Quarterly meeting recap: Cultural considerations and PIO Lessons from the Nurse Wubbels incident

Thank you to Salt Lake City Emergency Management, who hosted the May 9 meeting.

img_5956.jpgKenya Rene, SLC EM’s PIO, opened our meeting with these words of advice for communicators:

“I hope as we train and evolve with our communication skills, we include and become aware of uncomfortable subjects, like white privilege, cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions and equity vs. equality.

Our state is becoming more diverse as we welcome people from all backgrounds, Let’s connect with everybody, making sure we include them in event decisions and think of them when writing a press release, an invite or social media post.

If you don’t know, ask. Get informed about the culture or community you want to approach.”

Thanks, Kenya! For hosting the meeting, Kenya gets in free to the annual PIO Conference in September.


Moving on to our keynote presentation:

How do PIOs respond when their agencies are on opposite side of public sentiment?

IMG_5960Our many thanks to Kathy Wilets from University of Utah Health, Chris Nelson from the University of Utah and Christi Judd from Salt Lake City Police Department for presenting on the Nurse Wubbels incident.

No doubt, you have seen this video:

Here are the lessons Kathy, Christi and Chris shared during their presentation:

  • This was a crisis decades in the making. Agencies need to figure out now who is in charge and who has jurisdiction.
  • It’s important to sit down with players as soon as possible during an incident and in the aftermath. Lots of communication has happened between Nurse Wubbels and the SLCPD, between SLCPD and the hospital and to other groups, such as the nursing association, as well.
  • People will call 911 to report what they see on YouTube. Salt Lake City’s 911 dispatchers were beset with 911 calls for days because people were calling to report the Nurse Wubbels incident.
  • The incident affected the morale for officers at SLCPD and the university. They were all taking verbal punches for the decisions of one man. Remember your people who are still out working in the public eye in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Have your talking points ready to go ASAP. Kathy received a call at the end of one day that started like this: “You are live on the BBC in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”
    Because she was prepared, this encounter didn’t faze her.
  • Get your war room together. Prepare to pull in every resource (human and non-human) so you can get your strategy built and develop your messaging.
  • If you can, designate one person to field all media inquiries. Christi Judd called back every media person, which made messaging consistent to all media outlets.
  • PIOs, even on opposing sides of an issue, can be friends. Christi and Kathy talked often following the incident and continue to maintain a good relationship.
  • Be prepared to talk internally, as well.Don’t leave co-workers in the dark. They are part of your team. Your co-workers will also go home at the end of the day and neighbors, family members and friends will ask them what is going on. Help them be effective spokespeople.
  • What is your ongoing strategy to regularly communicate with the community? It’s not just about messaging the community during the crisis, but what are you doing now to serve the community and tell your story to build good will?

Thanks again to our hosts and to our speakers. The next quarterly meeting will be August 15 in Eagle Mountain City. Come ready to learn what we took away from the Government Social Media Conference, which took place in Denver in April.


Joe Dougherty is the PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
Find him on Twitter at @PIO_Joe

PIO lessons learned from the Uintah Fire

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Click the image to play a recap video of the Uintah Fire produced by Weber County

We were fortunate to hear from three PIOs who worked on the 2017 Uintah Fire during the Jan. 17, 2018, Quarterly Meeting. Their presentations are embedded after the notes on each section and are posted on Issuu here.

Holin Wilbanks, Weber County

We had to make sure all of the social media accounts were saying the same thing.

Wins:

  • As we were sending out critical information, we were also telling them about what we were doing well and why we were ready. Residents began to share that information and the Governor shared that information, as well.
  • We established the hashtag #UintahFire early on and that allowed us to track our data, as well.
  • Weber County became the accurate source of  information for residents and the press.
  • We briefed the families first and the press second.

Lessons:

  • It’s not over when the fire is out
    • Community recovery included putting out 10 Dumpsters for green waste, involving USU extension horticulturalist for training for homeowners, taking recovery documentation to homeowners in neighborhoods and posting all info to the county site.
  • Keep a PIO in incident command
    • We had a bunch of PIOs all working in different directions. We finally got together partway through the first day.
  • Keep a PIO assigned as an evacuee advocate
  • Now we have a communication plan with the Wildland Urban Interface Plan.
  • All info should have gone through a single channel.
  • Share your social media passwords.
  • Have your communications form up and ACTIVE for press and constituents
  • Maximize your team members and coordinate.
  • Know your role!
  • Engage with your GIS department. I wish I had a map.

Lane Findlay, Weber School District

  • Initially had no contact from law enforcement or fire
  • So, decision to evacuate Uintah Elementary happened at 11 a.m., more than three hours after the fire started.
  • Parents were picking up students and once we received notification from dispatch, started to evacuate. We got 13 buses to take children to Dee Events Center.

