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Crisis Management A Leadership Challenge Rick J. Kaufman, APR Executive Director of Community Relations Bloomington (MN) Public Schools July 5, 2008 v.

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Presentation on theme: "Crisis Management A Leadership Challenge Rick J. Kaufman, APR Executive Director of Community Relations Bloomington (MN) Public Schools July 5, 2008 v."— Presentation transcript:


2 Crisis Management A Leadership Challenge Rick J. Kaufman, APR Executive Director of Community Relations Bloomington (MN) Public Schools July 5, 2008 v NSPRA Annual Seminar Pre-Session Reproduction of materials is permitted for training purposes provided credit is given to the author.

3 About the presenter School Public/Community Relations - 18 years of experience with school districts in three states, and state department of education Crisis Response Team Leader - Columbine High School Tragedy, April 20, FEMA, National Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Crisis Management Consultant - U.S. Bureau of Prisons (Timothy McVeigh Execution) - New York City Schools/NY Education Commission (9/11) - FBI (National Conference on School Violent Offenders) - WI Health and Hospital Association - Jackson State University, Jackson, MS

4 About the presenter Past President - National School Public Relations Association - Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Trainer/Lecturer/Author - Midwest Summit on Violence in the Workplace/Schools - Wisconsin Bioterrorism Summit - National Transportation Public Affairs Seminar - Council of Future Leaders - School PR: Building Confidence in Education - Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual

5 Our work together includes: Essential Elements of Crisis Management Crisis Management Realities ICS and Command Center Structures Crisis Communication The NEW Communication Channels Patterns of Media Response & Media Relations Common Crisis Mistakes Crisis Table Top Scenarios Mock Press Conferences Q & A

6 What is a Crisis? “an emotionally charged significant event or radical change” “an unstable or crucial time of affairs in which a decisive change is impending” “a situation with the distinct possibility of a highly desirable outcome” “a situation that has reached a critical phase”

7 What is a Crisis? student or staff suicide student walkout or protest assault - of a student, staff or volunteer child abuse sexual harassment criminal activity health emergency (AIDS, etc.)

8 What is a Crisis? fire or explosion school bus accident bomb threat natural disaster (flood, tornado, etc.) VIP visit power outage more? (Hint: dozens more!)

9 incident Is it an incident CRISIS or a CRISIS?

10 Are you ready? In a crisis situation, you will react as you are organized and trained. Knowing what to do can be the difference between chaos and calm, or even life and death.

11 Crisis Management Realities Prompt action reduces collateral damage Prompt action reduces length of crisis & moves situation to quicker resolution Focus on response, not sources of threat Not possible to detail every conceivable crisis Important decisions made before crisis ever occurs (structure, process, leadership)

12 Crisis Management Realities Decisions based on site, location & unique set of circumstances that occur during a crisis “Cardiac assessment,” intuition plays key roles Tend to victims’ needs immediately, compassionately and completely Be prepared … bad stuff happens Continuous process requiring annual review

13 Crisis Management Realities In the first hour of a crisis: Denial: “This could not have happened.” Anger: “How could this have happened?” “How could somebody do that?” Panic Anxiety

14 Elements of Crisis Management Policy and Leadership  Provides foundation, framework for action Emergency/Crisis Management Plan  Provides structure, mechanisms for operational response School Crisis Response Plan  Building plan operates within framework of district-level plan  Provides roles, responsibilities for staff  Coordinated response to more frequently occurring incidents

15 Elements of Crisis Management Crisis Response Team  School, district response personnel Communication  Foundation of any crisis planning, implementation, management and recovery effort Training  Preparation and knowing what to do is crucial  Maintains preparedness

16 Plans must include responses to: School-based scenarios  threat, accidental death, lockdown, etc. District-wide scenarios  natural disaster, business interruption, etc. New or emerging scenarios  pandemics, terrorist attack, etc.

17 Emergency planning should… Ensure student, staff safety Establish a pre-determined plan of action (focus on response vs sources of crisis) Identify trained emergency responders (can they be counted on to act, not freeze up?) Minimize damage, loss of facility use Provide on-going support for students, staff and parents

18 Emergency planning should… Incorporate best thinking, practices of all responding agencies (form partnerships now, don’t wait for crisis to occur) Return to “normal” Outline steps to practice, rehearse for a crisis (creates cultural conditions that practice is important, demonstrates teamwork needed during the crisis) Include students in planning, training What else? (consider your unique circumstances)

19 Emergency plan must address … Prevention & Intervention (mitigation) - steps to reduce or eliminate risk to life and property Preparedness - process of planning a rapid, coordinated and effective response Response - action steps to take during a crisis Recovery - restoring the teaching and learning environment after a crisis; must include mental health recovery

20 Emergency plan must address … The Golden Hour - take the lead; delay equals denial Waves of Response - police/medical - media - parents - “looky-loo’s” & gawkers; super-heroes; cottage industry types First 24 hours Duration of crisis Rebuilding/Recovery

21 The Key Questions What can or will we be able to handle? Which roles can be delegated to volunteers? Where will we get help? Who will do what? Other questions?

