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Crisis Management

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Plan for Campus Crises
Article,  Community College News Article Every community college should have a crisis management plan for logistics and communications, write a pair of experienced institutional leaders.

Got Issues?
CURRENTS Article Fasten your seatbelts, communicators. It's going to be another bumpy year (or five or 10). Student activism, campus protests, racist incidents, sexual assault, student misconduct, free speech, academic freedom, and data breaches are just a few of the issues that have made the past few years on college campuses challenging and sometimes exhausting. Add heightened tensions fueled by political polarization, stir in a campus population dominated by students accustomed to sharing their thoughts and experiences on social media, and it becomes clear why issues management is an increasingly critical role at higher education institutions.

No Lemons Here
CURRENTS Article Change happens. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Change can be threatening. An institutional merger or updated mascot, for example, can spark fears that alumni memories and traditions aren't treasured. In a job where keeping alumni happily engaged is key, how do you navigate the negative stuff? We aren't talking about crises—bad news takes everyone by surprise. But if you know your alumni, you can predict when a big change for the institution is going to be a problem for some graduates. Before you start bracing yourself for hate mail, take a deep breath. With a proactive outreach plan, you can take part of the sting out of the unwelcome and maybe even turn the news into a positive for your alumni.

The First Steps in Any Crisis Communications Plan
Article,  BriefCASE Article Use this checklist to assess a threat and decide how to respond to individuals on social media.

When a Student Dies
CURRENTS Article No matter the cause, a student's death can scar a campus. When a fatal incident occurs, communicating with clarity and care are essential but certainly not easy tasks. Planning and practice are crucial to handling such sensitive situations and developing responses that inform and support the deceased person's family, friends, the campus community, and the institution's various audiences.

When ‘Like’ Meets Loss
CURRENTS Article An institution's crisis communication plan should include social media. It's important to discuss how these platforms may be used before a situation occurs. Twitter, Facebook, and other channels should not, for instance, be the primary source of information, but they are useful for providing updates and spreading news, such as communicating whether the campus is safe and directing people to a university website to learn more about unfolding events. Brief messages like these assure people that more information is coming. They can also reassure friends and family members who do not receive the campus's emergency notifications.

Angry Students, Alarmed Alumni
CURRENTS Article More than 80 colleges and universities have experienced student protests in recent years. Underrepresented students have publicly called on their institutions to address the often toxic environments they face as minorities. These efforts range from the viral 2013 #BBUM hashtag campaign—Being Black at the University of Michigan, a social media tactic marginalized students adopted worldwide—to dozens of protests in 2015-16. The demonstrations have undermined advancement efforts, with alumni and donors questioning whether students have taken over. The protests are also forcing institutions to scrutinize their campus and address overt, subtle, and systemic racism. Here's how some institutions are navigating the protests.

Don’t Wait to Communicate about Sexual Assault
CURRENTS Article Students and their families have grown increasingly worried about campus sexual assault. According to the National Institute for Justice, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college; more than 90 percent of campus sexual assault survivors do not report it. In this tense and complex environment, what's a higher education communicator to do? For answers, CURRENTS interviewed campus communicators, media relations consultants, Title IX coordinators, student affairs leaders, and sexual assault experts.

Fundraising During a Crisis
CURRENTS Article A controversial decision or scandal can cause donors and alumni to revolt and withhold gifts. Mix a volatile situation with social media chatter and emotionally attached alumni, and a reputational crisis can hit any institution. The key to keep a catastrophe from harming fundraising is to maintain donors' trust by knowing what, when, and how to communicate with them.

Talking Points: Sensitivity Training
CURRENTS Article University communicators must know how to discuss campus sexual assault in a way that supports prevention efforts on campuses, respects students, and adheres to civil rights law.

Cap and Frown
CURRENTS Article Institutions want big names for commencement speakers, but high-profile figures can be controversial—and expensive. Are the risks worth the benefits?