Win:

  • Reunification was complete by 1 p.m.
  • Great leadership team

Lessons:

  • Have a plan in place
  • Build partnerships
  • Be flexible
  • Media were able to get inside the Dee Events Center and take photos of children.

Chris Williams, Davis School District

  • Fire was 500 yards from South Weber Elementary and kids were already there.
  • We have 89 schools, 72,000 kids and we have the ability to change any school website, so we did for South Weber.
  • We moved students to Clearfield High School, huge challenge with geography for evacuating students.

Win:

  • Most parents picked up their kids.
  • Have someone embedded with command post.
  • Contact other agency PIOs – For Davis Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. DeeAnn Servey
  • Stay within my lane.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your insights and a huge shout out to University of Utah Health for hosting us!


Compiled by Joe Dougherty, PIO Association Secretary and
PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management
jdougherty@utah.gov | Twitter: @PIO_Joe

Case Study in Crisis communications – Pink Overdose Deaths in Park City

Pink, or Pinky, is a illicit synthetic opioid that is blamed for deaths of two boys in Park City in 2016.

A few months ago, the PIO Quarterly Meeting included a presentation by Molly Miller, from the Park City School District, Linda Jager, from Park City Municipal, and Wade Carpenter, Park City Police Chief.

On Tuesday, Linda and Molly presented on the same topic at the Governor’s Public Safety Summit on communications surrounding the Pink deaths in Park City.

Molly Miller and Linda Jager present on their crisis communications response to the Pink deaths in Park City

2016 Timeline:
Sept. 11 – First death reported
Sept. 12 – SIAC alert, internal notification
Sept. 13 – Second death reported
Sept. 14 – Attempted suicide reported
Sept. 15-16 – High media interest
Sept. 16 – Memorial service for first victim
Oct. 4 – Media obtains unsealed search warrant
Oct. 19 – Charges filed against 15-year-old suspect
Nov. 3 – Toxicology report released
Nov. 4 – Initial hearing for juvenile suspect
Now – New synthetic drugs making their way into the market.

Challenges:

Information release was limited because the victims were juveniles.
Timing: Police were on scene when word started to leak.
Deaths of youth can trigger unrelated at-risk children to have suicidal thoughts.
Had to get information out quickly but needed to be prudent by checking social posts with Park City Police first.
Balancing media and public’s need to know vs. active and ongoing investigation.
Needed to get information translated into Spanish.

Lessons learned:

Reach out for help with partners as soon as possible.
Notification and involvement of leadership.
Additional media relations preparation for spokesperson team and organization leadership.
Be adamant that students are not interviewed without explicit on-camera permission from parents.
Communicate to stakeholders (employees, parents, leadership) first.
Managing media inquiries and coverage requests. It’s overwhelming, so have a team to help with this.

Best practices:

Created partnerships throughout government in advance.
Priority: Get information out to parents and families.
Working with the media was great because they helped publish warnings and ways parents can protect their families.
Set expectation/battle rhythm with the news media so they know when to expect updated information.
Clear and consistent messaging.
Use multiple communication platforms, including active social media accounts.
Assign someone you trust to keep social media flowing.
Afterward, hold lunch and learn sessions to help people prepare to respond.
Keep the outreach events going.


Joe Dougherty is the PIO for the Utah Division of Emergency Management
and is the secretary of the PIO Association. 
Twitter: @PIO_Joe

How to not mess up your social media

First, huge thanks to Cottonwood Heights and Dan Metcalf for hosting the PIOs for the quarterly training luncheon on Wednesday. To show we mean the thanks, Dan gets free entry into the PIO Conference in September, as does anyone who hosts one of these meetings.

Now, onto the stuff: Social media tips from Dan Metcalf. Tomorrow, we’ll have notes from Ben Horsley’s presentation.

Watch for social media pitfalls

  • You still work for and represent your agency, even when you are off duty. What you say on your personal social media accounts still reflects on you and your agency.
  • Watch the context. Basically, make sure to research hashtags before jumping on and tweeting with them.
  • Be careful with humor. It can personalize your agency, but can go dreadfully wrong when misused.
  • Before you tweet, make certain you are logged into the appropriate social profile. It’s hard to make a worse mistake than tweeting a personal opinion via an agency account. Don’t do it! Two examples below.
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Click above to read the story on this one.
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Click above to read the story.

Social policies

You need an internal policy that addresses employees’ use of official channels, including social media training and monitoring, best practices and the number of people with access to those channels.

You also need an external policy that addresses your community standards and how you can justify the removal of posts on your pages while upholding free speech. Some of those justifications may include: off-topic posts, political endorsements, discrimination or personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, spam, advertising, copyright infringement, security or safety issues.

Think before you tweet, Dan says.
Tune in tomorrow for a recap from Ben Horsley’s presentation on the Clown Hoax.

Joe Dougherty is the secretary for the PIO Association. On Twitter at @PIO_Joe.