Crisis Communication Plan



Office of Marketing & Communications


Table of Contents


I.                   Introduction                                                                                              2

II.                 Crisis Situation                                                                                          2

III.              Purpose                                                                                                     2

IV.             Action Plan                                                                                               2

V.                Incident Management Team                                                                      4

VI.             Media Relations                                                                                        4

VII.           Information Flow Chart                                                                             5



A.               Meredith College Constituencies                                                     6

B.                 Spokesperson Guidelines for Communicating with Media              7

C.                Immediate Response Checklist                                                        9

D.                Key Messages Worksheet                                                              11

E.                 What the Media will Ask                                                               12

F.                 Crisis Meeting Agenda                                                                  14

G.               Communication Methods Worksheet                                             15

H.                Incident Management Team                                                          16

I.                   Dealing with the Media During a Crisis                                         17

J.                  Media Log Sheet                                                                            19

K.                Marketing & Communications Contact List                                    20

L.                  Evaluation                                                                                     21


I.   Introduction

The Office of Marketing & Communications has been charged by the President of the College with managing all information during a crisis. The Director of Marketing & Communications has been designated as the official spokesperson for the College.


II.  Crisis Situation

A crisis is defined as any situation which:

·        requires immediate and coordinated action, and/or

·        will have a significant impact on the operation or the reputation of the College.


III. Purpose

Although each crisis or emergency will require a unique public information response, this crisis communication plan provides policies and procedures for the coordination of internal and external communications for Meredith College in the event of a crisis. Upon determination by Meredith’s Incident Management Team and/or the President of the College that an emergency or crisis exists that necessitates a communications response, this plan will be immediately implemented by the Office of Marketing and Communications as directed by the President.


IV.  Action Plan

To ensure that the College’s public information response to an emergency is quick, accurate, sensitive and responsible, the Office of Marketing & Communications will coordinate all crisis communications with campus and off-campus constituencies and media outlets. (NOTE: See Attachment A, List of College Constituencies.)

During an emergency, the President or Director of Marketing & Communications (or another designee) will serve as the College’s spokesperson. Other Marketing & Communications staff will refer media inquiries to spokesperson. (NOTE: See Attachment B, Spokesperson Guidelines.)


A. Immediate Response (NOTE: See Attachment C, Immediate Response Checklist)

·        The President and Director will determine if an official statement should be prepared and released.

·        The Director and Assistant Director will formulate the message. (NOTE: See Attachment D, Key Message Worksheet and Attachment E, What the Media Will Ask.)

·        The Director will brief all Marketing & Communications personnel who are assigned to answer the phone. (NOTE: See Attachment F, Crisis Meeting Agenda.)

·        The Director will determine the most effective and efficient method of dissemination of statement to on-campus and off-campus constituencies. (NOTE: See Attachment G, Communication Method Worksheet.)

·        The Director will discuss statement with the President prior to dissemination when possible.

·        Initial on-campus distribution will be to Vice Presidents and Senior Deans. Those administrators will be charged with forwarding this statement to division staff, departmental faculty, on-campus students, commuter students, graduate students and other constituencies. See attached communication flow chart. (NOTE: In cases involving employee or student injuries or deaths, appropriate personnel will notify families before the information is released to the public.)

·        The Director will coordinate off-campus distribution of information through media, the college web site, college publications and direct mail.

·        The Director and Chief of Campus Police will coordinate information gathering from outside authorities.


B. On-Going Response

·        The Director and staff of the Office of Marketing and Communications will update College constituencies about changes to or additional details of the situation via available methods of communication, i.e. voice mail, e-mail, campus e-news, faxes, information hotline, press conferences, media contacts, phone contact, assemblies, letters, newsletters/other publications.

·        The Director will determine the frequency of updates based upon availability of facts and other immediate and long-term factors. Marketing & Communications will continue to collect and disseminate information until the College has recovered to pre-crisis status.

·        Marketing & Communications staff will monitor coverage of the situation among constituencies and correct misinformation as quickly as possible.

·        Evaluate effectiveness of plan and revise as necessary.



