At last Thursday’s IABC Phoenix luncheon, Barrett Marson, principal of Marson Media, gave a presentation on how to deploy proper and effective crisis communications via social media channels. He shared several anecdotes of his stressful days following a major prison break from his previous position as the media relations director for the Arizona Department of Corrections.
After dissecting some of the recent controversies such as the Komen public relations disaster and the Sheriff Babeu controversy, he provided the following key practices to ensuring an organization stays ahead of the story when confronted with a crisis. He noted that communications leaders need to be in the briefing and decision-making situations before and as a crisis unfolds so that the information can be synthesized and disseminated on your terms and not dictated to you after the decisions have been made. He also emphasized the importance of demonstrating expertise in your particular field to under-informed media so they truly understand the topics and breaking news they are covering [i.e. when a reporter kept pushing an official in disbelief as to why guards weren’t armed during a prison escape (guards are never armed inside the compound)].
- Get out there early and create the narrative.
- Responses without explanation and public buy-in lead to misinformation and anger.
- Get it all out there for one whole story to avoid additional follow-up stories with more uncovered information.
- Don’t let other speaks for you; ensure spokesperson availability or someone else will be located to speak to the situation.
- Correct all inaccurate information immediately.