• The Crisis Communication Team
• Designated Spokesperson
• Media Policies and Procedures
• Practicing Tough Questions
• Prepared Statements
• Sample News Release
• Collateral Materials
• Key Audiences
• Contact Log
• Speaker’s Presentations
• Handling Media Interviews
This crisis communication plan will outline a generic, basic crisis communication plan with options to consider if and when the Alamo Area Council is in the midst of a crisis and needs help. A crisis is any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of the Boy Scouts of America, Alamo Area Council, usually brought on by adverse or negative media attention. These situations can be any kind of legal dispute, abuse incident, discrimination accusation, harmful policy change, theft, accident, fire, flood or manmade disaster that could be attributed to your company.
It can also be a situation where in the eyes of the media or general public your company did not react to one of the above situations in the appropriate manner. If handled correctly the damage can be minimized. The only proactive counter to negative PR is the creation and push of positive stories and actions by the organization in the future. It is crucial in a crisis is to stay on message, tell it fast and tell the truth by being sensibly transparent. This is key to minimize the situation.
When a situation arises that may be a crisis the first thing you should do is contact your CEO and the chief of your public relations department. The sooner you get those two organizations involved the sooner you can implement this plan.
The Crisis Communication Team
This team is essential to identify what actions should be taken. The team should be comprised of individuals who are key to the situation. They should include as a minimum the CEO, the chief of Public Relations, the Vice President, the Senior manager from the division in charge of the area that was involved in the situation that has brought about the crisis, the safety and/or security officer, the organization Lawyer, and anyone else who might be able to shed some light on the situation such as eye witnesses.
The job of this team is to come up with a plan of action and decide who the spokesperson should be. A copy of the management recall roster should be attached and should include cellular phone numbers and beeper numbers if each team member has one (either one or the other should be issued to the primary team members at least). As you will find out a crisis is not always at the most convenient time and place.
A complete management list is recommended as you never can tell who may be needed. Once the crisis communication team is selected a list should be made of the people on the team and what each team member is responsible for.
This document contains a sample form.
Sample form: 1. Name________________ home_______________work______________
2. Name_________________ home_______________work______________
In addition to the crisis communication team the Public Relations or Communications
department should be supplemented with competent people who can answer phones and if
required escort media. Having calls from the media answered promptly is essential. As soon
as possible a prepared statement should be given to this staff. This statement should be
something such as “Facts are still being gathered but there will be a press conference before
4:00, give me your name and number and I will call you back to let you know when.”
One of the first responsibilities of the crisis communication team should be to determine the
appropriate positioning or message to address the emergency.
Things to think about:
This is where “stay on message, tell it fast and tell the truth by being sensibly transparent”
It is always best when a mistake has been made to admit it up front, and begin doing whatever
is possible to re-establish credibility and confidence with internal and external audiences.
The first and foremost goal is protecting the integrity and reputation of the Company.
Never try to lie, deny or hide your involvement.
If you ignore the situation it will only get worse.
The cause of almost all crises fall into two broad categories:
Overt acts and acts of omission.
Issues of competence or lack thereof in matters of public perception.
To decide on a position, it is important to step out of your role in the company and put
yourself in the situation of whom ever was involved in the crisis or try to view the crisis from
the eye of the public. Ignoring the situation will only make things worse.
Examples of categories to consider for positioning are:
• Human error
• Clerical error
• Unauthorized procedures
• Inadequate supervision
• Inadequate quality control
• Misuse of confidential information
• Errors of judgement
• Inadequate standard operating procedures
As you are considering the position it is important to consider the wide range of consequences
(e.g., legal, financial, public relations, effects on administration, effects on operations).
Keep in mind that people tend to remember what they hear first and last.
One individual should be designated as the primary spokesperson to represent the Company, make official statements and answer media questions throughout the crisis. A back-up to the designated spokesperson should also be identified to fill the position in the event that the primary spokesperson is unavailable. In addition to the primary spokesperson and the backup spokesperson, individuals who will serve as technical experts or advisors should be designated. These resources might include a financial expert, an engineer, a leader in the community or anyone your company deems necessary during a specific kind of crisis. This will take some brainstorming by the crisis communication team since what is needed may not always be apparent. There should be an authority or technical expert in their field and be available to supplement the knowledge of the spokesperson. Criteria for the spokesperson, backup spokesperson and crisis communication expert is: Comfortable in front of a TV camera and with reporters. Preferably, skilled in handling media, skilled in directing responses to another topic, skilled in identifying key points, able to speak without using jargon, respectful of the role of the reporter, knowledgeable about the organization and the crisis at hand Able to establish credibility with the media, able to project confidence to the audience, suitable in regard to diction, appearance and charisma, sincere, straightforward and believable, accessible to the media and to internal communications personnel who will facilitate media interviews, able to remain calm in stressful situations.
