Wouldn’t it be great to know ahead of time when and why your company or organization would be getting a telephone call from the media? Believe it or not, you already have that ability right at your fingertips. Sure, there are instances where you could pretty well guess that a phone call is coming such as in the case of a strike, a product recall, an environmental disaster or a workplace fatality. But what about those times when a call comes in that you were not expecting? While half of your brain listens to the voice on the other end of the line, the other half is frantically asking, “Why are they calling? What did we do? What has happened that I don’t know about?”
What’s happening here is what is known in the news business as the Could It Happen Here Story. Whenever there is a story gaining national attention, local news media outlets will always try to localize the event. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 which resulted in the deaths of 168 people, news outlets across the country went into Could It Happen Here mode. Officials were questioned about security at local federal buildings and federal workers were asked if they felt safe in the workplace in light of the Oklahoma City incident. When tornadoes strike a portion of the nation, local media outlets air stories about local preparedness for such a disaster. When several children were sickened after playing on a lawn newly treated with chemicals, landscaping companies across the nation were forced to defend their own practices.
The bottom line is that if there is a story that is making national news and if the story is in any way connected to your business, there is a possibility you could be on the receiving end of a Could It Happen Here call. Your job is to simply be aware of the possibility. As you read the morning newspaper, listen to morning radio news or watch morning television news, keep a careful eye and ear out for stories that relate to your business. If you find one, rehearse mentally what you would do and say if you got to the office and the media called. That way, when the call comes in, you’re prepared to confidently tell the media that because of your company’s standards, policies and professionalism, it Couldn’t Happen Here!