Social Media Key in Crisis Communications
Article,  BriefCASE Article What is the role of social media in a campus emergency? Education communicators recently shared their insights in a CASE Twitter chat.

The Boston Marathon Bombings: Six Months Later
Article,  BriefCASE Article The Boston Marathon bombings unleashed some of the most challenging circumstances that any institution has ever faced. CURRENTS talked to leaders at four Boston-area campuses to gather their recollections and insights on a variety of topics, including crisis management.

Stay Connected During a Natural Disaster
Article,  Community College News Article A New Jersey community college impacted by Hurricane Sandy used social media to provide its community with a sense of stability during a tumultuous time.

Looking Back at the Boston Bombings
CURRENTS Article Six months after the Boston Marathon bombings and the five-day manhunt that followed, five officials from area universities reflect on how they and their institutions dealt with the events that unfolded that week.

Lead During a Crisis
Advancement Weekly Article,  Article During an institutional crisis, leaders should maintain their composure around employees, say management pundits.

Weathering the Superstorm
CURRENTS Article This article looks at how some colleges and universities in New York and New Jersey communicated with its stakeholders during and after Hurricane Sandy in late 2012 and briefly discusses some of the advancement issues they had to address as communities dealt with the superstorm's aftereffects.

Crisis Planning & Management Resources
Good Question I need resources on campus crisis management. Also, do you have any sample crisis communications plans? We are working on one and want to see samples to help us get started.

Responsiveness is Key in a Crisis
Article,  BriefCASE Article The most common mistake institutions make during a crisis is not responding quickly enough to the media, says a communications expert.

Crisis Communications
Sample Collection The Library maintains this collection of crisis communications plans and emergency response plans for all CASE members.

Fast, Broad, and Frequent
CURRENTS Article Social media tools (now used in some form by 100 percent of all four-year universities in the United States as a way to reach students, according to a 2011 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study) have become essential for university communication departments, and they take on even more importance during emergencies.

Crisis Communications Policies Overlook Social Media, Study Finds
Article,  BriefCASE Article While most educational institutions have crisis communications policies, many of those policies do not address the use of social media in a crisis, according to a new study.

Crisis Communications Exercises
These two fictional exercises can help members assess their institution's ability to quickly and effectively communicate with constituents in an emergency.

Using Social Media in a Crisis: Higher Education Results in partnership with CASE
Report This 2012 report explores the findings of an international study on the use of social media in crisis communications at institutions of higher education. It looks at the percentage of institutions with crisis communications plans, the number of reputation-threatening events institutions faced in the past year, the percentage of plans that address the use of social media, which social media tools institutions are using and more.

Using Social Media in a Crisis: Independent School Snapshot in partnership with CASE
Report This 2012 report looks at how independent primary and secondary schools are integrating social media tools into crisis communications planning. It looks at the percentage of schools with crisis communications plans, the number of reputation-threatening events schools faced in the past year, the percentage of plans that address the use of social media, which social media tools schools are using and more.

What's Going On? A Few Great Crisis Communications Sites
Article This post from the CASE blog presents a few examples of university crisis communications pages.

Managing Communications in the Face of a Crisis
Podcast Hear Deborah L. Grant from Tulane University outline what every communications department should have on hand before a crisis strikes. Also, listen for her advice on how to help prepare administrators for their own roles and responsibilities during as well as after a crisis.

Partners in Crisis
CURRENTS Article A consortium of Chicago area higher education institutions developed and signed a mutual aid agreement that is intended to provide support—such as access to facilities, equipment, and personnel including police, human resources, and communications staff—to member campuses in the initial hours of a crisis situation. The agreement has garnered approval from risk management experts, who tout the benefit of such cooperative emergency planning efforts.

Sour Notes
CURRENTS Article At some institutions, time-honored fight songs have devolved into fighting words, and alma maters have become lightning rods for controversy. Alumni relations and public relations directors are then called on to find a peaceful solution.