PLEASE NOTE: THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA ALAMO AREA COUNCIL HAS A
POLICY OF NOT GRANTING INTERVIEWS TO THE MEDIA DURING CRISIS
EVENTS, CHOOSING PRIMARILY TO RELEASE PREPARED STATEMENTS OR
COMMUNICATING NEWS THROUGH THE COUNCIL’S PRIMARY OWNED MEDIA
COMMUNICATIONS PLATFORMS (i.e. Council Website and Social Media)
In addition to the designated spokesperson and backup, it can be anticipated that other parties
involved in the crisis; police, fire department, health officials, etc., will also have a
spokesperson. It is important to obtain the identity of that individual as early as possible so all
statements and contacts with the media can be coordinated between the two individuals and
their organizations/interests whenever possible.
Media Policies and Procedures
Select a place to be used as a media center. It should be some distance from offices of the
crisis communication team, spokesperson and emergency operations center to ensure that
media are not in the middle of the action if they happen to take the wrong turn or have to pass
by those offices or areas on the way to the restrooms. If there is a visual (a fire or rescue
operation) don’t make the media center in such a remote site that they can’t see what is going
on because they may not show up and if they do you will loose their confidence and it may
appear that you are hiding something.
Locations for interviews and press briefings will be decided by the crisis communications
Don’t change the rules that you already have established for the media. If the media are
currently required to be escorted then during a crisis they should be required to be escorted.
These things should be considered and preparations made now to find people who can escort
media during a crisis. If they are not required to be escorted now then don’t require them to be
in a crisis. If there are special circumstances that would require them to be escorted such as a
safety hazard, they should be advised of this up front. Any change in the way the media is
dealt with during a crisis may change the views of the reporter. It is important that they feel
that you aren’t trying to hide anything.
Reporters may ask to speak to staff or at a school, faculty or students who are involved with
or have been affected by the crisis. It is best to restrict all interviews to the primary
spokesperson, back-up spokesperson or technical expert. Controlling the interview process is
key to managing the crisis.
However, remember that reporters have the right to interview anyone they want to and if they
don’t get the answers they want from you they will get them somewhere. They are all after the
scoop. They all want a different angle than the reporter standing next to them. They will try
for that scoop with you. If the possibility is there to provide them with what they want,
consider it very carefully. All media should be treated equally. What is given to one (such as
access to an area effected by the crisis) should be available to all media.
Practicing Tough Questions
A crisis situation is always difficult when dealing with the media. Therefore, tough questions
and rehearsals are necessary to help the spokesperson prepare.
It is important, at the onset of the crisis, that the spokesperson, backup and advisors spend
some time rehearsing prepared statements and answers to possible “tough” questions that may
be asked by reporters. If possible, similar rehearsals should be conducted prior to each media
interview, briefing or news conference. It is also important to anticipate and practice new
questions as the story evolves.
It is better to over-prepare than to be surprised by the depth of questioning by the media. Be
tough and be prepared.
The Communications/Public Relations staff should prepare questions and answers for the
practice sessions. These questions and answers should be for internal use only and not for
distribution outside the organization.
Don’t volunteer information unless it is a point the company wants to make and the question
hasn’t been asked.
Don’t talk off the record.
If you don’t communicate immediately, you lose your greatest opportunity to control events.
(Attached is a fill-in the blanks news release that can be used with little or no preparation as
your first news release). Your first news release should include at a minimum the who, what,
when and where of the situation.
You must give the facts that have been gathered from reliable sources and confirmed. Don’t
over reach and don’t speculated. There is a limit to your role. To exceed that limit is a
mistake. If you do nothing more than show concern for the public and for your employees in
your first press interaction, you are already on the right track. The corollary of expressing
concern and generating good will at the consumer level is securing the loyalty of your
customers and employees by taking the initiative to share information with them. If your
employees and customers don’t feel like insiders, they are going to act like outsiders.
You must have a prepared statement on hand that can be used to make an initial general
response to the media when knowledge about the crisis first becomes known on a widespread
basis or by reporters.
