easygoing atmosphere offers no immunity from life’s often unavoidable perils. Fire, robbery, vandalism, and injuries or worse, can occur here as anywhere, at any time.
The last thing needed in crises such as these is a call from a journalist. And that call can be just as unwelcome on other occasions: for example, if there’s local opposition to a planning application or a guest with a grudge takes his story to the press, or there’s an outbreak of food poisoning.
Either way, you’re likely to be put on the spot by a reporter with a request to provide a comment. How should you respond? With a view to limiting any possible damage to the park’s reputation, we suggest the following five-point procedure…
1) Ensure that park staff are briefed not to answer questions from journalists. Instead, they should refer the reporter to a senior manager. An ill-judged remark from an employee may create just the type of story-line you are trying to avoid (e.g. “It was terrifying when the river banks burst…”).
2) When you speak with the journalist, never say “no comment”. It may be a temptation, especially if the issue is ongoing and unresolved, but the use of that term could result in an unfavourably ambiguous headline (e.g. “Park remains silent following caravan blaze”).
3) Tell the journalist that you will provide a comment – but remember that you are not compelled to do so there and then.
Advise the reporter you will be back to them within a reasonable time frame, say a couple of hours, and then prepare your comment.
4) Keep the comment as brief as possible, just a few sentences. As a rule, you will
simply be confirming already known facts and, when appropriate, emphasising that the park will be extending all possible help to the investigating authorities (e.g. police
or fire services).
5) Call the reporter back, give him/her the comment, and politely refuse to answer any
supplementary questions, referring them just to the statement you’ve provided. Stick with these rules, and you’ll be on perfectly safe ground. Remember too that the law is on your side if someone has been arrested following an incident – because there is then a ban on reporting anything other than the very barest facts about the case, and you won’t be asked to comment.
There are mercifully few occasions when parks are exposed to such situations.
But if they are, BH&HPA member parks can obtain free assistance with drafting
a comment from the association’s PR consultant Jon Boston.
For further information and advice contact Jon Boston, PR Consultant for BH&HPA on 01768 895225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.