Managing a Crisis

“Simply put, the media don't ‘owe it’ to any person or institution to provide positive coverage. Their job is to cover news, and, when all is said and done, the media's definition of news is the only one that counts.” – Ray Jones

While no one likes to think about bad things happening, they do happen. Speaking to the media may seem like the last thing you would want to do during a crisis, yet preparing with a sincere, honest response may mean the difference in the life of your SRTS program. The following outlines a few helpful tips on working with the media in the event of a crisis situation.

Create a Plan

Work with a school or your SRTS advisory committee to create a crisis communications plan. Bring together all of your SRTS stakeholders – those individuals that represent all aspects of the SRTS program – and brainstorm a list of all possible crisis situations that could occur. For each possible scenario, map out the best plan of action to handle the crisis.

Within this plan, create a section for working with the media in the event of a crisis. This section includes standby statements, contact information for all local and state-wide media and detailed information on how, when and where the media will be addressed during and after the crisis.

Draft Standby Statements

Once the potential crisis situations have been identified, work to draft standby statements. These are written template statements you have on hand in the event of a crisis and only issue in the event of that crisis. Drafting and approving text before a crisis happens will allow you to spend more time communicating with your stakeholders.

Designate a Primary Spokesperson

Within the plan, designate at least one primary spokesperson. There may be multiple options for spokespeople in the event of a crisis, but once the crisis occurs, it is important that there is only one primary spokesperson the media will receive information from. This guarantees a singular, defined message.

Respond Quickly and Honestly

Following a crisis, it is important to respond quickly and effectively. If you cannot immediately respond to a media request, let them know exactly when you will be responding and follow through on this promise.

Begin by tailoring the standby statement to include the specifics of the situation. Update this statement and re-release as new developments in the situation occur. Even if there is nothing new to report, a simple statement of concern and update can be released.

Evaluate and Update

Following a crisis situation, it is essential to evaluate your response to the event and update the plan as necessary. Did information get communicated to the right parties? What hurdles prevented you from responding accurately and quickly?