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Crisis Communications Strategies for an Always-On Media Environment

By Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications

If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter, you know we’re constantly encouraging you to have a crisis management/crisis communications plan in-place before something happens.  We are also constantly reminding you understand that you only have minutes to respond to a crisis situation; to train and test your team; to understand “no comment” is almost-never acceptable; that it’s never the crime, it’s the cover-up; that “crisis communications” is different from the practice of traditional public relations; and that you should pre-identify and have a relationship with a qualified firm that has a real and demonstrable expertise in this area.

Of course, cynics might say that all of the above is self-serving on our part.  Admittedly, it is.  But the evidence is clear.  You’re either prepared or you’re not – and crisis work is indeed different from PR, marketing and branding.

But you don’t have to take our word for it anymore.  In an article prepared for the National Association of Independent Schools, Jan Abernathy, director of marketing and communications at The Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, New Jersey, writes the following:

The window of time in which schools have to react to a crisis has decreased dramatically, in large part because of social media. The ease with which families can connect with one another to spread rumors has greatly increased. And in this #metoo era, schools may find themselves dealing with accusations of criminal and unethical behavior that occurred decades earlier. Schools are also sometimes called upon to comment on former students’ behavior much later in life and how it reflects the school culture at the time.

What hasn’t changed, however, is families’ desire to see the people with whom they entrust their child’s education and well-being swiftly and expertly handling serious matters.

We urge you to read Jan’s article in its entirety.  Whether you work for a school, nursing home, manufacturer, hospital, government agency or nonprofit, the protocols suggested by Jan are universal.  You can read her piece here.


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