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  • Writer's pictureCrisis Shield

The Honest Words Methodology: Revolutionising how spokespeople interact with media

By James Fitzpatrick

Honest Words Methodology

Our trust in businesses, politicians, and the media is at an extraordinary low level across the world according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

The age of 'Old-School Public Relations' and 'sweeping mistakes under the rug' is long gone but it’s been replaced by the age of dull, non-committing, truth-avoiding, and complex legal language.

We call it: ‘politician speak’

Spokespeople are afraid of speaking the honest truth in a crisis. They try to avoid admitting failure, answering the hard questions and taking responsibility; thinking it will damage their reputation.

Our experience from responding to live crises over the past ten years paints a different picture.

More often than not, transparency, honesty, humility and having the guts to apologise and take responsibility have resonated far stronger with most stakeholder groups that we've worked with.

We appreciate this is easier said than done; in a crisis and the heat of the moment, writing and delivering an apology - and your critical messaging - is hard. Anyone who says otherwise likely hasn't done it before.

Enter the 'Honest Words' Methodology.

To help guide your crisis response, we've developed a practical and proven formula for restoring trust.

This isn’t a basic 'PR gimmick' – we've based the Honest Words methodology on analysis of;

  • seven of the best spokespeople of all time,

  • three ground-breaking academic studies on the science behind 'apologies',

  • proven formulas to build your message; and

  • real life case studies.

We've injected these learnings and theory into our world-leading Media Training Workshop - designed for an organisation's key communications and spokespeople.

In our Media Training Workshop, we cover:

  • an introduction to how modern media works,

  • a checklist for responding in a crisis,

  • how to leverage social media and live video,

  • a formula for writing the appropriate message, for the right people, at the right time,

  • how and when to apologise; and

  • the practical element: practice, practice and more practice in front of simulated press conferences (we'll bring in lights, professional camera set, journalists etc. to make the practice as realistic as possible).

Along the way, we use tips, tricks and analysis from spokespeople and studies such as:

  • Barack Obama,

  • an Army's response to a misconduct scandal,

  • Oprah Winfrey,

  • Deborah Thomas and a theme-park Crisis,

  • how Uber tested four different apology models with 1.6million users,

  • Melissa Marshall and Ed Yong from TedTalks,

  • the ups and downs of the Bill Clinton apology,

  • a bank's twitter video response to outages,

  • how a telecommunications company reduced customer complaints by 84%,

  • a sporting organisation's response to a cheating saga,

  • Mohammed Qahtani – the 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking, and

  • leading academic research on the science of apologies and crisis communication.

You'll walk away empowered with a bank of simple message formulas, step-by-step checklists, knowledge, tips, tricks, and most importantly, practical experience.

The Honest Words Project aims to revolutionise how spokespeople interact with their stakeholders, killing the rise of 'politician speak', and help restore the public's faith in businesses, politicians, and leaders.

Let us know if you'd like more information on the project and our Media Training Workshop.


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