22 Crisis Management Infrastructure Incident Command Communication or Crisis Command Center Roles and Responsibilities - who’s organizing who (parents, media, etc.)? - who is/are spokesperson(s)? - volunteers (you can’t do it alone)? Equipment and Food Media Area

23 Incident Command System Establishes common organizational structure, operating procedures Places one person in charge of decision- making; creates chain of command Provides for quick, effective performance Establishes a reasonable span of control Provides for effective coordination, transition of responsibility/authority w/ crisis responders

24 Incident Command System Student Safety Coordinator

25 Communication … … is the foundation of any crisis planning, implementation, management, and recovery effort.

26 The best time to let students, staff and families know what to do in an emergency is before it happens.

27 Communication Command Center Communications Director (Strategist/Counselor & Spokesperson) Media Manager Research & Media Monitoring Media Support Staff Command Center Coordinator Internal Communications Officer External Communications Coordinator Crisis/Special Events Coordinator VolunteersOther Support Staff Spokesperson(s)

28 Crisis Communication Structure Crisis Communication Team Leader/Director Spokesperson(s) Communications Command Center Coordinator Internal/External Communications Officer(s) Media Manager Research & Media Monitoring Webmaster (web page technician) Crisis & Special Events Liaison Volunteers

29 Volunteers & Donations What roles can be delegated to volunteers? Establish volunteer schedule (determine where, when volunteers are needed) Welcome volunteers each day; provide brief orientation (i.e. basic information, equipment usage, key persons & numbers) Provide name tags, security card Volunteers keep record of all calls Prepare list of what, how to donate (callers want ideas, addresses; make this part of daily Fact Sheet) Screen, record & organize contributions

30 Crisis Communication Focus Establish command center, functions Communicate internally first, then public Anticipate and meet needs of media Ensure key messages are understandable, honest & consistent Manage perception of competence and reality Correct inaccurate, misleading information fast Stay in contact with victims families

31 Information Gathering Plan to collect, verify information Inaccurate information creates new crisis, puts organization on defensive and wastes time Central location means better management Must come quickly (field or site assessment) Plan for “Murphy’s Law” Debrief daily/nightly

32 Communicating in a Crisis Target Key Audiences School, District or University Leadership Crisis Response Agencies Staff/Faculty (site of crisis first, then others) Opinion Leaders (community, business, faith, government, alumni, key financial supporters) Parents, Students (age appropriate), Community Legal counsel

33 Communicating in a Crisis What do I say? The TRUTH Don’t share what you don’t know to be true Don’t speculate Don’t hide behind factual information Not talking about a crisis won’t take back what happened; and is unnatural Rely on the communication experts at all times!

34 Communicating in a Crisis Speed of communication  First impressions are lasting impressions Factual content of the message  Get it right, repeat it, share with others Trust and credibility  Crucial to sustain support during, after crisis  Elements: empathy & caring; competence & expertise; honesty & openness; commitment & dedication

35 The NEW Communication broadcasts Text or Voice Messaging Websites Rapid Alert Notification Systems Hotlines/Emergency Voice Bulletin Boards Social Media Networks  blogs, & IMs  myspace, facebook, etc.

36 Communicating in a Crisis Leadership and Staff Staff may “go public”; to defend their reputation Media will put a full court press on those “in the know” both students, staff Develop process to support sites Counsel early (consider policy now) Need grows the longer crisis is prominent Nurture staff

37 Communicating in a Crisis Leadership and Staff Prepare fact sheets, voice & messages Update web site regularly Utilize staff, parent phone trees as necessary Make decisions on cancellations (communicate these to students, staff, parents and media)

38 Communicating in a Crisis Parents Need help working w/ their children to understand what happened, how to explain event & tips to heal or return to normal. Insatiable need to know why? (Be prepared) Reassure safety; stress importance of normalcy Call in experts (grief counselors, mental health) Identify how parents, others can help

