It is a bold move; perhaps unprecedented. Certainly in my career in crisis communications and my prior career as a reporter, I cannot recall a community that has suffered a crisis, asking the media to stay away. However, officials in Newtown, Connecticut are asking the media to stay away on December 14th, the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting that killed 27 people.
From a media relations perspective, I support this bold move.
As for the lessons for communicators and public relations professionals, Newtown offers many crisis communications lessons. Free information and a free webinar from one year ago are still online. Sadly, a bold post-Newton prediction I made in a blog post on CommPro.biz has come true.
I predicted that, “The Sandy Hook shooting will likely not raise any discussions about effective crisis communications, although it should.” With CommPro.biz, I presented a free webinar outlining what all schools should do in order to be properly prepared for effective crisis communications should they experience a shooting or some other type of crisis.
An effective crisis communication plan can save lives and move people out of harms way. With all my heart I believe it and advocate for crisis communications preparedness each day.
Sadly, I can report my prediction has come true, at least among the schools that contacted me immediately after the webinar and during the year. Of those who had more questions about writing a crisis communications plan, to date, not a single person who has contacted me has been able to get their school officials to endorse or believe in the premise that if you plan on a sunny day, all will go much more smoothly on your darkest day. So many organizations see communications about a crisis as a reactive response to media after a crisis rather than a pro-active event of planning that should be done long before a crisis ever strikes. Not a single person who contacted me was able to get their schools to allocate even a modest amount of time or money to begin the effort.
It would be a great day for children, parents and educations if my prediction were wrong.
The lessons from one year ago are all still online, offered to you free of charge.