Duck! Now, What?

The sad and recent tragic mass shootings in two U.S. cities may have caused many folks to not only re-examine their position on firearms and gun control but also how they might react if a similar incident happened to them and their family.  What goes through a person’s mind when a crisis involving them suddenly and unexpectedly occurs?

Public relations professionals should also be asking themselves some questions if an incident occurred involving numerous deaths and their company directly or indirectly.  Here are three possibilities we hope will never occur but for which PR people need to be prepared. They should be considered so you’re not caught totally off-guard and left behind in the media frenzy of what some are now calling an epidemic regarding the latest mass shootings.

Company Scenario

Let’s say a shooter, perhaps a disgruntled client or the estranged spouse of an employee enters your company premises and begins shooting.  There are multiple casualties. The media are on the scene within minutes of law enforcement and ambulance personnel. Are you prepared to handle this and are there plans in place for such an incident?

EMPLOYEE SCENARIO

Another scenario could be where one of your employees is a victim of a mass shooting off-site, perhaps a bar or mall or store.  The news media will likely call your company for additional information about the employee, especially if he/she was visible in the community.  How do you respond? How do you handle this internally with employees?

SUSPECT SCENARIO

After the mass shooting, one of your employees is arrested and suspected of being responsible for the mass shooting.  In search of background information, the media descends on your company. How do you respond? How much do you tell them?

What if it wasn’t a shooting but a discontented employee who is alleged to have placed poison in your food products and which led to several deaths nationwide?  What happens to consumer confidence and market share? How do you deal with this internally? How does it affect your shareholders and your stock?

BE PREPARED

Like the Scout motto, it’s wise to be prepared.  And while one can’t plan for everything, there are some basic things that should be considered and put into place.

Always express genuine sympathy for the victims and their families regardless of who is or appears to be at fault, including your organization.

Always have your legal counsel on board before, during and after any crisis involving communicating with your different publics.

Always get back to the news media as soon as possible, even if you may be limited in what and how much you can say.  Promise them that you will get back with more information when you can and do so. This is important to your credibility now and in the future.

Always ensure that the appropriate personnel are up to date on your plans and that there is an updated list of contacts.

Always attempt to stay in front of the crisis by being proactive.  Get information out as soon as possible and update it as often as you can.  Keep the sympathy part in mind and use it whenever you can.

And seriously consider hiring a firm to conduct a mass shooting training session at your organization.  It will do a lot for employee loyalty and confidence in your company.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of NYC PR Firm 5W PR.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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