What Olivia Pope doesn’t show you about crisis management

By Taylor Bayat, account associate

When most people hear the words “crisis communications,” they picture Scandal’s Olivia Pope and her team covering up a murder or clearing the name of an unfaithful politician.  However, there is much more to crisis communications than White House scandals. In the past thirty days alone, there have been three major hurricanes and the deadliest mass shooting in American history.  Crisis communications has been vital to preparation and reaction to these events.

Before the hurricanes hit, organizations such as FEMA and the American Red Cross geared up to keep people and towns safe during the storms.  However, the role of public relations practitioners isn’t to physically prepare for the storm; PR people don’t board up windows or set up shelters, rather they inform the public about the disaster.

Laura Howe,  former vice president of public relations for the American Red Cross, stated that the three goals of the communications department of the Red Cross are to be proactive in getting the story out, to interact with the public, and to react during crises. During disasters, it is the role of the PR department to ensure the company or organization is getting the right information out to the public. This was especially important during the hurricanes, since many families were unable to get in contact with loved ones.

The same crisis techniques were used by the Las Vegas Police Department following the mass shooting on October 1.  It was critical that the police department communicated with the public to inform them of the events that had occurred.

While this side of public relations may be not be glamorous, it is crucial.  The real work that crisis communications teams do day-to-day is vital to our information-dependent society.

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