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8 Guidelines for Crisis Communications

Though each breaking news event — whether a shooting at a school or a series of explosions — is different, PR people handling crisis communication should at least keep in mind the following guidelines:

1. Your first responsibility is to the victims and their families. In this case, that includes those living and working in Boston particularly as more devices are found across the city.

2. Acknowledge social media as an instantaneous source of news, some of it not-so-reliable.

3. Be professional with the media and the community, but don’t be afraid to show emotion.

4. Remember that the news cycle will move on eventually, but the mourning by victims’ families and the community will last for years, even after the media stops calling

5. Work with law enforcement. All parties should provide consistent and complementary information at regular intervals. Think of the pyramid approach to communications, with one voice coming from the top.

6. Tighten up leaks. This will keep media from playing sources off one another.

7. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. Giving the media a snippet of news now is not worth jeopardizing an investigation. Plus nothing is worse than providing wrong information.

8. Provide a briefing schedule, and stick to it. Consistency helps build confidence.