V.   Incident Management Team

This plan is designed to complement and enhance the College’s Incident Management Plan, as developed by the Incident Management Team, by providing communications strategies warranted by the situation. The Office of Marketing & Communications will work directly with the Incident Management Team to facilitate dissemination of information. (NOTE: See Attachment H, List of Incident Management Team Members.)


VI.  Media Relations

Often the only information some constituencies receive during a crisis is through the media; therefore, media relations is an essential element during crisis communications. Meredith College seeks to always be honest and courteous when dealing with the media. (NOTE: See Attachment I, Dealing with Media during a Crisis.)

Members of the Incident Management Team will be available for interviews related to their specific areas. If team members are contacted directly by the media, they will immediately inform the Director of Marketing & Communications. Meredith College employees are asked to refer media inquiries during a crisis to the Office of Marketing and Communications.




VII.      Information Flow Chart


Attachment A:


Meredith College Constituencies




¨     Resident

¨     Commuter

¨     Graduate/Evening



¨     Faculty

¨     Staff



¨     Non-credit students

¨     Groups using facilities

¨     Kids and summer camps



Media—Print and Electronic


Families of Residents


Families of Non-Residents


Families of Employees


Families of Visitors/Groups/Camps










Prospective Students


Attachment B:


Spokesperson Guidelines for Communicating with the Media during a Crisis

¨      Demonstrate organizational concern about people.

¨      Explain what is being done to remedy the situation.

¨      Keep the message consistent with all constituencies. Never tell one constituency anything that is not being told to the media.

¨      Be open, honest, and tell the full story. If you do not, someone else will, thus increasing the possibility that the crisis team loses control of the situation.

¨      Never respond with “no comment,” instead explain why you cannot answer the question. (i.e., we do not have those details confirmed at this time, we will provide you with an update when we do have an answer to that question.)

¨      Do not guess or speculate. If you do not know the answer, say so and offer to track down the answer.

¨      Respect reporter deadlines. If you promise to get information, do so promptly.

¨      Never speak off the record. The media can use any information released.

¨      Never give exclusive interviews during a crisis. All members of the media should have the chance for gathering information.

¨      If an injury or death has occurred, do not release the name(s) of the injured/deceased until all next of kin (immediate family) have been notified.

¨      Do not provide damage estimate, discuss responsibility for the incident, or discuss legal liability in any way.

¨      Be available 24 hours a day.

¨      Notify receptionist and other employees to direct all media inquiries to the Office of Marketing & Communications without speculating on the situation.

¨      Do not discuss illegal activity at any time. If it is assumed, say “Police are investigating. We are cooperating.” Refer all questions to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

¨      In cases when media request interviews with family members, provide a liaison to family members for the media so that the family can protect their privacy if they choose.

¨      Avoid “side comments” meant to be humorous. Do NOT accept hypothetical questions. Do NOT repeat negatives in a question. Taken out of context, these remarks can be very damaging.

¨      Use everyday language, not jargon, when talking to reporters.

¨      Provide written materials that give reporters background information.


Attachment C:


Immediate Response Checklist


Step One—First Alert

ť      Alert Director of Marketing & Communications.


ť      Inform switchboard to direct all media calls to Marketing & Communications.


ť      Assess situation and level of impact.


ť      Decide to issue a written statement or to hold a press briefing.


ť      If necessary, decide location for press briefing.


ť      Alert switchboard and media to time and location of press briefing.


Step Two—Get the Facts

ť      Gather known facts.


ť      Verify nature and scope of incident with Campus Police and/or responding

emergency agencies.


ť      Determine if injuries and/or fatalities (do not release names).


ť      Assess public health risk (if any).


ť      Determine what authorities must/should be consulted.


ť      Consult immediately with responding agencies to coordinate release of information.


ť      Begin to craft message for release to media, use key messages worksheet.


ť      Begin to plan to inform internal, stakeholder audiences.


Step Three—Verify and Keep the Information Moving

ť      Time code all information as it arrives.


ť      Verify all facts before releasing.


ť      Keep appropriate senior officials up-to-date.


ť      Keep in consultation with appropriate government and legal authorities.


ť      Begin plan to inform internal, stakeholder audiences.


Step Four—Prepare for Media (Calls and Visits)

ť      Start media contact record.


