Crisis Communications, Emily Sikes


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  • Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives. Crises can create financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share/purchase intentions, or spawning lawsuits related to the crisis. As Dilenschneider (2000) noted in The Corporate Communications Bible, all crises threaten to tarnish an organization’s reputation. A crisis reflects poorly on an organization and will damage a reputation to some degree. Clearly these three threats are interrelated. Injuries or deaths will result in financial and reputation loss while reputations have a financial impact on organizations.
  • Some crises are big, some are small – some are internal crises, only visible (at first) to primary or secondary stakeholders; some are external events that then affect an organization
  • Knows the org:Can speak with authority and credibility on all facets of operationsHas access to leadershipProvides opportunities for media interviews and briefingsGood relationship:requires support from within org, so working relationship is criticalAggressive:PIO is often thrust in the middle of dynamic situations, must penetrate bureaucracy, speak with authority, gain concession from key players and seamlessly integrate ideas, strategies and informationAbility to seek out important info and provide sold, thoughtful advice makes the PIO a key “inner-circle” advisorTrusted:Must be the advisor that sees reality – how things will be perceived outside the org and on the front pageMust be able to see the downside of actions and gauge possible negative community response
  • You should seek opportunities and openings for new and innovative programs with the local community
  • Must be able to develop communication points, guidance, strategy, papers, speeches and ghostwritten “thought” papers for leadershipNothing kills credibility faster than spelling and grammar errorsMust be familiar with AP writing style and the various ways to communicate with the public and pressFamiliar with news releases, fact sheets, media advisories, public service announcements, brochures, reports, etc.
  • PIO’s responsibility is to collect, verify and disseminate ACCURATE information to the public through EFFECTIVE communication with the media that will help citizens make decisions about their health, safety and welfare.
  • Sources: What sources of information would you rely on?Analysis: What trends would you look for?
  • Coordination among JIS/JIC members is vital to ensure clear communication and avoid confusion
  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.FIOA only applies to federal agencies, but every state and municipality has its own Sunshine LawsCultural: The most prominent method of disseminating information about ideas, values and acceptable behavior within a culture is through the medium of storytellingOur stories today come from the mediaPerception: No matter how great of a job we do as an emergency response agency, if we don’t show what we have done, we will have failed in the eyes of the public
  • Develop a rapport with local reporters; cease to become just another spokesperson and become a person The reporters tend to be more positive, or at least more balanced, which results in better opportunity to tell your side of the storyBefore an emergency occurs, you need to get to know the members of the local media with whom you will work
  • Remember, the media is your most direct channel in communicating with the publicThe vast majority of media will gladly help in disseminating critical crisis information during a disaster
  • Print journalists: may need more time will include more background, details, analysis, quotes Where conducted isn’t importantTV broadcast Work in teams of two/three – sometimes Have equipment requirements (cameras, microphones, lights, etc.) Need appropriate visuals (“talking head”) to provide commentary Most interviews take place on-site Radio will have tape recorderGeneral vs investigative W,W,W,W,W and H Need facts Timely Will ask a combination of open-ended, direct, pointed and challenging questions to build story and prove conclusion they wantAmbush v. prepared Occurs when interviewee is not expecting it REMAIN CALM and accommodate the media with confirmed facts If you aren’t prepared to speak, defer media to specific time/place for official info Doesn’t usually happen to PIO, more likely to happen to public official involved in controversy or scandalOffice v on-site Office: clear desk of sensitive material and remove distractions Inform office of journalist’s presence On-site: Can be noisy, distracting, exciting and stressful Remain calm and focused on reporter’s demands or questions Be prepared to “show and tell” How you look in this scenario reflects your level of control of the situation Know the laws/regulations for media access to the scene; expect media to push Try to accommodate media fairly, uniformly and frequently Try to anticipate what they want to know
  • You can control the tone, pace and direction of the interview by always stating factsDon’t rush your answersAnswer the question then STOP TALKING.Reporters may use pregnant pause or dangle a mic to elicit additional info you wouldn’t normally divulge. Don’t EVER lose your temperYour credibility is on the line as well as that of your organization
  • Reporters often don’t have a lot of time and may leave quicklyOutline the data so reporter easily digests itCreate and instant rapport/relationship on camera with the reporter Adds credibilityThis strategy is about taking charge of the interview and driving the direction of the interview to your key messagesTreat all mics, recorders and pencils as “live”
  • Take the time to do this and don’t expect the reporter to rememberBe patientSample response: I don’t have the answer to that question but I’ll get back to you … what’s your deadline?By speculating, you predict an unknown future and may be incorrectA good way to bridge: “John, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I am not going to get into what if” or “I’m not going to speculate on …”Return to facts: “What happened is …” “What I know is …”Don’t repeat a reporter’s negative wordsIt’s OK to disagree with the premise of the questionNever say “no comment” – looks like you’re hiding somethingFind an alternate phraseExplain why you can’t answer “But what I can say is …” “Because of the ongoing legal situation, I cannot answer …”
  • Every organization’s disaster plan is different, and responses vary for the emergency at hand.
