Crisis Communication Is Not Partisan Communication
When a crisis strikes – from a local bomb scare, to a natural disaster, to even, God forbid, a terrorist attack, the media, spokespeople, and elected leadership face common struggles:
- obtaining and analyzing emergent information from many sources;
- effective leadership and communication during the immediate crisis to ensure responders and the affected public are appropriately sustained during the event;
- honest, clear messaging to the public at large to explain the situation and minimize panic.
Crisis communication is a tremendous challenge in any context. But perhaps never more so than during a presidential election.
Like many Americans, I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other American diplomatic personnel were killed by a mob who stormed the U.S. Embassy Tuesday.
The Tuesday attacks have triggered more than 30 anti-U.S. protests across the globe.
Embassy personnel across the Mideast have been proactively communicating key messages via every medium possible. But if you don’t follow the Cairo Embassy Twitter feed, you might not get the information.
Because mainstream press doesn’t seem to care too much. I have had a really hard time figuring out what actually happened, but I do know that lots of people think Mitt Romney should apologize, and that the White House’s response is pretty tepid.
In the desire to be first, rather than right, a major news network got the story wrong enough to set off a firestorm of partisan debate. In an already acrimonious presidential campaign, the media story is focused on what the two candidates have to say about the attacks and what caused them.
FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.
We need to know the facts of these events as they happen, not political commentary on what could have been. Seven more people have been killed in the aftermath protests. Did I learn that from CNN? Or the Washington Post? Nope. It came from Al Jazeera.
So, Marines have been sent to Tripoli, and two Navy warships have been sent to patrol the Libyan coast. Violent protests continue in dozens of countries, focusing on German and British embassies as well as U.S. diplomats.
Are there any communication wins in this mess?
WIN – U.S. Embassy staff pushing out continual messaging via social media.
WIN – Social media. I’m finding the real news is coming through via newspaper blogs, not published articles.
I think it’s unlikely that U.S. mainstream media will pull this story back from the political abyss. So, if you want to know what is happening in one of the most tumultuous regions on the planet, or what your loved ones overseas might be facing, I suggest you get a Twitter account.
As the “big boss” at Vox Optima, Merritt ranks creating her company as “a bigger deal than coming in third on a game show.” A radio disc jockey, a Navy public affairs officer at 20, and a business owner at 35, Merritt lives her life going several different directions at once. In addition to head paycheck writer, Merritt brings considerable strategic communication, media relations, and campaign and issue management expertise to Vox Optima as well as being the only adult supervision around here. You can find Merritt on her staff page, hanging out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or you can shoot her an email.
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