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ACC make another serious media training mistake

13 September 2012
The first thing we tell our media training clients is that their organisation must have a single designated spokesperson on any issue with a competent substitute ready to step in at any time. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it prevents mixed messages getting through to the media. And secondly, it's because anyone who talks to the media must have been through a media training course. Over the last week, ACC have failed on both counts. Firstly, when finally agreeing to an interview on 60 Minutes last Sunday to answer serious allegations, the man to front was their Acting Director of Clinical Services. He was clearly unprepared, had never had media training and was not the best person for the role. He was handed a hospital pass, so he did OK for a novice. These were serious allegations about ACC flying selected doctors around the country to assess patients. The accusation was that these doctors were used because they were more likely to recommend a reduction or complete halt to patient payments. We are talking hundereds of thousands of dollars paid to each doctor annually. Dr Jansen knew very little about this, and was not at all prepared for such an important interview. Without media training and an understanding of how such an interview differs from any other conversation, he was on a hiding to nothing. His handler then stopped the interview when the questions got difficult, saying he had a plane to catch. Hardly a great excuse for such an important issue. The whole thing did nothing for the already struggling reputation of ACC. To make matters worse, when the general media picked up the story on Monday, a new spokseperson entered the fray. Now it was ACC's Claims Management Acting General Manager. He seemed to know more about the issue than his predecessor, but did give different answers. This created mixed messages. Perhaps he should be the spokesperson. Obviously, with the Chairman and CEO of ACC gone, there is noone qualified to talk to the media. But this is the first thing that should have been organised upon their exits. It's so important for any organisation that their reputation is maintained or enhanced during such interviews, not destroyed. This is a classic example of the importance of media training. If something comes up and noone knows how to deal with the media, trouble awaits. That's why every organisation needs a dedicated spokesperson and a substitute. They must both undertake media training, so they know how to act in the event of some issue blowing up in their face that creates media interest. ACC have learnt this the hard way.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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