Guidelines for Communicating with Media
Whenever a natural disaster or crisis situation occurs, media coverage is a certainty. In these instances, the media can become quite obtrusive due to the number of news agencies covering the incident and the methods used by some reporters. Having a prescribed plan as to how to handle the media lessens the anxiety level for all involved.
NOTE: It is the district’s policy that only the designated spokesperson will talk with the media and release information subject to approval of Incident Commander/Superintendent.
Instructor / Staff Procedures:
- Refer all media inquiries to the school principal, District Communications Manager, or Superintendent.
- Notify the principal of unauthorized attempts by the media to contact students.
School Administrator Procedures:
- As soon as possible contact Human Resource and the Superintendent to share clear and concise basic facts to be shared with the media. Determine who will be the official spokesperson during the crisis.
- If reporters and cameras arrive at school try to shield students and staff from media requests. After receiving permission to give interviews from the District Communications Manager, conduct interviews where they will not disrupt the educational process.
- Give only the facts. Be sensitive. Don’t speak off the record. Be prepared. Keep cool. Do not make statements about responsibility until all the facts are known. Have a written statement to read and handed out if the situation requires.
- Stress positive actions taken by the school and reassure the community of the safety of the students and staff.
- Do not say, “No comment.” Instead try, “I will have to check into the matter. What is your deadline? And I will get back to you.”
- Remember that your responsibilities are to the school community before the media.
Use the following guidelines:
- Be proactive with the media.
- Set geographic and time limits. (Consider an off-site media center; consider media contact before and after school hours only.)
- Explain restrictions.
- Hold the press accountable.
- Create positive relations with the media before an emergency crisis occurs.
- Stress positive actions taken by the school.
- Do not refuse to speak to the media; they will turn to less reliable sources.
- Do not disclaim responsibility until all facts are known.
- Announce new changes made after the incident has passed.
- Get the maximum amount of information out to the media - and thus the public - as rapidly as possible. Overall accuracy and completeness of media coverage depends to a large degree on “how fast” and “how much” info they receive.
- Emphasize to parents, students, and staff that they can say “NO” to interviews
- The goal is to ally the media as an educational and informational tool in communicating the efforts of the district during a crisis or emergency situation.
- Information authorized by the Incident Commander/Superintendent for release to the news media shall be released to all local news organizations upon request.
- Information released may include any or all of the following:
- Name of school(s) covered by news release
- Location where students may be picked up/reunification point
- Name of staff representative to contact for student pickup
- How long school will be closed
- How to obtain medical, grief counseling or psychological help if warranted