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Communications Lessons From Sandy Hook. Oregon School Public Relations Association. A Quiz… Fact or Fiction. The shooter was 24 year old Ryan Lanza The Mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary school taught there at one time

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Communications lessons from sandy hook

Communications Lessons From Sandy Hook

Oregon School Public Relations Association

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

A quiz fact or fiction
A Quiz… Fact or Fiction

  • The shooter was 24 year old Ryan Lanza

  • The Mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary school taught there at one time

  • A man was arrested outside of Sandy Hook elementary school on the morning of the shooting

  • The school asked for teddy bears to comfort their students

  • The community needed volunteers, especially grief counselors to come to Newtown to help

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

Sandy hook now you see it
Sandy Hook…Now You See It…

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

Now you don t
Now You Don’t…

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]


  • 26 people killed in a small community

  • Some parents are city employees – everyone knew someone

  • Media and visitors shuts down the town. Gridlock

  • President comes to visit… so does Anderson Cooper and Dr. Phil

  • 21 Funerals in town in about a week

  • Massive law enforcement effort

  • Multiple Federal agencies respond

  • Businesses impacted

  • Volunteers… some invited … some not

  • $7.5 Million donated to families within 4 weeks

  • 60,000 Teddy Bears

  • Cascading Events… School leadership a victim, snow, flu, conspiracy theory

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

School issues shooting at a school not a school shooting
School Issues- Shooting at a school, not a school shooting

  • Key Leaders Victims

  • Plans in place… worked well for the most part

  • Rebuild? Tear it down?

  • Relocate and Reopen New Sandy Hook Elementary

  • Costs

  • Personnel Decisions

    • Superintendent

    • Sandy Hook Principal

  • Neighboring schools in lock down

  • Non Traditional Support Methods… Comfort Dogs, horses and pigs

  • Trigger Events for Kids – scraping chairs

  • Staff – Parking Lot Phone Call Support

    TYPICAL Reactions: Scapegoat, Staff turn over, Test Scores, Vocabulary… 12-14, Anniversaries

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

Donations management voad adventist disaster services
Donations Management… VOADAdventist Disaster Services

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

What are the pio issues around donations
What Are The PIO Issues Around Donations?

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

Community communication hub

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt, [email protected]

Memorials intentional unintentional
Memorials… Intentional, Unintentional

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt, [email protected]

Media communications issues
Media/Communications Issues

  • MSN Story giving address of school “send a sympathy card”

  • MSN Story asking for ‘Volunteers, especially Grief Counselors, please call…

  • Funeral Home Visit

  • Police information was wrong in the beginning

  • Newtown Bee provided Media Training to impacted First Responders

  • Connecticut Association of Funeral Directors… 18 volunteer Funeral Directors to help and a Media Consultant

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

We are not objective
We are NOT objective

  • An Event Impacts You….

  • Judgment May Be Impaired

  • School System Isn’t Alone… Use Your Resources

  • PIO/Communications Job During a Major Crisis May be Different Than Day to Day

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

We are not alone
We Are Not Alone

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

School Superintendent




Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]

Take aways
Take Aways

  • Coordination begins in chaos

  • It’s about relationships

  • Understand we are in this for the long haul

  • Spokesperson may change but message should be consistent

  • Perception IS reality

Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt. [email protected]