School District Communication Tip of the Day: Crisis Communication—Lining Up Your Team
In the last two posts, I outlined what I consider to be the first steps to take when communicating during a crisis situation. These steps are:
Get the who, what, where, when, and how. Be as specific as possible. Write down what you have learned, and keep a record of when you learned specific information.
This includes determining with whom you need to communicate, such as the police, parents, other community members, and the media. In this stage, you should also determine when you need to communicate, identifying who you need to communicate with immediately, who you need to communicate with in the next ten minutes, and the next half hour, etc.
You should also determine who else needs to be communicated with, but later. I call this second tier communication.
Now I would like to discuss the third step of crisis communication: lining up your team.
Step 3: Line up your team.
Every school and district leader should have at least one other trusted colleague who can assist them in a crisis situation. It is best to have a small group of people who can provide assistance.
These are individuals who can help with the second tier communications; for example, they might reach out to important stakeholders who need to receive communications, but on a less urgent basis.
It is important to have trusted colleagues who are ready to assist with communicating during a crisis situation for two reasons:
First, it is often the case that the tier one communications that you must perform as the school or district leader will end up taking more time than expected. This is often the situation when working with the police.
Second, school and district leaders often underestimate the mental and emotional energy that communicating during a crisis takes. Having someone else to help you with the heavy lifting is not a sign of weakness, but a smart communications practice.
Identify this person before a crisis, and stay in touch with them to do crisis communications planning, something we will discuss in greater detail in a future video.