39 Communicating in a Crisis Community Use key opinion leaders to get message out to broader audience Consider community meeting Reassure safety, security steps Express concern for victims and regret for crisis Don’t take the blame

40 Communicating in a Crisis Students Provide opportunity, encouragement to talk about what happened Classroom setting with peers Use experts (grief counselors, mental health) Provide quick lesson on media basics, harm from spread of rumors

41 Communicating in a Crisis All Audiences Determine most useful vehicle (letter, , etc.) Daily info sheets keeps key audiences current Establish 24-hour taped hotline (update frequently) Essential to develop key messages Stay on message; share messages to all Establish time, place to speak with media

42 Patterns of Media Response Hours Reporters on scene first Grab anyone who will talk Answer question, “what happened?” Results incomplete, conflicting stories emerge Media can interfere with police, rescuers

43 Patterns of Media Response Hours Answer the question, “who?” Authorities usually notify next of kin first before information is released to media This effort causes conflict with the media doing whatever is necessary to find out about victim(s)

44 Patterns of Media Response Hours Focus on the question of “why?” Natural reaction in the aftermath is to look for blame Many theories on crisis Facts aren’t always corroborated Victim confusion often leads to stories that are sensational, but didn’t happen as they recall

45 Patterns of Media Response Hours Media begins more in-depth analysis of “what happened?” and “why?” A new “spin” may be put on story Spin-off stories take on a life of their own Importance of “staying on message” is critical Funerals and memorials take place, offering a window to regroup, recharge crisis team

46 Media Relations Strategy 1: Help heal; return to normalcy Strategy 2: Stay on message; one, clear voice Media is fastest way to communicate broadly Media Triage (no favoritism, focus on local first) Brief daily; never say “no comment” Respond to all reasonable media needs Develop guidelines for access to students, staff Set ground rules for interviews, media pools

47 Recovery & Rebuilding Physical Structure from assessment to rebuilding of schools Mental Health from triage to PTSD Information Systems from payroll to student records Communication from media siege to when, where to send students Memorials: events, anniversaries and moving on

48 What have we learned? A Leadership Test Response defines the organization; be credible A Communication Test How strong is your communication program? A Professional Test How will you emerge as a key advisor?

49 A Perspective on Lessons Learned In preparation … If you start off behind, you will stay behind Being proactive only keeps you even Identify chain of command for decision-making, what to do if it breaks down Site, district plans must have contingencies Crisis plans must be specific, automatic, tested

50 A Perspective on Lessons Learned In preparation … Establish inter-agency protocols in advance Provide parents advance notice of crisis plan, their role in the process

51 A Perspective on Lessons Learned During the crisis … Mobilize response team that shields the site, students and staff from outside forces Make call for assistance before it’s too late Understand it’s not “business as usual” Act in the short-term, think in the long-term You need soldiers, generals on front lines Know key messages and stick to them!

52 A Perspective on Lessons Learned During the crisis … Don’t let media dominate your time, attention Stay focused on target audiences Internal communications is more important View crisis from “outside in” to gauge public Watch for external political, personal agendas Watch for ripple effect and copycats

53 A Perspective on Lessons Learned During the crisis … Maintain active rumor control Balance privacy rights of individuals (FERPA) with public’s right to know Be firm on media access to facilities, people

54 A Perspective on Lessons Learned In the aftermath … Crisis has long-term life; remember healing processes and triggering events Brace for blame Continuously update crisis plan; learn from other situations Train new staff immediately Retrain all staff annually; don’t forget students

55 A Perspective on Lessons Learned In the aftermath … Crisis not only creates character, but reveals it Seek opportunities to return to normal Seek closure and commemorate Take care of yourself and your team Bring in reinforcements Remember your team on anniversary dates

56 Additional Resources The following slides are additional resources for schools/universities to use in training with students and staff: Crisis Planning 10-Step Approach to Proactive Crisis Planning School/District/University Crisis Team Responsibilities Literature Resources Photocopying of the following materials is permissible for training purposes only, and source attribution to: Rick J. Kaufman, APR

57 Common Mistakes of Crisis Management Putting news media ahead of employees Employees want, deserve news FIRST Lack of comprehensive media strategy Who is spokesperson or persons? What are key messages? Ignoring the “Window of Opportunity” Vital to address issues; once “window” closes it becomes difficult to change perceptions No clearly assigned roles Lack of role clarity guarantees confusion; know leaders, doers

