When to Talk to the Media in a Crisis-Missouri Duck Boat Tragedy

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Media Trainer Russ Rhea with the Predictive Media Network analyzes whether the owners of the Missouri tour boat company made the right decision to talk to the media right away after the tragedy involving one of its vessels.


Russ Rhea, Predictive Media Network:
One of the toughest decisions for organizations facing a crisis is whether or not to talk to the media. In this segment, we’re taking a look at a company that did decide to talk to the media right away. The owner of the tour boat company involved in that tragic incident that killed 17 people on a Missouri lake. Jim Patterson went on CBS to face some tough questions the morning after a severe storm sank the amphibious duck boat near Branson, Missouri.

CBS Anchor:
So I know that this is a very difficult, terrible, painful day for you and your company, and devastating to the lives that were lost. So we really appreciate you taking the time right now. Can you tell us, what are you hearing from your team about what went wrong?

Jim Patterson:
Well, we don’t know that. First of all, it is absolutely devastating, and our hearts and prayers go out to everyone that’s been affected. And this business has been operating for 47 years, and we’ve never had an incident like this or anything close to it. To the best of our knowledge, and we don’t have a lot of information right now, but there was a, it was a fast-moving storm, came out of basically nowhere.

Russ Rhea, Predictive Media Network:
Obviously, there may be legal questions about him going on the record with the media so quickly after the incident, when an investigation was just getting started. However, he did get right to his message about expressing empathy for those impacted, and providing some perspective about the company’s safety record. Just his appearance, so soon after the tragedy, sent a message, as mentioned by the show’s hosts.

CBS Anchor:
Of course, we’ll be continuing to follow this story, and appreciate that he was able to join us.

Really applaud that he would speak at such a time, because in most cases like this, executives at that level are hiding for the hills, or they release a statement saying “We don’t know anything, and we’re sorry.” But he did wanna speak, ’cause he said, he knows what vacations mean to people.

Yeah, it’s heart-breaking.

Taking this very seriously.

Russ Rhea:
Talking to the media is something always carefully evaluated during a crisis, and there can be risk. But communicating early gives the media some information to report, and can convey the organization cares, and is transparent about what happened. Thanks for watching.