The Buzz Creators team attended the Public Relations Society of America’s Westchester/Fairfield chapter first SPOX Group event with Lieutenant J. Paul Vance, Commanding Officer, Public Information Office, Connecticut State Police, at Columbus Trattoria in Stamford, CT. The PRSA Westhchester/Fairfield recently launched a new, highly educational program, known as the SPOX Group, for PR practitioners who serve as a spokesperson for their respective organization.
Lt. Vance is renowned as the calm, composed communications officer during the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, on December 14, 2012, and the days that followed. When the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy struck, Lt. Vance and his team scrambled into crisis mode. Lt. Vance and his team’s first priority was to protect and assist the families of the victims and to keep them informed of the situation and also to ensure that their requests were respected and met.
During his presentation “Managing the Media During a Crisis,” Lt. Vance offered insight on how PR professionals can best work with the media during a major crisis:
- Always remember that your first job is to protect the victim/s and their loved ones
- Early on, set the ground rules for media. Inform them on where and when you will be updating them with information.
- Partner with the media. Establish a rapport and relationship to not only help provide them with the tools they need to do their job, but to also ensure all the information being shared with the public is accurate.
- Assign one key spokesperson – and have that person be a part of all “inner circle” meetings
- Treat all members of the media fairly. All reporters should be on an even playing field and provided with the same information.
- Separate the media from the crime scene when setting up your staging area for briefings
- Establish a clear line of communication from your organization to the media and to the public
- When speaking to the media in a crisis or tragedy be compassionate, but more importantly accurate—accuracy is key when addressing the media with any and all information
- Be sure to document everything that happened during the crisis, so that information and facts are readily available in case any rumors or questions come up
- Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” – but, then try to find out the information if possible before your next media update
- Leverage your organization’s website and social media site/s to provide accurate information to the public as appropriate (direct channel of communication)
- Use the smallest number of words (speak in sound bites) to ensure you aren’t misunderstood
- Despite everything happening around you, it’s important to keep your composure and focus on getting the job done
- Having a strong core team is critical, behind the scenes people are vital
- Ensure that someone in your organization double checks all information, so that nothing is overlooked or missing
About Lt. J. Paul Vance
Lt. J. Paul Vance is spokesperson and 40-year veteran for the Connecticut Police force. His career ranges from assignments in both Troop L in Litchfield and Troop I in Bethany. He worked as a helicopter medic, a SWAT team member, and a K-9 Handler. He also became an instructor in the Academy and conducted service trainings for Connecticut state troopers. Lt. Vance has received a number of promotions beginning in October of 1987 as Trooper First Class and again receiving Sergeant in March of 1988. He became Mast Sergeant in July 2006 and Lieutenant in October 2006. Currently, the Commanding Officer of the State Police Media Relations/Public Information office, his job requires to work with a PLO team, to ensure public safety issues are announced and publicized to the people of Connecticut, through the print and broadcast media.
About PRSA Westchester/Fairfield Chapter SPOX Program
When a story breaks, those charged with being the public face of a company, organization, or government entity are often subjected to intense internal and external pressure. Successfully managing the intense thirst for information from the media, those on social media, and from other internal and external stakeholders, is a high-stakes balancing act with reputations on the line. PRSA’s SPOX Group, a new professional development initiative for corporate spokespeople, public officials, and business and nonprofit professionals regularly in the media spotlight is the first of its kind in the Westchester/Fairfield region and is designed to provide spokespeople with a network of professionals, and with the tools they need to create the right response, strike the right tone, and to manage scrutiny and the pipeline of information.