Posts Tagged ‘crisis team’


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

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
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?

PR News 2010 Media Relations Conference: Roger Conner Interviewed by Johna Burke, BurrellesLuce

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Transcript –

JOHNA BURKE: Hello, this is Johna Burke with BurrellesLuce, and we’re here at the PR News Media Relations Summit. I’m joined by Roger.

Roger, will you please introduce yourself?

ROGER CONNER: Hi, I’m Roger Conner, senior director of communications for Catholic Charities USA after a 25-year career as vice president of communications with Marriott, the hotel company.

BURKE: Thanks, Roger. And, you know, platinum member here, so big Marriott fan. I’ll just get that off the record right away.

CONNER: Well, I always–when–you know, I spent a life at Marriott, an entire career, and I always loved and always thanked all of those Marriott reward members, and particularly those platinum members, for their business. That’s the first thing anyone ever said at Marriott, no matter what job they were in.

BURKE: Fantastic. Now, you were just the keynote speaker at the Media Relations Summit here, and you talked about having a crisis team with five different parts. Can you share what those five parts are with the PR and communications professionals that are our audience?

CONNER: At Marriott, most recently we developed a five-part crisis communications team. It started with our writing and research team, and they were the ones that contacted the hotel or any other place where there was an incident or issue involving media, and then they wrote the message. Often the message was written in advance by research and writing. It was then handed off to the second team, which is our press and media team, and they would actually take that work and call The Media, and they were designated to speak with the media.

We had three other teams that were very helpful. One of them was internal communications, which, as we know, is critical today. Secondly–or not secondly, but a fourth team was our logistics team because there’s an awful lot of materials that need to be at the ready for responding to a crisis or an issue. And finally we had our community relations team for all our involvement with other organizations that might be part of a crisis, such as Red Cross or others.

BURKE: Great. And, Roger, what are the two things that you had mentioned that you have on your shelf ready to go in the event of any crisis?

CONNER: Well, with these five different components of our crisis communications team in place, they were working with two primary documents, or two primary tools, if you will. The first one was actually called “The First 15,” and directionally, if not in reality, it was a document that addressed how we respond to The Media, or publicly, within the first 15 minutes of any kind of major crisis or issue. And the other document was known as “The First Hour,” which actually was a little bit more practical and a little longer, and really laid out all of the roles and responsibility for the members of those five teams that must be done within the first hour.

BURKE: Great, Roger. And where can people find you or follow Catholic Charities online?

CONNER: Well, Catholic Charities USA can be found on Twitter, can be found on Facebook. We have a great Flickr site, along with Facebook, for our photographs. And of course, personally I’m on LinkedIn.

BURKE: Great, thank you so much.

 CONNER: Thank you so much.