Chess Moves Help With Crisis Communications

In today’s fast-paced social media world, you may never be contacted about a media crisis, even if it’s your responsibility to handle a crisis.

Too often, reporters, get their information directly from social media. By the time you learn of the event, it may have been streaming for hours.

“The journalist writing the story never contacted me,” Patricia Dempsey, director of communications at St. John’s College (MD), shared at the 2014 College Media Conference. “Media are researching online, whether the information is accurate or not.”

Ben Jones, vice president for communications at Oberlin College said, “I got the call at 4:30 a.m. about the situation, but the students were already tweeting.”

What do you do?

“It’s not a linear strategy. It’s like a game of chess.” Jones said. “You have to think five moves ahead.”

Those moves include:

  1. Develop a relationship with the media so they actually trust what you are saying. Provide context and give them something they can use.
  2. Follow the news on social media and update your own channels with relevant and timely information. That’s what the Boston Police Department did during the Boston Marathon bombing.
  3. Work with what is happening. A crisis plan is great to have, but it’s not always valuable in the midst of a situation.
  4. Develop a counter story and share it with the media.
  5. Identify individuals who are supportive who could respond on social media sites, including reaching out to reporters.
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