Expect Anything and Everything: Crisis Communications When a Man Falls From a Stadium

November 20th, 2013
by
Flickr user mark.watmough

Flickr user mark.watmough

When a man fell from the top deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday in Buffalo, N.Y., it’s easy to wonder whether the Buffalo Bills PR team had an action plan in place for such an odd occurrence. The man slid down the railing, flipped backwards, and fell about 30 feet, landing atop and injuring another spectator. This situation serves as an excellent reminder that, thorough though your crisis communication plan may seem, it could probably be a lot more comprehensive. In re-thinking your plan, take a look at what we know about how the team handled this situation.

React fast

As always, a minimal reaction time is essential. Reports say that a staff member responded immediately, and emergency personnel joined soon after, removing the injured men to the hospital. Once the injured men were removed, staff wisely addressed the uninjured fans who had just witnessed the accident. The Bills offered some fans in the vicinity the chance to view the rest of the game from a suite. While only some accepted, offering an immediate solution or an alternative to those affected demonstrates Bills reps acknowledged the situation, showed consideration, and took action.

Take a firm stance that reflect organization rules

Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon issued a statement the day after the game, decisively condemning the man’s actions as “irresponsible” and in violation of the Fan Code of Conduct. Brandon then banned the man who fell from ever returning to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills not only responded to the incident within 24 hours, they took a clear, common-sense but no-nonsense stand without shying away from the incident or making light of it.

Though they addressed the situation head on, chances are they weren’t prepared for an incident such as this one. The key is that they stayed true to the rules and ideals of their brand.

Keep a tight lid on released information

Other than official statements and some news stories, there are few details emerging. The names of the injured men, their specific injuries, what exactly happened before, during, and after the fall aren’t readily available. Though we must speculate on what occurred, both in the stadium and in the communications department, it’s clear the Bills expertly contained the story. This is yet another benefit reaped from reacting fast: the story is controlled.

And of course, the key to reacting fast is being prepared. While you may not be prepared for the exact situation, it’s important that all the key players know how to act in a crisis situation and, if they don’t, they should know who to consult or where to look.

Refining your crisis response procedure on a regular basis can only help keep you and your team primed. In addition to creating detailed plans, be sure to designate and train a spokesperson, and maintain a consistent system of notifications and alerts before and during the fact. After the crisis, debrief and assess, and apply it to future crises.

How do you prepare for anything and everything? How do you ensure your crisis plans run smoothly when the unexpected happens?

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