- Assistant Dean for Communications & Marketing
- Assistant Dean for Student Services
- Assistant Dean for Career Services
- Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
- Associate Dean of the Law Library
- Associate Dean for Budgeting and Planning
- Dean of the School of Law
- Assistant to the Dean
- Assistant Dean of Advancement
Other personnel may be added to this core team to form the larger Crisis Communications Team, which will then formulate a response based on the nature of the crisis. Those added could include the following, depending on the situation:
- Director of Admissions
- Director information Technology
- Director of Facilities
- Financial Aid Officer
- Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications
The Core Crisis Team, after assessing the nature and scope of the situation, should call together all members of the Crisis Communications Team to develop a plan of action including some, or all, of the following:
- Designated spokesperson. In most cases the spokesperson should be the assistant dean for communications and marketing, whose responsibility it is to engage and disseminate information to the media. The assistant dean for communications and marketing will seek the advice and counsel of the crisis team to formulate a clear message/response. The assistant dean for communications and marketing should be the singular funnel responsible for disseminating messages and responses. In cases of a significant crisis, associate deans, the dean, or higher ranking university officials must take the lead in conveying the administration's response to a crisis, showing that the law school and/or the university has control of the situation, calming public concern and setting an example for the entire campus.
- Draft a fact sheet. The fact sheet should contain a summary statement of the situation including all known details to be released to the media. This information should be made available to (and approved by) the Dean. This fact sheet should be analyzed with respect to the public's right to know and concerns for privacy and security.
- Notify key constituencies. Determine key constituencies that should be informed of the crisis. It is important to keep administration, faculty, staff and students informed of appropriate details and actions taken by the law school and/or university during an emergency. Effective communications will help quell rumors, maintain morale, and ensure continued orderly operations of the law school. Among the groups that should be considered for communication in a crisis situation are:
- Law enforcement agencies
- Administration, faculty and staff
- General public
- Mass media
- Assign members of the Crisis Team to communicate the facts of the situation (contained in the fact sheet) and the law school’s intended response. Among those that may be notified, depending on the situation, are:
- Law enforcement agencies — should be notified by director of facilities.
- Campus administrators, faculty, staff — Information to administrators other than those selected to serve on the Crisis Team should be provided via electronic mail, campus mail and/or meetings. The assistant to the associate dean can set up blast e-mail messages to the campus: faculty, students, and staff.
- Students — Notices to students can be given on phone recordings, blast e-mails by the assistant of the associate dean, deans forums, letters, and web site. Fliers may be distributed to student folders and bulletin boards, and they may also be posted at all entrances.
- Trustees — May be reached via the president’s office. The assistant to the president should notify this body.
- Local community — If the situation has an impact on local businesses, fliers can be distributed. If appropriate, meetings can be arranged with leaders of the businesses near the law school. The assistant dean for communications and marketing should coordinate this.
- Mass media – The communications office may prepare news releases for distribution. All media inquiries should be directed to the communications office.
- Government Agencies — If government entities (Mayor’s, Governor’s offices) need to be informed, the communications office should handle this.
- Alert the media. Determine whether a news conference and or news release is an appropriate means of conveying information to faculty, staff, students, the news media and the public. The communications associate in consultation with the assistant dean for communications and marketing will determine logistics of the news conference including when, where and how the media will be contacted, which media will be contacted, who will supervise the news conference, who will appear, etc. (See Appendix A for list of news conference guidelines).
- Establish Crisis Command Center. Determine whether the magnitude of the crisis merits establishing a Crisis Command Center (for crisis team and university) and/or a Media Briefing Center (for larger gatherings of the media for briefings or press conferences).
- Photography. Decide the need to assign videographers and photographers to take pictures of the scene. This may prove helpful in responding to media inquiries, to possible later litigation, as well as documenting events. Determine whether it is appropriate to allow location shooting by TV and newspaper photographers. Determine when, where and who will accompany the media.
- Radio responses. Discuss need to produce taped response for radio, or who to make available for radio sound bytes.
- Other spokespersons. Identify any other individuals who may serve as spokespersons or who might be made available to the news media; Communications staff will counsel individual in terms of appropriate ways to deal with the media (See Appendix B for media relations reminders).
- Internal communications. Determine strategy of internal communications to be used if the crisis affects law school students and employees.
- Alternative communications. Discuss alternative or additional means of conveying information including letters to students or selected constituencies of the law school or university, letters to newspaper editors, and consultation with editorial boards.
- Switchboards. The following locations, which receive high volumes of incoming telephone calls to the law school should be notified regarding the key facts of the crisis (fact sheet) and where to refer calls pertaining to the crisis:
|Tammy Hubbard |
|Lori Rusnak |
- Rumor control. Consider establishing a rumor-control hotline and/or a dedicated call-in line for media use. Dedicated line also could be used for taped telephone updates. Contact the Director of Information Technology to arrange for recorded message or use of the law school’s back-up telephone lines.
Ongoing Procedures During Crisis
- Alert Communications staff member of newspaper and video clippings to give highest priority to immediately scanning daily newspapers and video reports for stories related to the situation. Deliver copies of these clips or reports as appropriate to the members of the crisis team.
- Set up information files on the crisis to reside in the Communications office. Material related to the crisis, including clippings, statements, letters, memos and any other documents, should be forwarded to the Communications office and filed in chronological order.
