Schools and news organizations are struggling to manage communications following the tragic school shooting late last week in Newtown, Conn. We’re inundated with content about the shooter, the victims, and the ensuing battle over second amendment rights.  Friends finding the news difficult to handle are staying away from news sites, keeping the TV off and, let’s all hope, steering clear of Facebook.

If you’re in a role, however, that necessitates addressing this kind of tragedy (certainly school administrators, educators, leaders and managers of public, and presumably safe places and media) keep in mind these four guidelines for communicating in a crisis.

  1. First and foremost, express empathy for those affected.
  2. Recognize victims and those who came to their aid. At a moving vigil, our president read the names of the children killed at the elementary school.
  3. Affirm for the audience that steps will be taken to prevent this kind of incident in the future. Explain how that will happen or be addressed. Reassure the audience that safety comes first, and that the commitment to that effort is ongoing and strong.
  4. Make sure that resources are available, and how to obtain them is widely published.

These are four items anyone needing to communicate in a crisis must follow. Furthermore, it’s important to note that HIDING FROM YOUR CONSTITUENCY in the time of a crisis is perhaps the worst step to take. The NRA has taken down their Facebook page, rather than defending its position. 

Be available. Answer questions. Provide value.

Especially in a time of crisis.

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