crisis communication

Four Rules for Communicating in a Crisis: Handling the Aftermath of the Newtown, CT Shooting

By Communications, Crisis Communications

Schools and news organizations are struggling to manage communications following the tragic school shooting late last week in Newtown, Conn. We’re inundated with content about the shooter, the victims, and the ensuing battle over second amendment rights.  Friends finding the news difficult to handle are staying away from news sites, keeping the TV off and, let’s all hope, steering clear of Facebook.

If you’re in a role, however, that necessitates addressing this kind of tragedy (certainly school administrators, educators, leaders and managers of public, and presumably safe places and media) keep in mind these four guidelines for communicating in a crisis.

  1. First and foremost, express empathy for those affected.
  2. Recognize victims and those who came to their aid. At a moving vigil, our president read the names of the children killed at the elementary school.
  3. Affirm for the audience that steps will be taken to prevent this kind of incident in the future. Explain how that will happen or be addressed. Reassure the audience that safety comes first, and that the commitment to that effort is ongoing and strong.
  4. Make sure that resources are available, and how to obtain them is widely published.

These are four items anyone needing to communicate in a crisis must follow. Furthermore, it’s important to note that HIDING FROM YOUR CONSTITUENCY in the time of a crisis is perhaps the worst step to take. The NRA has taken down their Facebook page, rather than defending its position. 

Be available. Answer questions. Provide value.

Especially in a time of crisis.

When Cute Doesn’t Cut It: Rep. Ed Markey on the East Coast Earthquake

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Media, Public Relations

The east coast earthquake of late August, 2011 may have damaged (perhaps insignificantly) the North Anna nuclear power plant situated 12 miles from the quake’s epicenter. NBC Washington reported the story, quoting Representative Ed Markey, D-Mass. from a statement urging further research into the safety of the plant. 

“Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter last week to the NRC pressing the agency to determine whether the ground motion exceeded North Anna’s design and

Getty Images

to use the most up-to-date geological information to assess risks to nuclear power plants.

“There needs to be a seismic shift in the way in which these plants are protected from earthquakes or other natural disasters,” Markey said in a statement.”

I suspect a staffer in Markey’s office thought they were being cute, throwing the phrase “seismic shift” into a statement about an earthquake, but tensions are high, and weak humor from politicians (or their writers) is not at all appreciated.

Costly natural disasters are no time for puns; it’s important to be careful with language, even if you think it will never reach the masses.