58 Common Mistakes of Crisis Management Limit communication due to litigation fears Litigation usually follows adversity No crisis plan Believing a crisis can’t happen is ignorant, arrogant. No plan can result in crippling damage to an organization Untested crisis plan Single most important mistake; also if developed in isolation

59 10 Steps to Proactive Crisis Planning 1. Review existing policies on crisis communication and management 2. Review guidelines and procedures for implementing policies 3. Review any existing crisis plans 4. Establish crisis teams - district level - building level - safety task force

60 10 Steps to Proactive Crisis Planning 5. Build relationships with community agencies, volunteers and opinion leaders 6. Dialogue with the community 7. Divide planning into manageable sections - crisis most likely to occur - outline action steps for each - define roles - identify possible issues/obstacles - determine strategies 8. Prepare tool kit and resource list (“go box”) 9. Determine format and prepare written plan 10. Provide training for all staff, students

61 Crisis Planning: Crisis Planning: Mitigation & Prevention Goal: Decrease the need for response Connect with community emergency responders to identify hazards. Assess problem areas in buildings, grounds. Assign official duties, responsibilities for safe, secure sites. Involve staff in crisis planning. Review data on critical incidents, such as fires, floods, etc. Determine major problems likely to occur. Develop a response protocol to safety problems. Assess district, building vulnerability to a variety of crises.

62 Crisis Planning: Crisis Planning: Preparedness Goal: Facilitate a rapid, coordinated & effective response Review crisis plans used in schools, communities. Identify agencies involved in crisis planning. Develop communication systems that include staff, students, families and media. Design procedures to locate, account for every student, staff during a crisis. Compile facility information, such as maps, locations of shut-off valves. Assemble equipment needed to save lives, provide treatment.

63 Crisis Planning: Crisis Planning: Response Goal: Follow a well-designed emergency plan Determine extent of danger and if it amounts to widespread crisis. Identify the crisis and an appropriate response. Activate an incident-management system. Implement strategies (evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place) Communicate with key staff positioned at designated areas. Oversee emergency responses, such as first-aid and rescue services; triage areas. Call for more aid and assistance if required, needed.

64 Crisis Planning: Crisis Planning: Recovery Goal: Return to a daily routine and restore order quickly Allow adequate time for recovery, but immediately draw up plans to resume classroom learning, restore damaged buildings. Monitor signs of PTSD and other emotional disorders in students, staff. Conduct debriefings with first responders and school staff, and use suggestions to revise plans and conduct training and drills.

65 School/District/University Crisis Teams Responsibilities of District/University Crisis Team: Define clear crisis roles for ALL staff Train and assist school/building level crisis teams On call for all crises – district and building (maybe community) Make policy and procedure recommendations Communicate safety precautions and procedures Work with Safety Task Force to identify best practices Serve as lead crisis team in catastrophic or long-term event Staff and operate communications command center Liaison with other agencies and intervention teams Evaluate crisis response actions

66 School/District/University Crisis Teams Responsibilities of School/Building Crisis Team: Refine district crisis plan for school/building needs Define clear crisis roles for all school/building staff Conduct regular safety assessments of school/building Provide in-service training and drills for staff Recommend policy/procedure changes to district crisis team Communicate safety precautions and procedures to parents Serve as immediate site crisis response team and work with district team Evaluate crisis response actions

67 Crisis Communication Tips What should be communicated in a crisis?  What happened? Avoid using sensational, romantic account.  Omit information that can be used to copy act.  Who was involved using general terms, unless names are public.  How individuals were involved may be reported in general terms.  Where incident happened, when it occurred. Be specific.  Prognosis of those involved once verified (work w/ families).  Avoid “no comment” answers; this suggests something to hide.  It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t have that answer right now. I’ll have to get back to you.” Then DO IT!  Be honest and show real emotion.  Be cautious with the question, “How are you doing?”

68 Crisis Communication Tips Suggestions for Avoiding Sensationalism  Clarify what interview is about.  Don’t agree if interview is sensationalistic or takes you away from your message and focus.  Avoid playing blame game.  Avoid interviews that focus on perpetrators of violence.  Stress positive vs negative images.  Be wary of live call-in shows. You have very little control over topic of conversation.  Avoid repetitive and excessive interviews on the violent act.  Goal is to focus on healing, returning to normal … moving forward.

69 Resources The Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools, National School Public Relations Association Coping with Crisis by Scott Poland & Jami McCormick School Crisis Survival Guide by Suni Petersen & Ron Straub Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities, U.S. Dept. of Education

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