As a Public Information Officer, Media Specialist, Public Servant, CEO, Supervisor or Sales Person, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you are right or wrong about a particular incident or issue; it’s all about the public’s perception. I have found that it isn’t enough just to do a good job, heck you probably do that all the time; it’s a matter of letting everyone KNOW you are doing a good job. Even back during the Hurricane Katrina response, I remember how the U.S. Coast Guard did a good job of that
In times of crisis it’s important to show the community that you are in control, well-trained and competent to handle any incident. Unfortunately, we lost yet another student to a senseless act of school violence just a mile from my home here in Colorado in December of 2013. I wanted to share with you some excerpts of Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson’s LIVE news conference following the shooting. Sheriff Robinson did an excellent job of conveying information. I have superimposed on the screen, some of the action words and phrases the sheriff used to help calm the community, while at the same time reassuring the public that his agency was up to the tasks it faced that day.
To keep our training up-to-date, my training partner, Penny Carter and I have been in Ferguson, Missouri several times during and after some of the protests. We are seeking your assistance in offering training that will help Law Enforcement all over the country deal with such situations, but more important, to avoid them altogether. We hope to hear from you. Please leave us your comments.
As you prepare a news release imagine yourself as the headline writer of your local newspaper. What would the headline be for your news release? Remember, you are appealing to a broad base of your community. What is it about your news release that should make it interesting or important to the general public? Once you have the answer, make THAT your headline.
The first 2 sentences of your news release are the most important, because most assignment editors at newspapers and television stations will stop reading your release and toss it in the discard pile if you haven’t grabbed their attention by the end of the second sentence. Remember, it’s not what’s important to you, it’s what important to the public.
We are just back from a 2-day News Media Relations Training class I conducted for St. Louis area Law Enforcement and Firefighters. We were fortunate in that several of the officers involved in the Ferguson officer-involved-shooting investigation and subsequent unrest attended our class.
The first and most important lesson a lot of people learned from the Ferguson incident involved perception and timing. Following a major incident such as the Ferguson shooting, the sooner you can hold a news conference, the better off everyone will be. The longer you delay distributing information about the shooting, the less control you exert over controlling the message and the outcome.
While you are delaying the release of information, others, who may know a lot less about the case are busily talking with the media to get their points across and shaping public opinion. The media has a responsibility to report. If you don’t give them the information to report, they must seek information from any source they can.
It’s all about perception. If the public feels you are holding back information, you loose credibility, people being to doubt you.
Generally, while most media coverage of the crisis was accurate, some media coverage was misleading and unfair. We will be presenting specific incidents of both cases in future posts.
Another major lesson we all learned from Ferguson was: It can happen anywhere. That’s why its imperative that police maintain a constant flow of information to the public about every incident, especially in cases involving the use of force.