- Monitor the situation at least daily, and frequently update staff and appropriate administrators.
- Take notes during crisis to be reviewed and used to improve future crisis response.
Following any crisis, appropriate action must take place to ensure that members of the law school community, and others as necessary, receive needed information and assistance to help bring closure to the crisis as well as relief from the effects of the event. Attention also should be placed onidentifying and implementing measures to improve the action plan used during the crisis.
Whenever possible, a public forum should be scheduled and coordinated by the communications office to communicate details of the incident and events to all interested members of the law school. The timeliness of this meeting is critical and every effort should be made to see that it occurs within three workdays from the close of the crisis. Crisis team members should attend and be prepared to answer questions and share pertinent information. Specific departments and/or individuals also may be requested to attend and participate depending upon the nature of the crisis.
Immediately following a crisis, it is imperative that the law school be sensitive to the needs of faculty, staff and students who may have been personally affected by the crisis. There may be a need to assist a victim, or victims with obtaining information and/or a referral to available resources. The core team will be responsible for notifying appropriate individuals within the following designated areas: The assistant to the dean will be the contact for employees and the Assistant Dean for Student Services will be the contact for students. Also, representatives from the two areas should follow up with their respective constituents to ensure their needs are being addressed and offer further assistance.
It is not unreasonable to expect that rumors would follow a crisis, further creating an atmosphere of anxiety. One means of combating rumors would be to take full advantage of electronic mail, rumor-control hotlines, etc. and report facts as appropriate. Voice mail broadcasts to faculty/staff, students and others with voice mail accounts can be arranged. The Emergency Conditions phone line can be activated by Rita O’Donald.
Depending upon the nature of the crisis, services and assistance may have been rendered by agencies, companies and/or individuals from outside the law school. The communications office should ensure that applicable follow-up information, as well as thank-you letters, is forwarded to appropriate persons.
The core team shall meet within 10 days following a crisis and review all actions taken as a result of the crisis to determine effectiveness and efficiency of operations and make any needed changes to the Crisis Communications Plan.
The Facilities Director is responsible for overseeing and implementing services necessary to clean and repair areas and facilities damaged as a result of a crisis.
Facility Evacuation/Operational Shutdowns
It may become necessary to evacuate buildings and/or areas surrounding the law school to protect and ensure the safety of people. If such a situation occurs, decisions regarding work space accommodations and/or leave requirements for faculty and staff, as well as class schedules would need to be addressed.
This plan will be updated regularly. All members of the crisis team will be sent the updates.
The core crisis team should be assembled periodically to discuss the plan and any updates. The assistant dean for communications & marketing will serve as core team captain and convene these meetings. Results of the meetings and revisions of the plan are to be documented. Copies of this plan should be addressed to all employees listed in the plan and any other personnel who might play a role in the event of a crisis.
Appendix A: News Conference Guidelines
- When you notify media of news conferences/availabilities, be sure to define what kind of event you are having. News conferences are held to announce something for the first time. Press availabilities are held simply to make individuals available to answer questions or demonstrate something.
- Don't call unnecessary news conferences/availabilities. If it's not worth their time, the media will only be angered.
- If holding a news conference, try to tell media in advance some details of what you will be announcing.
- Gauge the size of your crowd carefully when reserving a room; better to have too much than too little space. Make sure microphones, chairs, lighting and water are in place at least 30 minutes prior to the event.
- Decide format in advance -- who will introduce speakers, who decides when question/answer period ends, and other details.
- Decide in advance whether handouts are needed. If speaker is giving a talk for which there is a text, you may want to wait and hand out material after the talk so media will stay and listen. However, it's advisable to tell the media you will provide a text of the speech so they are not irritated by having to take unnecessary notes.
- Check to see what else is happening on campus or in the community before scheduling a press conference.
- Consider whether you need to let other organizations and agencies know you are having a news conference. (You may wish to invite others to attend or participate in your event.)
- Decide who will maintain control at the news conference, who will decide where cameras are set up, who sits where.
- Try to plan the length of the news conference, but be flexible.
- Consider the time of the news conference. If you want to make the noon, 6 p.m. or 11 p.m. TV and radio news, you need to allow time for crews to travel and edit tape.
- If you are going to set restrictions on an event such as limited photo access, try to put the restrictions in writing and communicate to the media at least 24 hours in advance.
Appendix B: Media Relations Reminders
- Always return media calls. The more cooperative you appear, the better.
- Communicate with the media -- talk to them as well as listen to them. During crisis time, you may learn a great deal from the media that can be useful to you in further dealing with the crisis.
- Avoid antagonizing the media. A short tone at a press conference, during a phone call, or elsewhere can affect your future relationship with an individual or other media who may hear the conversation.
- Consider establishing a dedicated call-in phone line that will offer information to media or others. Information on news conferences, rumor control information, newly acquired information, can be placed on a tape that can be updated. This is particularly useful when regular phone lines are tied up with calls.
- Consider how information you release to media may affect other agencies, businesses or individuals. If you say things that may result in media calling other agencies, call those agencies first to warn them of impending calls.
- When talking to the media, be sure to give credit to other agencies, groups or individuals working on the crisis, including your own staff.
Try to be pro-active with new information. Even those things may be frantic; if you acquire new information regarding the crisis, reach out to the media.