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A creative blog by Tracy Larrua on The Whole 9

Tracy (or Trace, as friends call her) Larrua lives and works between Hawaii and L.A. A seasoned pr/marcom specialist who has worked primarily in the hospitality and entertainment industries, she enjoys teaching her “Get The Word Out” pr workshops and volunteering her time with non-profits. When not glued to her sassy MacBook, you can find her relaxing at the beach, enjoying live theatre, or at a BBQ with friends.

Remembering 911 – Crisis Communication Case

September 11th, in my opinion, is one of the saddest days in our country’s history.  The day was a complete blur to me. I recall an early morning phone call by a neighbor who frantically said, “Turn on the TV!!!” I turned the TV on and couldn’t comprehend what I was watching. My neighbor and I sat there, mouths open, not knowing the how, the why. What was interesting to watch though and from a pr point of view, was the composure of the newscasters. I remember watching Matt Lauer trying to deliver the news, while receiving the live feed in his earpiece, all while trying not to lose it himself. He after all, is only human.

There were hundreds of reporters running amid the chaos, trying to gather only the facts, and then doing their best to deliver the news in the most respectful fashion.  This was the ultimate in crisis communication.  Although the events of 9-11 were the most extreme type of case, having an idea of what to do in the case of an emergency for your client or company is ultra important.  Unfortunately, crisis communications is one part of the pr spectrum that is not practiced enough.  Let’s face it.  Most pr folks typically think that this type of training is boring and probably think to themselves, “Nah, that’ll never happen to me.”  I know that I initially thought that myself.  But what if you are faced with a real life emergency? Are you ready to handle it?

I remember being part of a very upscale hotel company many years ago that made sure all of its pr directors were well trained in the case of an emergency.  A crisis communication company (yes, these actually exist) arrived with video cameras and several test case scenarios outlining a variety of emergency situations.  These test cases covered a variety of scenarios including a weather scenario, a rape scenario, and a fire scenario. The goal was to review each test case, prepare a statement within minutes, and then get videotaped with the response.  Turns out, during a major crisis, your brain is not always ready to say the right thing and you can easily end up making things worse instead of better.

Let’s face it.  Many of us will never have to worry about a crisis communication situation as massive as 9-11, but in the case something does happen to your client or your company, are you prepared?  Is a spokesperson designated?  Do you have a well thought out statement?  Do you know how to speak to a reporter?  Are you comfortable in front of a TV camera and mic?  Tone of voice, body language…  its all important.  Its better to be prepared than not, so take it from me.  On a day (or night when you’ve seen the same Saturday Night Live rerun more than once), do yourself a favor.  Take a moment and do a little research and think about doing some training in this area.  Every bit of knowledge helps and it could end up saving you one day.

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