Straight talk about crisis communications from the Fall 2014 MSPRA Seminar
I was hoping a secret “silver bullet” tip would be presented after lunch.
Zac Rantz’ keen insights about how to shape your school crisis communications (before-during-after a crisis) were strictly DIY.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
He’s clearly one expert who’s confident enough in his own ideas and hands-on learnings to accept the fact that the best he can do is encourage school leaders and communicators to try out some or all of them back in their own school districts.
For a young administrator, he’s had his fair share of trials by fire.
He’s the chief information officer for Nixa Public Schools in Missouri and also played a key communications role in May, 2011 when an EF5 tornado tore apart the nearby community of Joplin.
Here’s the profile written about him by SCN’s feature writer Kym Reinstadler three weeks ago.
Although there were a number of them, here are three of Zac’s gems that were on my mind as I drove home from the seminar in Ann Arbor:
#1 Think small, not big. Avoid the tendency to go overboard planning for events unlikely to happen. Horrific natural disasters and deadly intrusions by armed shooters are not the norm. More common are situations involving bus rider miscues, car accidents, a severe sickness or similar health scare in a school, or a scandal of some kind involving a parent, student, or staff member. Brainstorm events like these and sketch out your plans accordingly.
2. Most athletic coaches will tell you that teams typically perform in a game like they do at the preceding practices. Zac wouldn’t disagree. He said that however you are communicating to your school family and community right now will pretty much be the same way you will communicate with them at crisis time. Everyone won’t change their habits just because crisis pops up. People will look for information in the same places they are receiving today. If you want to alter or add to your school communication channels during a crisis, take action now. Don’t wait until crisis time to set up your automated phone message line or Twitter account.
3. When you’re dealing with a school crisis, don’t get too flustered or frustrated by the media. Accept the “breaking news” times we live in. There’s nothing you can do about the outrageous behavior by a few media members or totally eliminate the rumors and inaccuracies in their reports. Don’t let the media dictate your messages, spokespeople, context, and pace. Just keep reporting the facts that you are able to responsibly and legally share – and keep at it 3-4 times PER HOUR – even if you can only repeat “There are no new updates to provide at this time.” Your odds of holding the media accountable improve when you don’t have long periods of time between your official updates.
I’m glad Zac’s suggestions actually seem both do-able and beneficial.
I only wish I could say this about my DIY projects at home.