I’ve tuned in often to hear a podcasts and talks by Melissa Agness of Agnes+Day, a crisis communications expert who is a super educator and speaker when it comes to emergency management.
Here’s a Melissa podcast on Emergency Management, PR and preparedness, and she’s talking with the head of the LA County Office of Emergency Management.
I’ve attended a public information office training on this topic, delivered by the Western (Mass.) Region Homeland Security Advisory Council. It was the second in a series of interactive trainings for PIO officers connected to volunteer emergency management organizations. It was a great experience with excellent takeaways for public entities facing all kinds of emergencies: floods, a school shooting, a very public infrastructure crisis (think NYC subway shutdowns or Hurricane Sandy).
Some tips to work by:
- The safety and well-being of the public (ahead of businesses and financial matters) are of primary importance in public messages.
- Assign a social media expert to monitor and manage social media activity related to a disaster.
- The person in charge of logistics and response should NOT be your primary public spokesperson.
- Don’t answer questions that you can’t, well, answer. Promise — and do — get the information, and deliver it when you can.
- Situate your communications operations in a location separate from the scene of the crisis.
- Be honest, compassionate, responsive and helpful.
In the sailing world, they say, “Reef your sails the moment you think of it — not later.” The same is true in a public emergency: engage early with a communications professional to help manage a serious public emergency.