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Education crisis communications 101: How to plan for and manage a crisis

Unfortunately, at some point or another, most schools, universities and colleges will be faced with some form of a crisis which can damage their reputations and cast doubt over their futures. Yet most educational establishments tend only to focus on crisis communications when the crisis is already happening.

The way you choose to communicate in a crisis reflects your brand, your values and your entire ethos as a business and so it is absolutely vital to have a plan in place because the best way to manage a crisis is to prepare for one. While each scenario is unique and will have factors beyond your control, preparation is key.

As experienced education PR specialists with decades of experience in crisis comms, we understand what it takes to do this. Here’s how:

Form a crisis comms team

Create a dedicated crisis comms team responsible for planning and communicating during a crisis. This could include someone responsible for PR, head of admissions, as well as the senior leadership team. They must have in depth knowledge about the school, be able to think on their feet, and have the authority to make important decisions.

Plan, plan and plan

Ensure your crisis comms team meets regularly to review potential threats, both internal and external, and develop a plan for dealing with each potential crisis. This could be a fire in the school, a disgruntled parent or a teacher who has breached guidelines. Having processes in place for all eventualities will enable you to deal with them much quicker and more efficiently and reduce the potential for reputational damage.

Know your stakeholders

Understanding who your key stakeholders are is absolutely vital to executing effective crisis comms. Think about who you need to communicate with – students, parents, teachers, governors, the local community, and the media – to name but a few and then plan, plan and plan again for each and every potential scenario.

Be consistent in your messaging

Clear and concise messaging is vital. Be consistent and honest and draw on the facts, while being careful not to speculate about the unknown. Be clear about what you are going to do to address the issue and then be sure to share the same message across all your communication channels.

Train your leadership team

Unfortunately, an issue or crisis may attract media attention. In these cases, it’s important you have a spokesperson trained for media interviews.  Do some media training in advance to give your spokespeople the skills to control an interview and stick to the agreed messaging. It is a hugely valuable process that leaves participants confident and prepared to handle whatever tricky media questions they may be faced with.

How you respond to a crisis can make or break your reputation. That’s why it is vital to plan – assemble a team, plan for different scenarios and ensure you are consistent in your messaging so that if and when a crisis does occur, you are prepared for it.

Want to know more about crisis management? Get in touch with Represent to discuss how we can assist.

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