Good crisis communication requires more than a tweet
Overnight, 2 people — a student and his friend — were shot and killed on the campus of Grambling State University, a historically Black university located in northern Louisiana.
While losing two young lives is a tragic event on its own, the university added insult to injury by delivering a callous and woefully insufficient response in the form of a now-deleted tweet: We’re open for business today — go to class.
Grambling’s handling of the situation has fast become a case study in poor crisis communications management.
Crisis doesn’t schedule its appearance in your business — it is notoriously unpredictable. When disaster strikes and your organization finds itself splashed across the pages of The Washington Post and featured on CNN.com, having a good crisis communication plan already in place will help minimize the damage, prevent long-term reputational harm, and keep leadership on-message.
By evidence of the tweet (now gone ghost), Grambling State doesn’t appear to have a crisis communications plan in place.
That’s why I wrote the press release that Grambling’s communications team should have written:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2017
To our dear Grambling State University family:
Overnight, we lost a student and his friend to an act of violence on campus. Our hearts are broken.
Grambling senior Earl Andrews was a valued member of our community, and we send our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, as well to the loved ones of his friend, Monquiarious Caldwell.
At this time, authorities have not identified the person responsible for this act. The University is fully cooperating with the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office as they conduct their investigation. If you have information about the incident, please contact the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office at (318) 251-1234. You can remain anonymous.
My administration and our staff remain committed to working together, as a community, to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all Grambling students. Grambling’s administrative offices remain open, with classes in session today. Counselors are available to our enrolled students at the Student Counseling and Wellness Resource Center, located on campus in the Foster-Johnson building, during normal operating hours. Our crisis hotline is available outside of those hours at (318) 247-1234.
Despite this difficult loss, we remain united. We are Grambling.
Richard J. Gallot, Jr.
President, Grambling State University
With condolences to friends who are Gram fam and to the entire Grambling community. —K.