I recently went to a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event with a colleague of mine. The event topics ranged from how to measure TV ratings crisis communication and diversity in the workplace.

What drew me to attend the PRSA event was learning about crisis communication. Luckily for me, the four years I’ve been with PRESS PR + Marketing (Don’t you just love the new name and branding?!?) I’ve never had to face a crisis with a client (wild, right?).

The speaker, Kena Lewis, Director of Public Affairs & Media Relations for Orlando Health, spoke on the topic of crisis communication. I know… learning about crisis communication in the medical world sounds boring, but I was eager to listen to her speak. Kena and her team handled the Christina Grimmie case and the worst shooting massacre on American soil, the Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack.

Kena Lewis walked us through their crisis procedure the night Christina Grimmie was shot by a crazed fan in Orlando and during the Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack. Kena touched on the Christina Grimmie procedure but walked us through the night of the Pulse attack step-by-step and minute-by-minute. To catch a glimpse inside the minds that handled an event that spread worldwide was inspiring and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The night/morning of the terrorist attack, Kena Lewis and the Orlando Health team had over 300+ media outlets show up on their doorstep (Quick note: They garnered BILLIONS of UV’s, saw a massive spike in Orlando Regional’s social media pages). The team instantly jumped into crisis mode. The team reached out to the appropriate departments, staffed the hospital to make sure each victim was taken care of and carefully crafted three key messages they wanted the media to address. The three messages would set the tone for the hospital’s communication moving forward. They were:

  • We were prepared- Staff was ready
  • We are the experts- Staff and doctors are world-renowned
  • We are a team- Staff worked together as a team (lower level to C level)

It was incredible to watch the highlight reel of how all three messages played out in the media. Besides messaging, I took away six key nuggets of information to have in a crisis plan:

  • Have a compassion statement readily available in the crisis plan for various situations
  • Carefully craft three key messages of what you want the media to know
  • Divide labor and provide each team member with a role in case of an emergency
  • Have a list of after-hours contact information for each team member, their roles and department
  • Divide media in different tiers (most important to less important)
  • Always direct outlets to social media accounts for live updates

If you don’t have any of the bullets listed above in your crisis plan, I would advise to add it, I know we will.

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