As the acting Spokesperson for the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), I encountered emergencies of many magnitudes. Each one presented a different challenge on how to communicate a response. Some of the considerations are:
  • Understanding who has been impacted (students, staff, community).
  • Evaluating how large of an impact this event had.
  • Gathering information from as many trusted sources as possible to paint a clear picture.
  • Determining what information can and can not be shared publicly.
  • Coordinating with my counterparts in police, fire, county government, and other school jurisdictions.
  • Determining which stakeholders (such as the Superintendent and Board of Education) we must inform.
  • Developing a plan for initial messaging and then monitoring the situation for follow-up messaging.
  • Monitoring what is being said and making the decision to address what is out there.
  • Choosing the most appropriate and effective platform for delivering the message to the correct stakeholders.

This list is comprised of the standard considerations. Each incident presents a new challenge and new considerations to address. Fortunately, I have been working the The Communications Workshop for nearly a decade on providing crisis communications instruction to companies and executives around the nation and I am able to lean on the knowledge that I have imparted on others for so many years.

The purpose of crisis communications training is to help companies and executives understand what is expected of them during times of varying crisis and how to best contend with media to ensure that the message is delivered in an effective and responsible manner. I help prepare their spokesperson for preparing for a press conference and handling media inquiries and interviews. I prepare them for the dreaded ambush reporter and how to effectively navigate their way through a difficult time that has resulted in high visibility.

Providing crisis communications training and serving as spokesperson allows me to “practice what I preach.”

In the HCPSS, beyond serving as spokesperson through emergency communications, I provide guidance and support for system administrators and school Principals that find themselves having to interact with the media. Developing a media statement and providing a preparation session prior to going on camera are a couple of the ways that I draw upon my experiences as a trainer and spokesperson to assisting those that are not as comfortable or natural in the position.

 

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