By Gerard Braud
While working with crisis communications clients, I provide a “first critical statement” template. This template is intended to be read to the media, emailed to employees, and posted to the web in the first hour of a crisis when little is known about the emerging crisis. Some companies that operate facilities that have no spokespeople on site, but that have a security guard at the front gate. I’ve suggested that the template is simple enough that a security guard could go through low-level media training and be taught to deliver the message if media showed up at the front gate.
Amazingly and predictably, executives, in a semi-confidential and ultra condescending way, will say, “Have you met those people? They can’t be trusted with that!”
My response is, “Well, you gave ’em a gun.”
While some security companies employ highly trained security professionals, others employ people with skills equal to a day laborer. Some are taught to simply check badges and passes at a guard gate. Many have little education, poor verbal skills, and they come to work with a power attitude they developed when a badge was bestowed upon them.
Regardless of their skill level, three things are true:
3) They can be media trained to deliver the first critical statement. I’ve done it successfully many times.
As you plan your crisis communications drill scenario, let your mock media team know that testing the security team is an important part of the drill. Your mock media team should be reasonably assertive without being aggressive with the security personnel.
The goal is to record on video tape what the guards do and say. Guards generally all do the same thing. Some instinctively say, “No comment.” Others verbally and forcefully tell the mock media that they cannot be on the site or that they will be arrested, even when the mock media are standing safely and legally on the public right of way. Many security guards feel a need to put their hands on the camera lens to block the view of the camera. Some try to physically push and escort mock reporters away.
It is somewhat comical from my standpoint because they do all the things they’ve ever seen other guards do in any bad television situation.
Security guards often are the proverbial worst first impression. What they say can and will be used against them in the court of public opinion.
Such behavior sends a message to the public that the company has done something wrong and that they have something to hide.
Remember, if a drill is your opportunity to mess up in private, so behaviors can be addressed and corrected, challenging the security team in your drill is important.
Furthermore, a low-level media training class needs to be created to teach these guards how they appear to the public when they act inappropriately with the media. They must be taught to politely instruct the media where to park. Next guards must be taught how to ask the media for credentials and a business card so the appropriate media contact in the company can be called. The guards also need to be taught a verbal script. This may be, “How can I help you?” “If you’ll provide me with your media credentials and a business card I’ll be glad to call someone who can speak with you.”
When the guards are asked casual questions by either real or mock reporters, they need to respond, “My responsibilities are confined to maintaining security at this entrance, but I’m sure someone from the company will be able to answer all of your questions shortly, so if you will, please bare with me while I tend to may assigned duties, you should be hearing from someone soon.”
It wouldn’t hurt to have a printed statement at the entrance for the guard to hand out.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Make sure your security guards make a good first impression and that they are included in every crisis communications drill.