Leading Through the Unexpected Crisis

For years, we’ve been saying that, when it comes to the reputation of your school district, the way you handle a crisis can be even more damaging than the crisis itself.

The good news is that most NSPRA-member districts are much more sophisticated and prepared these days to effectively handle crises in their districts. NSPRA members are also great at rallying around other districts to provide extra help when it’s needed. Plus, we’ve learned from the proven strategies and tactics of leaders like Rick Kaufman, APR, the author of NSPRA’s Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual ⎯ which will be updated by this summer with a new section about using social media in a crisis.

But we can expand our focus if we tap into the private sector’s leaders’ approach to crisis communication. One example is the recently published book, Blind Sided: A Manager’s Guide to Crisis Leadership (Rothstein Publishing). Author Bruce Blythe, a respected international crisis management guru, clearly communicates the steps to take when an unexpected crisis hits your system. The information translates exceedingly well for school leaders and communicators ⎯ so much so, that we just booked him to present a special session at our Nashville NSPRA Seminar in July.

Here are a few highlighted items from this recommended book:

  • As in the emergency medical field, if treatment is provided within 1 hour or less of the critical incident, the likelihood of success is significantly improved. The same approach has been applied to crisis management.
  • The right decision made too late will likely be ineffective.
  • Caring during crisis response is not a feeling. Caring is a set of corporate and personal behaviors that elicit the perception in impacted stakeholders that you and your company truly cares.
  • The longer people stay out, isolated and brooding over what has happened, the more abnormal things will feel.
  • Remember to provide only 3 key messages, each of 12 words or less, in order to communicate clearly in a manner people will understand and retain.
  • Making order out of chaos is a fairly unusual job description, but it describes the job of the Crisis Action Team Leader (CAT) precisely.

The guidebook runs about 400 pages, but it is divided into easy-to-locate-what-you-need sections to guide you through most blind-sided situations. You can buy it through most book-purchasing sites and we also plan to make it available at the Seminar book store in Nashville.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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