  • Health insurance portability and accountability Act of 1996Police reports and other information about hospital patients often are obtained by the media. The claim is frequently made that once information about a patient is in the public domain, the media is entitled to any and all information about that individual. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Healthcare providers are required to observe the general prohibitions against releasing PHI about patients found in the HIPAA privacy standards, state statutes or regulations and the common law, regardless of what information is in the hands of public agencies or the public in general. Even requests from the media on grounds that a public agency, such as law enforcement, is involved in the matter should be denied.
  • Crisis Communications, Emily Sikes

    1. 1. + Crisis Communication: The Role of PIO During Disaster Emily Sikes Marketing and Referral Services Saint Francis Medical Center
    2. 2. + What is a crisis?  A significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. Threat is potential damage to:  An organization  Its stakeholders  An industry  A crisis creates three types of threats:  Public Safety  Injury  Death  Financial Loss  Operations disruption  Loss of market share  Lawsuits  Reputation Loss
    3. 3. + What sparks a crisis?  Natural disasters/environment  Technology/systems failures  Confrontations (boycotts, strikes)  Violence or terrorism  Criminal misconduct  Accidents  Managerial mistakes
    4. 4. + Phases of a crisis Crisis • Prevention Response • Follow-up • Preparation • Quick • Preparation • Accurate • Consistent Pre-crisis Post-crisis
    5. 5. + Pre-crisis phase: Risk management  Create a crisis management plan  Guideline/reference  Document response  Select and train crisis management team  Public relations  Legal  Security  Operations  Finance  Human resources  Pre-draft crisis messages  Statement templates  Website content
    6. 6. + Crisis response phase  Initial response  Be quick  Be accurate  Be consistent  Instruct  Inform  Express concern
    7. 7. + Post-crisis phase  Goal: Return to business as usual  Deliver information to stakeholders as soon as it is known  Crisis no longer focus  Reputation repair  Follow-up communication  Keep stakeholders updated on recovery progress  Analyze and evaluate crisis management effort  What worked  What didn’t
    8. 8. + PR crisis vs. emergency/disaster incident crisis  During a disaster, many community organizations – including hospitals – may become part of a Joint Information System (JIS) and Joint Information Center (JIC) within the NIMS (National Incident Management System) multiagency coordination system  Under the Incident Command Center (ICS) model, the Public Information Officer (PIO) is a key member of the command staff  Once a JIS/JIC is activated, the PIO has specific responsibilities in the local emergency operations plan and emergency management systems
    9. 9. + What is a PIO?  In emergencies, public information officers (PIOs) are responsible for keeping the public informed of any emergency situation in which it might be involved  Responsible to:  Public  Internal  External  Media  PIO’s agency or organization  Emergency response agencies
    10. 10. + What is a PIO?  The PIO serves as the advisor to the Incident Commander on Public Information Officer public information implications of the incident and the response/recovery effort Liaison Officer  The PIO also looks for Incident Commander opportunities to advance leadership’s goals Safety Officer  Setting up media interviews  Preparing talking points for Medical/Technical Incident Commander Specialist
    11. 11. + Qualities of a good PIO Good working Knows the relationship with the organization organization PIO Trusted advisor, Aggressive strategist
    12. 12. + Necessary skills  Community relations  Aware of demographics  Aware of community organizations and how they work and interact  Fosters innovative ideas and programs  Media relations  Has developed credibility with the news media  Provides information and access to newsmakers  Knows media needs and operations  Knows and respects reporters’ deadlines  Maintains continuing, open dialogue
    13. 13. + Necessary skills  Writing  Organizes clear thoughts on paper  Knows proper use of grammar, spelling  Knows formats, writing styles  Produces quality documents  Miscellaneous  Public speaking  Audio/visual presentation  Emergency Management Agency fundamentals  Political savvy
    14. 14. + What is public information?  Used by people to make decisions and take actions to:  Save lives  Reduce injury and harm  Protect property  Stabilize the incident  Can be used to:  Call people to action  Educate and inform  Change behavior or attitudes  Create positive impressions of your organization
    15. 15. + PIO constituencies  The public  PIO’s agency/organization  Largest audience  Promote employees,  Be aware of demographics programs and successes  Know best channels  Issues management role  The media  Responding agencies  Relationship is very important  Must have working relationship to avoid  Know the reporters conflicting messages  Groups are interdependent and interrelated, but with different priorities
    16. 16. + Role of the PIO Gather Verify Coordinate Publish
    17. 17. + Information gathering  Research and development of all written, print, photographic, audio, video and web-based materials used by the JIC  Sources:  Documentation (situation reports)  Response partners  Media monitoring  Analysis should be:  Strategic  Proactive