As the crisis progresses and new information and facts become available, it is also advisable
to develop prepared statements to be made by the spokesperson at the onset of any media
interview, briefing or news conference.
These prepared statements should NEVER be read over the telephone to reporters who call to
request information but are not represented at news conferences or briefings. The statement
should ONLY be sent by e-mail or text messaging upon request.
Sample News Release
A ___________________ at ____________________ involving __________________
occurred today at ________________ . The incident is under investigation and more
information is forthcoming.
A (what happened) at (location) involving (who) occurred today at (time). The incident is
under investigation and more information is forthcoming.
An explosion at 1210 Market Street, the main plant for the Acme Toy Company occurred
today at 3 p.m. The incident is under investigation and more information is forthcoming.
You could put down a definitive time for the next news conference or release of information
if you know it but it is not necessary. This will not solve your problems, but may buy you
enough time to prepare for the next news conference or release.
You could also add information if it is available such as how many casualty’s there are known
up to this point or any other pertinent information available. Once again, this information
should be definitive and not speculative, verify everything you say. This will help your
credibility in the long run.
Other News Release samples are found online at www.AlamoAreaBSA.org/PressRoom
Information brochures or fact sheets about the company or the area in which the crisis has
occurred are helpful in informing the reporters or anyone else seeking information about the
In some cases it might be necessary to create materials that explain technical systems or inhouse
procedures. If we explain how a technical system or in-house procedure works and
point out where a breakdown occurred, there is less chance of a reporter interpreting the
If one is not already in place a generic fact sheet about the company should be created and
Always do what you can to make a complicated issue as simple as you can for reporters. If the
crisis was caused by a piece of equipment consider bringing in a similar piece of equipment to
show reporters. At the very least provide a schematic or drawing. If you give them a visual
that may keep them from seeking one out themselves. Try not to use the actual piece of
equipment that failed since that is morbid and allows an opportunity to an over zealous
reporter to do some yellow journalism. It may also me traumatic to the relatives of victims.
Below is a list of publics served by many public affairs or communications departments.
When you are working on a crisis consider what the most effective method of communication
would be for each group. Ensure that you communicate with each group that is part of your
Employees: management, hourly/prospective/salaried employees, families, Union members,
Community where employees live, neighborhood coalitions, community organizations, plant
locations, Chambers of Commerce
Local, regional, national, and international
Distributors, jobbers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers
Suppliers, teaming partners, competitors, professional societies, subcontractors, joint
ventures, and trade associations
General, local national and international; foreign trade; specialized
Trustees, regents, directors, financial supporters, students, prospects, administration, faculty
and staff, alumni
Investors of our Scouting youth
Local, state, regional, national, international
Legislative, regulatory, executive, and judicial
Environmental, safety, handicapped/disabled, minority, think tanks, consumer, health, senior
citizens, and religious.
A log should be established to record all telephone calls from the media or other parties
inquiring about the crisis. This will help to ensure that the many callbacks required are not
overlooked. It will also assist in the post-crisis analysis.
The contact log should contain the following information:
Date | Name of caller | Questions(s) asked | Telephone number
Person responsible for response | Additional follow-up needs
CHECKLIST OF DO’S AND DON’TS
When preparing to give a speech,
– Use a full script with LARGE TYPE for easy reading.
– Leave wide margin for notes to yourself.
– Leave pages unstapled for easier handling at podium.
– Highlight and mark your script to guide your delivery.
– Time your presentation to fit the program schedule of the group you will address.
– Practice: Read it aloud using a mirror and tape recorder until it sounds like you are talking,
– Be sure you have the facts about your audience-size, contact person’s name, facility, etc.
– Based on your audience and your presentation, determine what, if any, equipment you will
use. If you are not familiar with the equipment, contact the Communications Department to
arrange a briefing on how to use slide projectors, video players, or overhead equipment.
When you arrive at your engagement,
– Be at least 15 minutes early.
– Check equipment in advance if possible.
– Be sure slides are in correct order and clearly focused.
– Be sure slide advance mechanism is convenient to you where you are speaking, or arrange
for someone else to advance the slides.
– Check the lighting in the room to be sure the slides will be visible to the audience.
– Check microphone (whether it is free standing or lavaliere) before beginning- “Can you hear
– Check lighting to podium to be sure you can read.
-Be sure the type of room and size of crowd are appropriate for the use of overhead
-Be sure the words/graphics are large enough for people to read.
– Check to be sure you are situated correctly in the room with the overhead projector, screen,
microphone and audience.