ť      Brief and rehearse designated media spokesperson. Go through “What information media will want” list and rehearse what verified information will be made available.


ť      Discuss media inquiry strategy.


ť      Activate pre-arranged media room/area (on or off site).


ť      Get approval for media statement (as handout or release).


ť      Designate officials who will read statements or speak during press briefing.


ť      Review guidelines for dealing with the media with each person.


Step Five—When Reporters Arrive

ť      Ask media for identification and to sign in.


ť      Inform reporters of restrictions on movement/photography/filming.


ť      Proceed with briefing.


ť      Advise media of time and place of next and future updates.


ť      Follow-up on additional media inquiries.


Step Six—Media Follow-up & On-going Media Relations

ť      Monitor media coverage.


ť      Assess and correct factual errors.


ť      Advise media of any significant new developments.


ť      Log all media contact.


ť      Evaluate effectiveness of plan and revise as necessary.
Attachment D:


Key Messages Worksheet


Three Key Messages to be communicated during this crisis




































Attachment E:


What the Media Will Ask



1.                  Number killed or injured or who escaped (use caution with initial numbers).

2.                  Nature of injuries received.

3.                  Care given to the injured.

4.                  Disposition of the dead.

5.                  Prominence of anyone who was killed, injured or escaped.

6.                  How escape was handicapped or cut off.


Property Damage

1.                  Estimated value of loss.

2.                  Description of property.

3.                  Importance of the property.

4.                  Other property threatened.

5.                  Insurance protection.

6.                  Previous emergencies in the area.



1.                  Testimony of participants.

2.                  Testimony of witnesses.

3.                  Testimony of key responders—the crisis management team, police, fire, etc.

4.                  How emergency was discovered.

5.                  Who sounded the alarm.

6.                  Who summoned aid.

7.                  Previous indications of danger.


Rescue and Relief

1.                  The number of people engaged in rescue and relief operations.

2.                  Any prominent person in relief crew.

3.                  Equipment used.

4.                  Physically disabled persons rescued.

5.                  Care of destitute and homeless.

6.                  How the emergency was prevented from spreading.

7.                  How property was saved.

8.                  Acts of heroism.


Description of the crisis or disaster

1.                  Extent of emergency.

2.                  Blasts and explosions.

3.                  Crimes of violence.

4.                  Attempts at escape or rescue.

5.                  Duration.

6.                  Collapse of structures.

7.                  Color of flames.

8.                  Extent of spill.


Accompanying incidents

1.                  Number of spectators, spectator attitudes and crowd control.

2.                  Unusual happenings.

3.                  Anxiety, stress of families, survivors, etc.


Legal actions

1.      Inquests, coroner’s reports.

2.      Police follow-up.

3.      Insurance company actions.

4.      Professional negligence or inaction.

5.      Suits stemming from the incident.


Attachment F:


Crisis Meeting Agenda


During an initial briefing about the crisis, the following specific agenda items will be reviewed:


1.       Situation report:

          What appears to have happened.

          Confirmed facts (when, immediate known consequences, likely consequences).

          Scope of proposed situation.


2.       Initial response status:

          What is being done, why, by whom.

          Likely implementation time and hoped-for results.


3.       Initial communications status:

          Who knows, who needs to know immediately and later on.

          Alert switchboard.


4.       Short-term response requirements:

          Delegate crisis communications responsibility.

          What must be done in the next several hours and how.

          What human and material resources are available or needed.


6.       Short-term communication process:

          Staff, faculty, students, families, etc.


7.       Next meeting time.


Attachment G:


Communication Methods Worksheet



Method of Communication

Resident Students


Commuter Students


Graduate/Evening Students






Campus Visitors


Media (Print/Electronic)


Families of Resident Students


Families of Non-resident Students


Families of Employees


Families of Campus Visitors










Prospective Students




Attachment H:


