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.