Jetstar makes serious media training mistake

2 March 2013
Jetstar’s media response to its failure to transfer the flight booking of shark attack victim Adam Strange’s mother days after his death is a perfect example of why media training is so important for business leaders. The company is no stranger to bad publicity, but its failure to deal properly with the media doesn't help its cause. In situations like this, we tell our media training clients that the boss must front up to media. This is because a company can look a bit insensitive if the response doesn't come from the top. In this case, it should have been CEO David Hall. He should have made himself available to everyone, with a consistent three-point message. This is a basic media training skill. The first point could be an apology, or at least something that shows empathy with the mother. The second could have been what has since been done for her by the airline. The last point could have been what the company will do to stop this happening again. But Mr Hall didn’t front. Instead Jetstar issued a statement. This has become quite common, but it’s never as caring or effective as the boss fronting up. The statement explained that cases like this one were looked at on a case-by-case basis. It did show some empathy, but this was issued by an unnamed spokesperson, and was written in very official language. In other words, it looked as if it had been written by a robot, not a caring person. For example, one section said: "Jetstar extends its sympathies to Mrs Strange and her family. Jetstar appreciate this would have been a stressful situation and regrets if the service received by her relative from our call centre was perceived as unsympathetic.” To be fair, Jetstar are not alone with this approach. So many business leaders fear media interviews, and do almost anything to avoid them. This is even if it affects the reputation of their business. By having a clear three-point message and coming back to it again and again in different ways, a media interview should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. People worry too much about the questions and being put in an awkward position. They forget that they are in total control of what comes out of their mouth. By understanding the basics of media training and practicing them, media interviews can grow reputations. But by failing to front up, the opposite often happens.

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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