Meredith College Incident Management Team



Responsible Administrator

Bill Wade, Vice President for Business & Finance, ext. 8516


Safety and Health Committee Chair

Tom Sherry, Director of Facilities Services, ext. 8011


Incident Management Sub-committee

Ann Gleason, Sub-committee Chair, Dean of Students, ext. 8521


Frank Strickland, Campus Police Chief, ext. 8888


Sherry Tompkins,  Director of Marketing & Communications, ext. 8455


Kristi Eaves-McLennan, Assistant Director of Communications, ext. 8455


Charletta Sims, Director of Commuter Life and Special Services, ext. 8633


Heidi LeCount, Director of Residence Life, ext. 8633


Beth Meier, Director of Counseling Center, ext. 8427


Sam Carothers, Campus Minister, ext. 8346


Hope Parrish, SGA President, 754-1605



Attachment I:


Dealing with the Media during a Crisis


A.      Dos and Don’ts


During an emergency DO:

1.                  Release only verified information.

2.                  Escort the news media everywhere on the emergency site.

3.                  Have a designated spokesperson.

4.                  Keep accurate records and logs of all inquiries and news coverage.

5.                  Learn media deadlines and try to meet them.

6.                  Provide equal opportunities and facilities for print and electronic media.

7.                  Have a clear idea of what can and cannot be released.

8.                  Carefully coordinate planning and implementation of public relations activities with other aspects of the comprehensive emergency plan.



During an emergency DO NOT:

1.                  Idly speculate on the causes of the emergency.

2.                  Speculate on the resumption of normal operations.

3.                  Speculate on the outside effects of the emergency.

4.                  Speculate on the dollar value of losses.

5.                  Interfere with the legitimate duties of news people.

6.                  Permit unauthorized spokesperson to comment to the media.

7.                  Attempt to cover up, or purposely mislead the news media.

8.                  Place blame for the emergency.



B.       General Guidelines for Dealing with the Media during a Crisis


¨      The College Spokesperson and Office of Marketing & Communications will respond in the most expedient manner possible with information for media during a crisis. If the College does not release information for media, it will come from another source.

¨      If media initiates contact prior to a crisis decision being made, the Office of Marketing & Communications will neither confirm nor deny the incident/issue; but will investigate and return the call.

¨      The Office of Marketing & Communications will always attempt to coordinate release of information with responding emergency agencies—so both parties release the same information.

¨      The designated spokesperson should always be thoroughly briefed and constantly updated on status of the incident.

¨      If the incident appears to be of short duration, an approved follow-up statement will be issued, including a summary of the incident.

¨      If it appears to be a major, prolonged incident, the College Spokesperson and Office of Marketing & Communications will arrange for regularly scheduled media update briefings. At each briefing there will be a recap of the incident and any new information provided.

¨      If there is important new information, it will be shared with the media as quickly as possible by phone, fax and/or special media briefing.

¨      If possible, coordinate with television/radio stations to come up with a mutually acceptable plan for interviews that will allow live coverage to be carried without giving preferential treatment.

¨      Clearly state at the beginning of initial briefing that all verified information that the crisis team has will be passed on and there will be no information given off the record. All information will be provided at the press gathering.

¨      The College will prohibit release of an individual’s name who has been involved in an injury or fatality until his/her family has been notified.

¨      The College will not give the media access to the families of anyone injured or killed, unless the families expressly grant permission.

¨      The College will release location(s) treating injured persons, i.e. Rex Hospital, etc. Hospital media professionals are trained to answer media questions regarding treatment and status of patients.

¨      The College will work in contact with hospital spokesperson when releasing any information regarding an injured person’s current condition.

¨      Refer to Spokesperson guidelines for further information.



Attachment J:


Media Log Sheet


Message for                                                                                               


Date/time of call                                                                                        




Phone number                                                                                             


Return call by                                                                                              


Summary of inquiry                                                                                     








Who responded to inquiry?                                                                         




Summary of response                                                                                  










Further action needed?                                                                                




Attachment K:


Marketing & Communications Contact List



                                                Home                    Pager                    Cell



Sherry Tompkins, Director                                                                             



Kristi Eaves-McLennan, Asst. Dir.                                                                              



Melyssa Allen, Projects Writer                                                                               



Andrea Weaver, Web Editor                                                                                



Kaye Rains, Office Manager                                                                                 



Kim  Marcom, Graphics Mgr.                                                                                 



Betty Crenshaw, Graphic Dgr.                                                                                



David Timberlake, Web Dgr.                                                                                 




Attachment L:




What was successful:









What process should be improved:









What did you learn: