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Crisis Communication Workshop Attracts Sell-Out Crowd

If there’s one topic that communicators want to stay current with, it’s crisis communication. PRSA Maryland’s workshop on crisis communication, which was held at Baltimore Research on September 22, 2017, attracted pros from near and far. We packed the house with PRSA members and non-members from as far away as Harrisburg, PA.

Speakers included Jeff Davis, APR, Van Eperen, and Dan Dunne, APR, Erickson Living. They shared their expertise on the topic and provided real-life examples of crises they managed for their organizations. Attendees walked away with proven strategies, tips, and recommendations they could implement for their companies’ crisis communications plans. 

One workshop attendee said, “I learned tangible strategies and tactics to include in my crisis communications plans plus best practices for counseling clients through a crisis.”

Jeff Davis, APR, Van Eperen

Dan Dunne, APR, Erickson Living

Inside the Crisis Communications Command Center: What You Need To Know

Inside the Crisis Communications Command Center: What You Need To Know

We’ll go beyond the do’s and don’ts of crisis communications planning and take a deeper, behind-the-scenes look into real crisis situations. Hear from two experienced PR professionals who will share real-world (off the record, please) examples of how actual crisis situations were handled.

Some made headlines, others did not. Not all went well. Is your plan still in a three-ring binder? Does it incorporate social media? During the first segment our presenters will walk through crisis planning steps, including actual examples of what to include in your plan. The real-world segment will give attendees an insider¹s view into what it¹s really like to balance the needs of management with the demands of the media – and those on social media.

In this three-hour workshop, you¹ll find out:

  • How to convert your paper-based crisis plan to one accessible via mobile device
  • The most important – yet challenging – aspect of crisis response
  • Common roadblocks by your own executives and ways to overcome them
  • A written plan is just the start; what staff skills and training are needed?
  • Tips on locating your crisis command center and what you¹ll need there
  • How to be ready for your crisis to be live-tweeted
  • Spokespeople and their roles and preparation

Our Workshop Presenters:

You’ll hear from Dan Dunne, APR, of Erickson Living, an expert in media training and crisis communications. Dunne has many years of experience in public relations and crisis communications. Joining him will be Jeffrey Davis, APR, managing director of the Baltimore office of Van Eperen and a former journalist whose crisis PR experience includes allegations of sexual harassment against an organization¹s leader, issues management in connection with Duke lacrosse case, and a tragic death at a national ski resort. Click here to read more about our presenters.

*Registration will be limited to 30.

Effective Crisis Management – Catastrophe or Opportunity?

Written by PRSA Maryland Communications Committee member Caitlin Wolf.

If I told you that a crisis is an opportunity for businesses to increase shareholder value, would you believe me?

Walking into PRSA’s “Introduction to Effective Crisis Response” seminar in Chicago on May 22, I viewed crisis management as an overwhelming, fast-paced communications task that meant hours of anxiety. Far from an opportunity. The workshop, led by Helio Fred Garcia and Adam Tiouririne of the Logos Institute, was an eye-opening experience that left my colleague and me confident that we could use crisis management to create a powerful competitive advantage for our clients.

Advantage? Yes. At a moment when all eyes are on your company, you have more control than you think. When done right, your ability to manage crises can have a positive impact on your brand’s bottom line. In fact, based on research by Knight and Pretty with the University of Oxford, companies that respond to crises well not only protect their stock price, but increase it, by an average of five percent. On top of its stock, a company’s reputation, operations, employee morale, demand for products and services, and strategic focus are protected when crises are handled well.

So, how can you go about managing crises the right way? Here are four key steps PR practitioners at any business should follow:

Know the patterns.
Bad things happen, even to good people and organizations. It’s what you do next that counts. Historically, there are approaches that always work and those that never work. Understand the patterns by studying crises and harvest the learnings—especially those occurring in your industry. How did the company respond? When did they respond? How was it received? Once you know this, understand you must intervene early enough to change the pattern.

Know what to ask.
When your CEO runs to you and asks, “What should we say?” you must begin by knowing which questions to ask. To regain the trust of your stakeholders, the most important question to ask is “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a reasonable organization to do in this situation?” Don’t be burdened by the thought that a common-sense solution won’t work.

Know what to say, and when.
Once you have the answer to your question, keep in mind that the single biggest predictor of reputational harm in a crisis is the perception that you don’t care. Craft responses to the “what reasonable people expect” question at the granular level for each stakeholder group. Communicate these responses in a timely way that shows you care.

Gain first mover advantage.
Whoever is first to define the crisis, the company’s motives, and their actions wins. Don’t let the media be the first to define these. Be prepared by establishing a crisis response plan. Craft well-structured standby statements ahead of time that address acknowledgement of potential crisis events, frame your organization’s values, your approach for addressing the event, the actions you plan to take, and next steps for your company and stakeholders.

Having a structured crisis management plan makes courage (and anxiety) less necessary. When done right, you will remain calm, regain the trust of your stakeholders; and, your stakeholders will likely reward you for demonstrating skill during a time of catastrophe.


Caitlin is PR Account Director for Planit.

Matthew Hones My Crisis Comm Skills

Submitted by Daniel Dunne, APR, Director of Communications, Erickson Living Corporate Affairs

On October 4, I started paying closer attention to the tracking of Hurricane Matthew as it worked its way closer to Florida. Why? Because West Palm Beach was projected to get hit with the storm’s full force (110 – 165 mile per hour winds). This meant that Devonshire, an Erickson Living retirement community, would be significantly impacted. The seriousness of the situation for those living in South Florida was highlighted during a Florida Governor press conference when he declared to Florida residents, “This storm is a monster and will kill you.” In addition, the destruction caused by Matthew in the Caribbean further proved to me and other company leadership that being fully prepared for the enormity of the storm’s impact was essential.

Fortunately, in the end, Hurricane Matthew’s path only brushed the South Florida shores, veering farther north up the coast. In addition to being grateful for this reprieve, it was rewarding to work with such a dedicated and talented team of community-based and corporate professionals who fully supported every aspect of the company’s execution of its critical incident communication plan. As a result, swift actions could be taken to establish increased communication capability. Some of the many factors helping to bring about this level of communication preparedness included:

Enterprise Emergency and Business Continuity Team Integration
Erickson Living’s Enterprise Emergency and Business Continuity (EEBC) plan outlines how strategic partnering and support will be provided to affected retirement community(ies) during a major event or emergency. As a member of the company’s EEBC Team, I was able to directly network with the internal stakeholders most involved in providing incident operational support. This level of staff engagement helped me target the use of specific communication platforms (e.g., social media, company website, etc.).

Command Center Integration
The opportunity to participate in the company’s command center operations and be at the nexus for all communications among operations and support team members was invaluable. In addition to gaining a firsthand knowledge of the company’s evolving response strategies, I was able to share details regarding all aspects of the company’s communication preparedness.

Sales and Marketing Team Integration
The company’s media emergency plan guidelines include provisions for the launch of a critical incident pre-built website (often called “Dark Website”) – which occurred just prior to the storm impacting South Florida. Shortly after activating this website, company updates were posted and comments received via Devonshire’s Facebook (which included the incident website link). This tool proved especially helpful for the family members of residents seeking updates regarding the storm’s impact on Devonshire.

Social Media in a Crisis: Q&A with Sherry Llewellyn

Q&A with Chesapeake Conference Keynote Speaker Sherry Llewellyn …

submitted by Mark Hoeflich

Sherry Llewellyn

Sherry Llewellyn

When Sherry Llewellyn, director of public affairs for the Howard County Police Department, received the dispatch call about an active shooter at the Columbia Mall, it was almost surreal. “Is this actually happening, are we sure it is not a training exercise,” said Llewellyn. But it quickly became evident that police were dealing with a real and dangerous situation on the fateful Saturday morning in January 2014.

Llewellyn directed the Howard County Police Department’s crisis response and will share her perspectives on the crisis and lessons learned as a keynote speaker at the 2015 Chesapeake Conference hosted by the Maryland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Here’s a preview of what you can expect during her session:

Q. What was one of the most important lessons learned from this experience?

A. This experience made it clear that we can become our own new sources, providing information to the public at the same time as the media, while in the midst of a crisis situation. People could go to an array of places to get information, but if they stayed with us, we would be the confirmed source at a time when it was critically important. And the media was getting it at the same time.

Q. How did you use social media to help with the flow of information and be as transparent as possible?

A. First and foremost, we wanted to be the single place to come for accurate and confirmed information. During news conferences, we encouraged people to follow us on Twitter and it was interesting to see how quickly our followers increased within the first few moments. As a government agency, social media gives us a strong, additional tool for sharing verified information, and people seem to want that source in digital media.

Q. What do you think is a basic, fundamental skill necessary in today’s digital environment, particularly during a crisis situation?

A. As communicators, we have to share information in ways that are best for our audience. It may not always be the most comfortable, but you have to cover all the bases to cover all the people trying to reach you.  For many, it’s following along on social media. But some want to be at the scene with cameras and notebooks asking questions. So you have to provide information in that arena as well.

Learn more from Llewellyn at the 2015 Chesapeake Conference June 4 at the John Erickson Conference Center at Charlestown. The full-day event features keynote presentations, breakout sessions and networking, all designed to share best practices for helping you be successful in today’s digital environment.

Register today.

–Industry News