Kentucky State University Crisis Communication Guidelines
Kentucky State University’s crisis communications guidelines outline the roles, responsibilities and protocols that will guide the University in promptly sharing information with all of Kentucky State’s audiences during an emergency or crisis. For the purposes of these guidelines, a crisis is defined as an event that prompts significant, often sustained, news coverage and public scrutiny and has the potential to damage the institution’s reputation, image, safety and security, or financial stability. A crisis could be precipitated by an emergency or a controversy. In these guidelines, an emergency is a fire, tornado, crime or other incident that presents a threat to human safety or normal business operations typically involving response from police, fire or emergency medical personnel. A controversy better describes events such as a major student protest or a case of employee misconduct. In the case of any emergency, our initial emphasis is to disseminate accurate and clear communications to protect health and safety.
It is important to note that the following guidelines outline crisis communications under the purview of Brand Identity and University Relations. It is a general overview of the support that we provide to the University community in the event of an emergency or crisis and is not a comprehensive reporting of every situation considered to be a crisis.
It is also worth noting that Campus Police issues notifications for any emergency that poses an imminent threat to safety.
The audiences for this plan are broad and include current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, regents, neighbors, city leaders, media, our University community, state and federal officials, visitors, contractors and other stakeholders that may not be identified.
Our guiding principles are to communicate facts as quickly as possible, update information regularly as circumstances change, ensure the safety of the Kentucky State University community and to continue the operation of essential services. Our efforts to be simultaneously accurate and quick may mean that some communications are incomplete. We accept this, knowing that how we communicate in a crisis will affect public perceptions of the University. Honesty and speed are the most effective means to avoid lasting damage to the institution and widespread secondguessing by the public, which expects immediate access to accurate information. A good offense is the best defense. At the same time, we realize that in a crisis, people will likely expect us to have more information than we may actually have. That makes it imperative to speak with accuracy about what we know and not to speculate about details we do not know.
We will use multiple mediums to reach as many people as possible with accurate, timely information. This is especially important in the first hours of an emergency or a crisis. Our goal is to be open, accountable and accessible to all audiences, while also being mindful of legal and privacy concerns.
In the event of an incident that disrupts University operations or poses a threat to the life and/or safety of individuals on any of our campuses, the Emergency Management Team (EMT) will convene.
EMT will convene at the decision of EMT Director, the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration/CFO; Campus Police Chief; and/or Director of Facilities. If they decide EMT is needed, they notify team members by text message. Team members then report to a designated location to help coordinate the University’s response. Throughout a critical incident, the team will frequently review changing facts, assess whether key messages are reaching audiences, and determine whether strategies need to change.
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT TEAM
- Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration/Chief Financial Officer (Team Director): Dr. Daarel Burnette
- Chief of Police: Lane Crawley
- Chief Information Office: Dr. Wendy Dixie
- Director of Safety: Vacant
- Director of Facilities: Vacant
- Senior Vice President for Brand Identity and University Relations: Dr. Clara Ross Stamps
- Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs: Dr. Leroy Hamilton Jr.
- Vice President for Student Engagement and Campus Life: Dr. Bridgett Golman
- Director of Health Services
In any emergency, our goal is to issue our first communication to key university audiences within 30 minutes of notification of the event, with regular updates as needed. Some situations may require even faster initial communications.
EMT will notify Brand Identity and University Relations to post regularly updated information on www.kysu.edu, @KyStateU Facebook Account, @KyStateU Twitter Account, @KyStateU Instagram Account and your KSU official email account as primary sources of information about the incident, linking from there to other pages with additional details.
Kentucky State University will ensure that you can find information through any or all of the following sources, depending on the situation:
• Kentucky State University's Homepage
• Your campus e-mail (@kysu.edu accounts)
• Text message via Bred Alerts
• Kentucky State University’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts
• Campus televisions connected to AxisTV Software
• Outdoor emergency notification system
• Kentucky State University's Switchboard 502.597.6000
• Non-tech methods (on-the-ground teams, bullhorns, etc.)
Typically, we use a collegial approach of multiple approvals before we distribute communications pieces, including emails and news releases to the campus community. Final approval rests with divisional vice presidents; however, this system will not work in a crisis. Seconds matter in a crisis, and we will be judged by how quickly we share information with key audiences.
As a matter of policy, Kentucky State University is committed to trying to meet these expectations. It recognizes the need for unusually crisp decision-making during a crisis to enable rapid, accurate communication in coordination with the institution’s broader process. Final approval for all communications rests with the University president and the Emergency Management Team Director.
When an emergency has been declared, employees of Brand Identity and University Relations will be relieved of their typical job responsibilities to help implement this plan. We will:
Assign communicators, as needed, to handle phone calls, using a script developed from the key messages and facts EMT has developed. These staffers should reach out to other units that handle multiple calls during a crisis, including our general number, student engagement, admissions and the communicators’ list. These employees will also monitor and update the recorded message on university hotline(s), 502.597.6000. As part of this effort, a separate log will be maintained to record all calls and interview requests from members of the media. These staffers will be responsible for ensuring that all calls are returned. WHY? Our policy is always to be as responsive as possible to news media. During a crisis, it is important to maintain an organized log of interview requests so that calls are returned promptly. It is a missed opportunity if members of the media don’t know our key messages and the facts, as we understand them.
Develop and communicate a schedule for delivering updates to the University community and for external stakeholders, and stick to the schedule whether or not there is a significant update to share. This will help ensure that the University is the first and only source for accurate information about the incident.
Develop communications from the president, as appropriate. It may be necessary for the president to communicate to the Kentucky State University community about the emergency. EMT, working with Brand Identity and University Relations, will be responsible for generating and reviewing presidential communications.
Determine whether a press conference(s) should be held. It is Kentucky State University’s normal practice to permit news reporters and photographers to conduct interviews after approval is granted by Brand Identity and University Relations. However, during crisis situations the President, the Senior Vice President for Brand Identity and University Relations or presidential designee will determine if access needs to be restricted to ensure the safety of the campus and its residents, or to avoid disruption to essential services and programs. If that determination has been made, then news reporters and photographers will first be directed to a staging area to be determined. Brand Identity and University Relations will coordinate press conferences (including arranging needed equipment, such as microphones, mult box, etc.), and related media advisories, as needed.
Assign a staffer to monitor media and online coverage to anticipate any problems in the way information is flowing to the news media and on the Internet. Brand Identity and University Relations already has a system for daily monitoring of print coverage, broadcast media and blogs, and that system will be put to use for this effort. Summaries of relevant coverage will be provided to EMT on at least a daily basis, or more frequently as needed. WHY? It will be critical to be aware of how the university is being portrayed in early and ongoing coverage to adjust the communications response as needed to limit rumors, correct errors and maintain confidence in the university.
Determine how to report on the situation for internal audiences. For instance, are there town hall meetings, protests or vigils? Brand Identity and University Relations will be responsible for coordinating print, video and audio coverage.
Evaluate how to help the community recover, return to normal and, if needed, regain faith in the University after the trigger event of the crisis is over, in coordination with the senior leadership. EMT will determine when an emergency has ended, operations are restored, and when routine communications processes can resume. Tactics at this stage may include the need for follow up messages to the University community, communication from the president expressing reassurance or sympathy, detailed plans to prevent another such crisis, etc.
After the Crisis
The decision to declare the emergency over will trigger a review of how the crisis was handled and how efforts and communications can improve.
Within 10 days of the end of the event, assess how this plan functioned, address any needed updates and recognize the work of partners whose help was invaluable. (i.e., assistance from communicators from other units or outside the University).