Latest blog: So many words . . . so very wrong
As the nation continues to grieve the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Texas, those of us in crisis communication watched with mouths open at the ineptness of the communication “plan” by Texas officials. I use plan in quotes because we all know that the time to prepare for a crisis is before it occurs and communications is a key part of any response.
This, however, will be used as lessons on what not to do in large part because they violated the most basic crisis communications strategies especially the strategy of “one message, one voice.” From the initial conference, it was plain to see that there was no single agency taking charge of information release and no one single person responsible for gathering and disseminating information so desperately needed during such a tragedy.
Providing accurate and timely information is crucial as many different constituencies need and want to know the circumstances. The fundamental way to do that is through a unified message repeated often and changing as needed.
One of the press conferences involved a stage full of people from different agencies watching as Gov. Greg Abbott gave information that is now known to be inaccurate. Other Texas officials also garbled the message continually over the next several days causing concern around the nation and heartbreak for the families of the victims and the residents of Uvalde.
There was no single spokesperson, the information was so confusing (i.e. did a resource officer try to stop the shooter) and some of the comments were just plain insensitive as were made when trying to justify the delayed response to confronting the shooter. Also, some answers seemed to try to just protect the organization and its leaders, not provide information. And, sadly, some officials appeared to be there only for political gain.
It is easy to sit here and expound on what officials should have done, but watching the chaos caused by ineffective information is disheartening. Texas officials must do better in honor of the 21 victims.