Crisis Communication to Students, Parents, Police, the Press and Your Community Charles P. Leitch Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch, Inc., PS. email@example.com
Case Study: Sandy Hook • The Crisis: • On December 14, 2012, there was a school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut • The horrific tragedy took the lives of 20 school children and 6 adults
Case Study: Sandy Hook • Immediately following reports of the shooting, worried parents, family members, and the media arrived on scene
Sandy Hook’s Crisis Response • Designing a plan: • Police established a time and location for a press conference • The location was a park, three-quarters of a mile away, allowing the police to perform an investigation and the media to report from an appropriate distance
Sandy Hook’s Crisis Response • Executing the plan: • Police sent an email to news and media affiliates detailing the time and location of the press conference • The agency also updated its website to reflect the information
Sandy Hook’s Crisis Response • Controlling the information: • Police selected Lt. J. Paul Vance to serve as the sole spokesperson • Lt. Vance was the only source providing accurate and up-to-date information to the media
Sandy Hook’s Crisis Response • Crisis Communication to the family of the victims: • Connecticut State Police assigned one state trooper to each of the 26 families • The state troopers provided the families with information regarding the investigation and answered questions
Sandy Hook’s Crisis Response • Crisis Communication to the media: • Press conferences were held frequently to provide necessary information and dispel incorrect information • Crisis Communication to the Community: • Provided information to the community to ensure the people of their safety and the continuing efforts of the investigation
Why Sandy Hook’s Crisis Communication was Effective • Designed and executed a crisis plan • Controlled the information • Provided the necessary audience with the necessary information • Victims’ families, Newtown community, the media
What is a Crisis? • Crises take many forms: • Natural disasters • Fires, floods, hurricanes • Unnatural disasters • Plane crashes, terrorist attacks • Business Crises • Product recalls, plummeting stock prices, frauds • Criminal acts • Shootings, sexual abuse
How to Prepare for a Crisis • Design a crisis communication plan • The communication plan should designate the roles, responsibilities, and protocols that will guide the organization when sharing information during a crisis
How to Prepare for a Crisis • Select a crisis communication team • The team should include the leaders of the organization and top members of each department • The team should designate one spokesperson and one alternative spokesperson • This ensures the control of information • They need to be comfortable
How to Prepare for a Crisis • Even though they may not be on your crisis communication team, train your receptionist or first public contact points in media response • Press will sometimes take advantage of unofficial channels
How to Prepare for a Crisis • Always plan on the worst-case scenarios • Create a list of five possible crises • For each possible crisis, ask: • What are we going to do? • How are we going to do it? • Who is going to do it? • Who is our intended audience? • How will we reach them? • How will we organize and control the information?
How to Prepare for a Crisis • Coordinate with other agencies and departments • Ensure each department’s responsibilities align with the crisis communication plan • Determine efficient methods to work in concert with other agencies during a crisis
The Crisis Message • The message conveyed must be carefully planned • Does the message provide the necessary information? • Does it sound credible? • Is it appropriate for the prospective viewers? • Is it clear and concise?
The Crisis Message • When is the appropriate time to issue a statement? • Issue a statement immediately • Taking control of the situation quickly protects against false allegations spread through other airwaves • Especially in the world of social media
The Crisis Message • Delivering the message: • Prepare note cards • Rehearse the message • Think about tone, credibility, pauses • Have a full understanding of the facts laid out in the message
The Crisis Message • Delivering the message: • What is your format? • Press conference? • Statement only? • Statement followed by questions? • Interview?
The Crisis Message • Content • The message should show concern for the crisis at hand • It should indicate the proactive steps being taken to resolve the crisis • It should offer reassurance to the public and community
The Crisis Message • When information is not readily available, it is better to issue a holding statement than to issue no statement at all • “No comment” is not an acceptable response
The Crisis Message • When fashioning any crisis message that involves any questionable action or inaction of your entity it is recommended the question be vetted by legal counsel in advance whenever possible!
Holding Statement Example • A [crisis] at [this location] occurred today at [time and date]. The incident is under investigation and more information will be forthcoming. For more information as it becomes available, please contact [the press contact person on our team].
The Interview • Prior to the interview spokesperson and crisis communication team should discuss: • The main message to convey • Potential questions the media will ask • Liability issues? • The most effective answers to those questions • Team should practice and rehearse the answers
The Interview • Tips for during the interview: • Remember your objective, what message are you trying to convey • Be concise and clear • Think quickly, but talk slowly • Do not use the phrase, “no comment” • Have an exit strategy
The Interview • Instead of “no comment,” say: • The investigation is ongoing at this time, and we cannot comment until all facts are available • I do not have that information, but can refer you to . . . • The situation is still evolving, but we will issue a statement as soon as possible
Lawsuit Information? • Confer with your counsel in advance • Convey safe information • Public information not protected • Do not disclosure a position on liability (i.e. we will be vindicated!!) • You might be WRONG • Out of respect for the legal process, we cannot comment
Crisis Communication and Social Media • Social media sites can be effective tools for conveying: • Instantaneous information, and • Real-time updates • Social media sites have the advantage of broadcasting information to a wider audience
Crisis Communication and Social Media • Social media sites can also spread inaccurate information • Thus, it is necessary to monitor the social media account and quickly act on inaccuracies and other potential issues • If you have an open forum site operated by your entity actively monitor
Social Media • You are always on the record • The public and press will learn of a crisis through social media FAST • Comments will already be flying
Case Study: Twitter as a Mobile Press Conference • The Crisis: • In late October, 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeastern United States causing severe damage • The Plan: • Members of Congress, Governors, and state agencies took to Twitter to provide instant communication and updates
Case Study: Twitter as a Mobile Press Conference • Executing the Plan: • Governor Christie issued a tweet and YouTube plea for citizens to reach higher and safer ground
Case Study: Twitter as a Mobile Press Conference • Executing the Plan: • NYC Mayor’s Office and the American Red Cross release locations where citizens can go to receive food, water, and supplies
Case Study: Twitter as a Mobile Press Conference • Executing the Plan • Governor O’Malley communicates to the public that he is taking proactive steps in the aftermath of the destruction
Twitter as an Effective Crisis Communicator • Provides instant information • Provides real-time update • Effective for natural disasters and other crises by providing community with information on: • How to prepare • How to respond • Where to receive aid
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT MUST HAVES • Maturity • Focus & understanding goals/policies • Customer service, public relations, crisis management • Communication/writing skills • Understand boundaries of humor • Social-media account control
The Keys to Crisis Communication • Design a plan to deal with a crisis before it happens • Designate a team to implement the plan • Train a spokesperson to deliver effective messages • Act quickly and control the information • Show concern, take measures, and reassure the public • Monitor the information spreading on social media