Monday, August 6, 2012

Responding Appropriately After a Tragic Event

In light of the recent events surrounding the Aurora, Colorado shooting, many media professionals are hesitant about their response process. As PR pros, our goal is to get the message out to the media accurately and in a timely manner. But when we are responding to a tragedy, we must work hard to respect the families of the victims and be sensitive to the issue at hand: people have died, and our priority is to those who have been affected. If you find your organization at the forefront of a tragedy, following the guidelines below may prove to be beneficial:

  • Your first responsibility is to the victims and their family members: They should be the first ones to hear any information that you discover. Keep in mind that although this is your job, this is also their life. The last thing they need is to hear vital information about their families through the grapevine.
  • Acknowledge social media: Yes, this is the social media age and the quickest way to receive up-to-date news. But also be mindful that social media is the most reliable source for unreliable information. Make sure you are releasing information as quickly as possible to avoid a slew of radical claims. 
  • Work with law enforcement: You shouldn't be the only one releasing information during this time. Keep in contact with the police to release information in regular intervals. This way, there won't be any conflicting statements or findings. Doing so will tighten up leaks and prevent rumors from floating around.
  • Don't be afraid to say that you don't know: As was mentioned before, the families and victims of the tragedies should always be notified first. It's okay to say "that's confidential at this time" or to say when you don't know. You're not always going to know everything about what is going on when you are approached by the media. By telling the truth, you are shielding your organization's credibility.
Have you ever been at the forefront of a tragic event? What was your process? Let us know!

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