Nebraska Department Of Health And Human Services – Media Relations & Crisis Communications Training

Challenges

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has seven divisions that administer various types of health and human service support for the state. Each division can be thrust into the public spotlight.  The department had recently been under fire for closing a mental health care facility amid claims of substandard care and administration.  Other divisions also deal with high visibility public issues.

The Public Health Director, among many others within the department, regularly engages the media to communicate public information to taxpayers. None of these high-ranking officials had received media relations and crisis communication training – despite the high visibility of their positions and the importance of public communication to the success of their jobs.

Solutions

Vox Optima was hired to conduct a full day media relations and crisis communication seminar with the department’s chief executive officer and seven division directors. They were provided media relations and crisis communication theory and background information and taught tactical level skills for planning, preparing and executing media engagements.

Additionally, Vox Optima provided participants with hands-on training in a crisis scenario tailor made for the department. A team of media professionals conducted a simulated media availability.  Each director conducted a one-on-one media interview on a topic within his or her responsibility. The media availability and one-on-one interviews where then critiqued with each participant.

Outcomes

The exercise and discussion for this project had a lasting impact on each of the participants. They developed the ability to look at an issue from the public’s perspective and create their own ways of communicating key messages. Each participant expressed appreciation for getting in front of challenging issues and addressing them, rather than waiting for the media to develop the issue without their participation.

In the months that followed the CEO and each of the division directors did face media on important issues facing their division. They were better prepared and performed significantly better than in previous engagements.