Wednesday, October 22, 2008

in a campus crisis: your media strategy?

Will your university know how to publicly respond to--and help news media cover--a shooting incident or other emergency situation on your campus? Today's report of shots on a Kentucky campus is a timely reminder of an often-neglected aspect of crisis response plans. We've conducted customized media trainings and strategy sessions for campus officials who wanted to:
  • anticipate all types of potential emergencies and issues raised by their response plans as well as media relations needs in different scenarios. For example: If you're evacuating the campus or in a lockdown, can reporters come on campus to cover the situation?
  • discuss with campus police and media staff their assumptions about reporter access and procedures in a crisis. Will your campus security squad attempt to detain the news media? Will they keep the media staff updated in real time? Will the media staff work ahead of an emergency to train the security team in appropriate responses?
  • avoid unintended effects from doing what you usually do, like situating a live interview with the university president in front of a roaring fire while people are being shot outside. Where will you do interviews? Who gets access when?
  • think through practical ways to handle inquiries in a crisis, like reverting to a news conference so all news outlets get the same information at once, using Twitter for reporter updates or -- a small but important step -- making sure someone updates waiting reporters every 15 minutes or so, even if it's only to say "we have nothing for you yet and we'll be back in 15 minutes with an update," so they can plan their live coverage.
The New York Times breaking news blog, The Lede, posted this discussion of the confusion around today's announcement, in which university officials couldn't confirm any of the incidents. Before you find yourself in this place, contact us for a special strategy session and training for all officials who may face reporters in a crisis, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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