    18. 18. + Creating the message  Research and writing:  Coordination/approval  News releases, fact sheets,  Coordinate for accuracy talking points, web stories,  Keep partners informed etc.  Know protocol/processes for  Graphic support approval  Audio/visual  Broadcast operations  Photo/video
    19. 19. + Information dissemination  Providing written and oral communication to the news media, public and other organizations  Proactive:  Media distribution (news releases, media advisories)  News briefings or conferences  Media/public distribution (web stories, social media)  Responsive:  Media relations/news desk  Public inquiry centers  Internal (briefings, media monitoring reports)
    20. 20. + Why work with the media?  The First Amendment (freedom of speech)  Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and local Sunshine Laws  Cultural cohesiveness  Perception
    21. 21. + Why work with the media?  Benefits of working with local media:  Understand what local reporters need  Help them see you as a “person”  Help them understand the issues  Contact them before an emergency  Call or meet with media representatives/reporters  Send news releases  Provide briefings/media advisories
    22. 22. + Media’s role in emergency management  Use the media to send information:  That will reduce the public panic  About action the public should take  To alert/warn the public
    23. 23. + Types of news interviews  Print vs. Broadcast  General vs. Investigative  Ambush vs. Prearranged  Office vs. On-site
    24. 24. + During the interview  Remain calm and in control  Respond honestly  The welcome sets the tone  Review expectations  Work in key points before you begin  Be ready with overview statement  Choose words carefully  Expect follow-up questions
    25. 25. + During the interview  Start with conclusion  Most important facts first  Provide 5W + H  Work in key messages  Answer/acknowledge the reporter  Bridge from point to point  Use “quotable quotes” at least three times  Jump in and be responsive  Don’t go “off-the-record”  Don’t lose composure  Keep answers clear and concise
    26. 26. + During the interview  Use familiar language – not jargon  Explain technical terms and acronyms you must use  When you don’t know:  It’s OK to say “I don’t know”  Offer to find answer and follow up  Never use as a way to avoid answer  Look out for “What if …?”  Avoid request for opinion or speculation  Return to facts or key talking points  Never say “No comment”!
    27. 27. + Plan in practice: A hospital scenario  Pre-disaster: The hospital is notified by law enforcement that a gunman is at large at the university. There are casualties and injuries, but no word yet how many.  The hospital’s disaster plan is activated, anticipating an influx of patients, family members and the media.  The Command Center is set up and key staff, including PIO, report for duty.
    28. 28. + Plan in practice: A hospital scenario  Other PR staff, under direction of PIO, are assigned to:  Staged Press/Media area (away from ER and other designated areas)  Man telephones  Prepare and distribute media badges  Prepare register/log for media  Release information as available/approved  Distribute press releases with public information  Family/Information area  Maintain roster of family members entering/leaving area  Maintain file on each victim  Provide comfort and support  Maintain crowd control  Labor Pool (as available) for other assignments
    29. 29. + Plan in practice: A hospital scenario  Primary responsibility is to patients, families and employees  HIPAA privacy laws still in effect for releasing PHI (private health information)  Secondary responsibility to general public  Media is channel for information
    30. 30. + Summary  In an emergency, a PIO needs to get out:  Accurate, timely information on the scope and nature of the emergency  Life-threatening and live-saving information  Actions being taken by responding agencies  The best vehicle for the message is the media  Using multiple media channels reaches a larger audience  Being proactive takes planning
    31. 31. + Questions?
    32. 32. + Learn more:  Joplin tornado case study: Communicating after a disaster. media-and-crisis-management
    33. 33. + Sources  Coombs, W. T. (Oct. 30, 2007). “Crisis Management and Communication.” Institute for Public Relations. communications/  Emergency Management Institute. (Oct. 2003). “SM-290 Basic Public Information Officer Course.” Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Oct. 2009). “G291 JIS/JIC Planning for Tribal, State and Local PIOs.”  National Disaster Education Coalition. (2004). “Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messaging.”
    34. 34. Responsibilities:+   Represent service lines within the Medical Center in varied aspects of communications: writing, media relations and special events.  Oversee production of monthly employee newsletter  Coordinate general employee communications (audience = 2,600)  Write/distribute news releases and generate positive news and feature stories with local, regional and national media  Write speeches and prepare presentations forAbout Me the CEO, other executives and members of leadershipAccount Services Coordinator at Saint  Coordinate special events and activitiesFrancis Medical Center  Serve as public information officer/spokesperson to the media  Education:  Master of Arts in Journalism/Strategic Communication (2014, expected) – University of Memphis  Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication/Public Relations (2006) – Southeast Missouri State University