Talking Points: Road Map to Campus Calm
CURRENTS Article The potential H1N1 crisis presented public relations practitioners with perhaps their first opportunity to use their full arsenal of communications tactics to reach and influence key audiences.

Code Readiness
CURRENTS Article How crisis communications has changed in the past two years

FERPA and Campus Security
National Association of College and University Attorneys
Article Misunderstanding of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) generates concern in the U.S. about sharing student information. This bulletin, presented in a Q&A format, explains that FERPA is not an obstacle to appropriate and desirable cautionary communications intended to protect student, campus or public safety.

Reflections After the Storm
CURRENTS Article One year after the shootings at Virginia Tech, the author looks at how institutions are reassessing their crisis plans. Most important, this examination looks at how institutions are making the decision to lock down a campus and examines the results of these decisions.

Talking Points: Text Vexed
CURRENTS Article In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, campuses are looking for ways to communicate more quickly and effectively during a crisis. Many institutions are exploring Short Message Service, also known as text messaging, a technology that sends short messages to and from cell phones. This article explains what SMS is, why it is useful, how it works, and more.

Hiding in Plain Sight
CURRENTS Article This article, a complement to "User Generation," examines how, with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, crises can blow out of proportions in a matter of minutes. The author outlines strategies for preparing, managing, and surviving a crisis in a hyper-connected, always-on news world.

Advance Work: When Good Events Go Bad
CURRENTS Article This article offers a look at events gone awry on three campuses and how planners managed each situation.

Higher Ground
CURRENTS Article Millions of dollars poured in to help restore campuses devastated by Hurricane Katrina and other Gulf Coast storms. This story is about what these colleges, universities, and independent schools did with the donations. In salavaging their campus community, they also found a higher purpose in helping the larger communities in which they reside.

Advance Work: Preparation Pointers
CURRENTS Article Members of the College Communicators Association of Virginia and the District of Columbia got together to discuss how to prepare their institutions for a potential bird flu outbreak.

Quest for Clarity
CURRENTS Article Bad news travels fast. Getting ahead of it requires a quick, coordinated, and calculated effort. Advancement professionals whose institutions have survived campus crises and emerged with reputations for accountability intact (if somewhat tattered) share what they have learned the hard way. The sidebar, "Crisis of Faith," goes with this article.

Crisis of Faith
CURRENTS Article This sidebar to the article "Quest for Clarity" provides tips for averting and getting through a campus crisis.

Weathering the Storm
CURRENTS Article Hurricane Katrina and a subsequent flood dealt areas of the Gulf Coast a punishing blow—more than 1,000 people died, some 900,000 people were displaced, and countless neighborhoods, homes, and businesses were destroyed. Nearly three dozen colleges and universities and dozens of independent schools sustained damage—some of it severe. This article reports on the effects of the hurricane on Gulf Coast institutions, some campus-based relief efforts, and other elements of the storm’s aftermath.

Closing Remarks: Disaster Drill
CURRENTS Article In the wake of a disaster that affects a campus--regardless of its origin--education leaders need to know how to respond to keep students, faculty, and staff members safe, maintin order, and manage risk. The author suggests several steps campus officials can take to develop sound disaster response plans. Those steps include reviewing and refining existing plans periodically, rehearsing plan elements with emergency response team members, planning for the expected, and developing mutual aid agreements with peer institutions.

AdvanceWork: Windblown
CURRENTS Article Florida’s colleges and universities were forced to deal with an unprecedented summer of stormy weather in 2004. This article outlines the best practices campus communicators followed to keep their constituents informed and safe.

Well Schooled
CURRENTS Article Media training for campus leaders, administrators, faculty, and communications staff has become even more important in an era of increased media scrutiny. This article outlines the characteristics and purposes of media training programs and includes a short sidebar with tips for selecting a program.

Keeping off Thin Ice
CURRENTS Article Because public relations officers are adept at issues management and crisis communications, more campuses are including communicators in the assessment and prevention aspects of the risk-management process. Their most significant contributions include raising hard questions; forging good relations between the campus and the media and community; and tracking litigation patterns. This article, which also discusses potential future issues that will challenge campuses, is of interest to media and community relations officers, PR managers, and chief advancement officers.

