Crisis Communications Recap

By Maggie Stephens.

Bloomington, Ind. – Every PR girl’s wildest dream came true on Tuesday, November 18, when we got to be Olivia Pope for the night. PRSSA held a crisis communications workshop and the white hat’s were on.

We kicked off the event with speaker Tracy James who is the Assurance Communications Manager for IU Public Safety and Institutional Assurance. Once introductions were made, we split off into three teams.

Corporation Team

PRSSA members on the corporate team consult Tracy James on their communication strategy. Picture by Tori Lawhorn.

In the first exercise, the corporation team was Target. You may recall a little disaster Target faced about this time last year: the credit card breach. The Target corporation team was in charge of developing how to address the public after the breach occurred. They issued a public statement and also answered hard-hitting questions from the reporters.

Reporter Team

The reporters team brainstorm questions to ask the two teams. Picture by Tori Lawhorn.
The reporters team brainstorm questions to ask the two teams. Picture by Tori Lawhorn.

The reporters were in charge of asking the corporation all of the questions you never want asked in the face of a tragedy. The questions were tough and challenging, but thoughtful.

PR Agency Team

Agency team creates a response to the two crisis situations. Picture by Tori Lawhorn.

The PR agency represented Target and was in charge of coming up with a short-term and long-term fix for their problem. They came up with the Keep Expecting More campaign, which would aim to put Target in a good light. Their goal was to ensure that customers kept receiving exceptional value by issuing discounts and giveaways. They wanted Target’s customers to know that the situation was being controlled and that they would not be responsible for any of the fraudulent charges. The agency also implemented a social media plan to address public concern and handle any questions positively and thoroughly.

The Target crisis turned out really well and it was a good chance to get our feet wet to prepare for the next crisis: Carnival Cruises.

You may recall a few years ago when Carnival’s Triumph ship had a small fire, causing a slew of problems that ultimately led the journey to be called the “poop cruise” (use your imagination to determine what this means).

We followed the same format to solve this crisis. The Corporate Team answered questions fired away by the Reporter Team. The PR Agency Team came up with a great campaign for Carnival to implement to implement and try and regain the trust of the public.

The event was a great success and was unlike anything I have done in PRSSA these past two years. It also gave me a newfound respect for corporations who handle crises so gracefully and tactfully. It wasn’t always easy responding to the press in a couth manner when it seems like they’re attacking you. So, props to those companies who always keep their white hat’s on.

Wondering what our next event will be? Don’t worry. It’s handled.


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