When you are speaking,
– Stand erect and direct voice toward audience.
– Speak loudly, slowly and distinctly.
– Establish eye contact (or appear to do so) with audience from time to time.
– Stay within the allotted presentation time.
When you are answering questions,
– Remain friendly, cool-headed and confident.
– Answer only the questions asked and do so as succinctly and clearly as possible.
– Remember that you do not always have to know everything. You can say “I will have to
check that out for you–please see me after the meeting.
– Avoid allowing one person to dominate the questions by moving on: “Thank you for your
interest. I’ll be glad to talk to you about your concerns after the meeting. Right now let’s see if
anyone else has questions for the group.
When you are finished with your presentation,
– Remain long enough to give individuals an opportunity to talk with you.
– See to it that arrangements are made for distributing information materials to the group, if
When preparing to give a speech,
– Assume that you can “wing it”– almost no one can.
– Decide you are better “off the cuff”–almost no one is.
– Use type that is too small to read with a dim light and margins too narrow for notes.
– Leave too little time to practice adequately.
When you arrive at your engagement,
– Be late.
– Forget the group’s contact person’s name.
– Fail to check your equipment.
When you are speaking
– Mumble your remarks to the podium.
– Speak to loudly into the microphone.
– Allow yourself to wander away from your prepared text.
– Tell an unprepared anecdote or joke, or make “top of mind” remarks.
– Speak longer than time allotted.
When you are answering questions,
– Become defensive or emotional.
– Assume that tough questions are personal.
– Answer more than the question itself.
– Allow one person to dominate the question period.
Handling Media Interviews
Tips and Guidelines
How To prepare for Broadcast Interviews
– Prepare “talking paper” on primary points you want to make.
– Anticipate questions–prepare responses.
– Practice answering questions.
– Cover controversial areas ahead of time.
– Know who will be interviewing you, if possible.
– Determine how much time is available.
– Audiences often remember impressions, not facts.
Do’s and Don’ts During the Interview process
– Do build bridges.
– Do use specifics.
– Do use analogies.
– Do use contrasts, comparisons.
– Do be enthusiastic/animated.
– Do be your casual likable self.
– Do be a listener.
– Do be cool.
– Do be correct.
– Do be anecdotal.
– If you don’t have the answer or can’t answer, do admit it and move on to another topic.
– Don’t fall for that “A or B” dilemma.
– Don’t accept “what if” questions. (Say, “Sorry, I don’t answer hypotheticals” THEN
BRIDGE to YOUR MESSAGE “What I can say is…)
– Don’t accept “laundry list” questions.
– Don’t go off the record.
– Don’t think you have to answer every question.
– Don’t speak for someone else –beware of the absent-party trap.
How To Handle Yourself During A TV Talk Show Interview
– Talk “over ” lavaliere mike.
– Audio check– use regular voice.
– If makeup is offered, use it.
– Sit far back in the chair, back erect…but lean forward to appear enthusiastic and force
yourself to use hands.
– Remember… TV will frame your face–be calm, use high hand gestures, if possible.
– Keep eyes on interviewer– not on camera.
– Smile, be friendly.
Tips On Appearance
– Avoid wearing pronounced strips, checks or small patterns.
– Grey, brown, blue or mixed colored suits/dressed are best.
– Grey, light-blue, off-white or pastel shirts or blouses are best.
– Avoid having hair cut right before interview.
How To Respond During A Newspaper Interview
– Obtain advanced knowledge of interview topics.
– Make sure you are prepared in detail; print reporters are often more knowledgeable than
broadcast reporters and my ask more detailed questions.
– Begin the interview by making your point in statement by making your major points in
– Try to maintain control of the interview .
– Don’t let reporter wear you down.
– Set a time limit in advance.
– Don’t let so relaxed that you say something you wish you hadn’t.
– Avoid jargon or professional expressions.
– Reporter may repeat self in different ways to gain information you may no want to give.
– Don’t answer inappropriate questions; simply say it is “not an appropriate topic for you to
address at this time,” or “it’s proprietary” for example.
– Be prepared for interruptions with questions…it is legitimate for reporters to do that.
– Do not speak “off the record.”
– Remember, the interview lasts as long as a reporter is there.
After The Interview
– You can ask to check technical points, but do not ask to see advance copy of the story.
– Never try to go over reporter’s head to stop a story.
– Do not send gifts to reporters–it is considered unethical for them to accept them.