Monday, December 17, 2012

Connecticut Shooting Reminds Us All Crisis Comunications Are Inevitable

Often when I talk to an attorney about a client with crisis potential or the client directly, I am asked, why should we spend the money on this now?  Why not just wait until we know for sure we will have to plan for a crisis?  My answer is always the same, the absolute truth about crises is that they are unpredictable and if you wait to long to prepare for them, dangerous.

The tragic shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary show just how extreme the competition among news outlets is for information just seconds after a horrific event.  And in the absence of clear, concise information the media will run to broadcast any rumor or innuendo.  In the immediate hours after the Connecticut shooting, the shooter's brother was misidentified as the assailant, the dead mother was misidentified as having been a teacher who died in front of her class, and the number of dead varied wildly. 

In situations like this the number one priority of communications should be notification to the community of the apprehension of the assailant and to the family of the deceased but what is the best way to do that in the chaos of the moment? One person representing the company, or agency should be assigned to be in charge of a website press room or Twitter feed used for emergencies like this.  Even if its just updates relayed in a smartphone that have been approved by police, something needs to be communicated on behalf of the people affected. 

During the Conrad Murray trial We set up a website that was nothing more than a blog to post statements by Ed Chernoff about news and things we could comment on.  It was a very effective way of communicating to everyone at once.  Reporters didn't like it as they wanted to be able to "scoop" their competition, but everyone respected the system.  The most important aspect of this approach, set it up ahead of time so you aren't scrambling to get everything done during the crisis.

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