As a CEO or business leader waking up to read the news or your company’s press clips and seeing a story that you were not aware would run can be very frustrating.

A story in the media that comes as a surprise does not have to be negative to ruin your day. Even a very positive story can require considerable management of both internal and external stakeholders.

I’m not just talking about traditional media. This also means what is published on social media channels both owned and earned.

Sometimes it may simply be that you were not aware of a story running. But on occasions it may be that you did not have a clear picture of the nature and details of exactly what would go to press.

Cleaning up the mess may require communication to employees, it may require engagement with government or regulatory bodies, and it sometimes requires engagement with investors.

One of the most important elements necessary for successful media management is the process for releasing information to or through the media and in doing so how internal stakeholders are managed. This can sometimes require more effort and more attention than the engagement with the media itself.

Companies need to ensure that a detailed media and communications policy is in place that governs who engages with the media, the authority for doing that, the process for approving what is provided and published, and the steps that should be taken to inform the organisation and stakeholders ahead of release and publication.

As a leader within an organisation, it is your responsibility to ensure that a proper media or communications policy is in place. And to ensure that the press secretary or staffer responsible for engaging with the media understands the policy and religiously follows it.

I have always found that a very simple practice to follow around media engagement is to adhere to a principle of ‘no surprises’. At its simplest this means that nothing should ever go to press without all of the relevant stakeholders being well aware in advance. And for me, in advance means giving those stakeholders enough time to provide input, prepare themselves, comment or even stop the communications from taking place.

‘No surprises’. This is simple and easy for everyone in the organisation to understand. If the process breaks down, sometimes you can get lucky and avoid any fallout. But you really don’t want to test this out.

When it comes to the media no-one likes surprises.