Turbulence at Ground Level
CURRENTS Article As higher education institutions close and consolidate at unprecedented rates, advancement officers can play a vital role in assessing their institutions’ vulnerabilities. The authors present six warning signs and corresponding recovery strategies, with special attention to how advancement officers can help. This article is of interest to managers of development, alumni relations, and communications programs, as well as campus CEOs.

All Along the Watchtower
CURRENTS Article PR professionals are confronting a new breed of problems with rogue Web sites and damaging e-mail messages. Campuses must deal with these unconventional attacks on a case-by-case basis. But they should also adapt their issues management and crisis communications plans and techniques to include online responses to known and anonymous critics. This article is of interest to PR professionals and Web managers who handle issues management and crisis planning and management.

Science Lessons
CURRENTS Article Public information officers often find themselves in the midst of controversy surrounding their institutions’ scientific research activities. That’s only one part of communicating science, however. Even though not every project will make headlines, PIOs must communicate important, complex research every day. Key to that task is establishing rapport with the scientists, presenting science to lay readers, and explaining why it’s important without overhyping.

September 11, 2001
CURRENTS Article The 2001 terrorist attack placed many demands on advancement offices. Institutions in New York City established command centers to manage communications and emergency response amid human loss and facility damage. Elsewhere, advancement professionals dealt with such tasks as reporting the status of alumni and parents, connecting campus experts with reporters, rescheduling alumni travel, rewriting magazine issues, and postponing or adjusting fund-raising calls.

When Silence Speaks Volumes
CURRENTS Article The devastating effect of AIDS on Africa’s universities is made even worse by administrators’ reluctance to deal with or even acknowledge the crisis. A case study of seven African universities explores the reasons behind institutions’ inadequate response and describes the impact of AIDS on enrollment, admissions, staffing, and institutional finances. The study provides lessons for campus communicators, strategic planners, and other administrators at institutions worldwide.

AdvanceWork: In the Dark--and in the Limelight
CURRENTS Article The power crisis that struck California in the winter of 2000-2001 posed new communications challenges for colleges and universities. This article describes how California State Polytechnic University, Pomona College, and Claremont McKenna College handled blackouts; how Saddleback College responded to high electric bills; and how Humboldt State University gained media attention for its alternative energy research programs.

A Crisis of Legendary Proportions
CURRENTS Article Simpson, vice president for public affairs at Indiana University, describes how IU’s communications team handled a six-month media firestorm over basketball coach Bob Knight. The team followed a predetermined crisis communications strategy that called for developing a media relations plan, establishing a single media spokesperson, maintaining open and continuous communications, and expecting the unexpected. Simpson also describes what his team learned from the experience.

All Elian, All the Time
CURRENTS Article For the University of Miami news media office, the Elian Gonzalez saga meant a crush of requests for interviews with faculty experts and the university president. The public relations staff found ways to handle the media frenzy judiciously and parlayed it into mentions in more than 1,500 news stories.

Handle with Care
CURRENTS Article Public relations officers often must take the lead in handling campus crises -- a job requiring many levels of negotiation, compromise, communication, and implementation. The article describes how five campuses are successfully managing these potentially explosive situations and keeping their institutional reputations intact. Examples include campus protests (Georgetown University), student demonstrations (Henry Ford Community College), alcohol abuse (Michigan State University), racial tension (University of Hartford), and sexual misconduct (University of Toronto). A sidebar provides seven crisis-planning tips.

AdvanceWork: Weathering the Storm
CURRENTS Article One year after the Great Ice Storm of '98, campus communicators reflect on what it taught them about crisis management

Crisis Planning & Management

The Library has compiled a collection of resources about crisis planning & management.

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The Library maintains a collection of crisis communications plans and emergency response plans.

View samples

Communications Community

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