WHAT NOT TO SAY
It is a natural reaction for any person involved in a diving incident to try to present themselves and their organisation in the best possible light. Particularly when the interviewer is seemingly sympathetic and well disposed towards them and their role in the matter.
Rather than improving the dive operator’s circumstances, such attempts to better their situation will often lead to revelations that only add to the story’s news potential. This usually happens when the individual concerned seeks to justify their own actions by attempting to divert the blame onto others, or when they express an opinion – no matter how accurate and well informed – on what took place.
Regardless of the strength of the dive operator’s case, or how tempting the opportunity to make their point of view known, straying away from hard fact is always fraught with risk. Especially in a damage control situation where the whole purpose of the exercise is to avoid becoming headline news.
Sticking rigidly to the facts is something that’s easier said than done, but as far as possible – and without being seen to be evasive – a spokesperson SHOULD NOT:
• Expand their statement beyond the known facts of a case.
• Reveal the identities of those involved in the incident until advised that it is permissible to do so by the appropriate authorities.
• Imply that the victim was at fault.
• Voice any doubts or concerns about the victim’s level of training and experience, or their health.
• Speculate about what might have caused the diving accident. (That is something best left to the investigating authorities to determine.)
• Be critical of, or speak disparagingly about, anyone who is involved in the incident – or be provoked into making moral or ethical judgements about their actions.
• Repeat questions that are put to them. (Some may contain potentially damaging wording that can later be attributed back to the spokesperson.)
• Enter into debate with reporters about any opinions concerning the incident that might have been expressed by diving industry ‘experts’. (Some of those people may have an imperfect knowledge of diving but occupy an exalted position in the wider community. In publicly disagreeing with their views, the operator runs a risk of prolonging the worth of the story.)
• Compare the present situation with any similar diving incident.
• Be critical of other diving organizations and operations, or of the relevant Regulations, Standards and Codes of Practice that apply to diving.
• Admit to liability or possible oversights that may have contributed to the incident. (Even where fault exists, public self-recrimination serves no useful purpose and may even result in the operator later being blamed for actions that were beyond his or her power to control.)
• Make exaggerated claims about professional experience and qualifications – particularly those that relate to diving.
• Suggest that diving is a dangerous activity.
• Knowingly tell a lie, or intentionally try to mislead the media.
Categories: Crisis Management Manual