The conflict diamond situation could draw the media to your door heres how to get your message across
Youre standing at your counter when you hear a commotion outside. Looking up, you see a half-dozen people pacing in front of your door, holding signs that read Dont buy a diamond that kills people, and Dont buy diamonds that terrorize people.
A television crew shows up, and a moment later the reporter asks to speak with you. He says he wants to ask about conflict diamonds, and you tell him about the issue. Then when the camera is rolling, he catches you by surprise with the question Do you sell diamonds from Sierra Leone or Angola? You stammer Well, I dont know. Its hard to tell where a diamond comes from because theres no label or anything, and then once again go into detail and try to explain the issue.
Later, you turn on the evening news and theres your store with the pickets in front. The protesters deliver their message in a short, crisp statement, then the camera shows you stumbling through an explanation of a complex subject. What you said was accurate, but you didnt say it very well.
Sound far-fetched? Thats what the fur industry thought when animal-rights activists started their campaign against furs.
Heres another scenario. A reporter asks you whether you sell conflict diamonds and you respond The U.S. jewelry industry supports United Nations efforts to stop sales of illicit diamonds from any country where rebel forces use diamonds to finance acts of war and terror. Its impossible to verify the country of origin of any diamonds we now have in stock, but for future buying we are working with all of our suppliers to ensure they dont knowingly sell us diamonds from any conflicted areas.
That night on the news, you see a confident jeweler explaining the problem briefly and leaving a definite impression that customers can feel positive about diamonds they buy from you.
The difference is preparation. Generally, youll receive little or no warning of an interview the cameras just show up. So you need to be prepared.
When reporters cover an event like this, theyll logically speak with protesters first so they understand the protest, then theyll ask for your comments. The way you respond, what you say and how you say it will determine whether the audience sympathizes with you or the protesters. In the case of television, youll have only a few seconds to make your case, so make the most important points quickly and try not to get involved in lengthy explanations.
If your store is targeted, you wont have to do it by yourself. Theres support available to help you prepare for such a confrontation.
To keep you up to date on the conflict diamond issue, check out the Professional Jeweler Web site (www.professionaljeweler.com) and go to the Conflict Diamonds archive to read all of our coverage on the subject for the past two years.
Jewelers of America provides its members with a kit containing a statement and talking points for media and your customers, plus a suggested letter of agreement for you and your suppliers guaranteeing not to sell conflict diamonds. Display it if the need arises.
JA joined with the Diamond Information Center to produce a booklet, Media Training for Jewelers, which offers tips in dealing with all media, not just in a crisis situation but on a regular basis.
The Jewelry Information Centers PR Handbook shows how to work with the news media.
Jewelers of America Inc., New York City; (800) 223-0673, fax (212) 768-8087, www .jewelers.org.
Jewelry Information Center, New York City; (800) 459-0130 or (212) 398-2319, JIC@jewelryinfo.org.
Diamond Information Center, New York City; (212) 210-7920, fax (212) 210-8778.
by Jack Heeger