Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Solid Crisis Response and Damage Control by TCU

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It's been a week since news broke on the drug arrests of 17 TCU students shocking the university and local Ft. Worth community on Wednesday, February 15. Much has already been written in the wake of the arrests involving the Ft. Worth Police Department and TCU Campus Police and their six-month investigation that included some students.

I think TCU navigated this challenging situation quite well. I was particularly impressed with the openness and use of their digital communication channels very early before the story developed. There are some great tactical lessons here for PR pros who are paying attention. (Disclosure: I am familiar and acquainted with staff members of the communication and media relations team at TCU.)

At 9:24 AM, Wednesday, February 15, the university tweeted the following:
At 9:25 AM, they also posted to their Facebook page:

Both links went to the university's online statement and were shared right before the Chancellor's 9:30 AM press conference. TCU then tweeted a few updates during his statement.

The communication team also provided FAQs and one additional update related to drug testing through their 'Other News' section of Recent News online.

And that pretty much covered things for them since the Ft. Worth Police took things over and explained the investigation and arrests in addition to releasing documentation. By that point, TCU had sustained some bruises, particularly the football team because of some misinformation and corrections. The arrests, while an unfortunate and sad reality for those individuals involved, gave TCU something to point the attention toward to help deflect the media spotlight a bit.

A quick check on Google News search for stories shows the typical spike in news articles and posts  immediately following any major issue and then it tapered off as the recovery phase sets in and the news moved on to other things.
PR Gold
TCU must have learned some valuable transparency lessons and damage control from other high-profile crisis communication issues at other higher ed institutions. Fortunately for them they came forward very early with their information. They shared what I consider a quality statement and response to the investigation and arrests along with details about the process.

Through the university's communication, expectations for students were reinforced along with encouragement for the university community.

Others in public relations have approved of the way TCU initially navigated this issue including Helen Vollmer, president of Edelman Southwest. Vollmer wrote via email on TCU's response:
"...TCU has done a GREAT job in the last couple of days with the drug busts happening. We do a lot of work in education (not for TCU)—Notre Dame, Ohio State, U of H, Princeton, etc. and I laud them highly for their handling of this issue and their great use of social media to convey their 'no nonsense' approach."

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social Media Issues and Best Practices #tspra12

This is my presentation for last week's Texas School Public Relations Association 2012 Conference. I told attendees I'd have the deck available on the blog. Thank you to all who came to the afternoon presentation and for the great questions. I hope you took away something(s) useful. 

And remember, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Special thanks to Craig Verley (Mission CISD) and Scott JuVette (Ft. Worth ISD) for letting me use you and your districts as good examples for the group.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let Them Eat RPIE: Communication Planning

It's unclear who actually said the oft-quoted phrase, "Let them eat cake." This flippant phrase about consuming pastry is commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette, the frivolous queen in the days leading up to the French Revolution. She allegedly spoke the words upon hearing how the peasantry had no bread to eat. However biographers and historians have found no evidence to support the attribution.

What does that have to do with communication? Not much, really. I just thought it was a neat little bit of knowledge worth sharing. Plus, it made me think of pie.

Hungry for RPIE
The communication planning process of RPIE (Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation) has been on my mind a lot lately. Listening to two local PR pros share their insights from their award-winning PR campaigns at the Ft. Worth PRSA luncheon this week, both speakers framed things using RPIE. At work, I have a number of plans for events and campaigns running right now, all using the RPIE template to keep us on track. And most recently, while preparing a presentation on social media issues and best practices for the 2012 TSPRA Conference next week, the RPIE process made yet another appearance.

So I figured it was again time to revisit RPIE and share some themes for the process. 

  • What do we know? 
  • What don’t we know? 
  • Who do we want to reach? What do we know about them? Where do we find them? What do we want them to do?
  • It starts with thinking about the people. 
  • School District Buyer Personas 
  • What do School Districts Sell?
  • Goals 
  • Measurable Objectives (who, what, by when, by how much) 
  • Strategies Tactics/Tools 
  • Notice the tactics/tools are the last thing before implementation
  • Execution of the plan or communicating 
  • Creative
  • Materials 
  • Budget 
  • Timeline 
  • Delivery
  • Actual messages sent through what channels? 
  • How many messages reached your targeted audiences? 
  • What monitoring tools will you use for execution?
  • Did you accomplish your objectives? Prove it. 
  • Identify ways to improve and recommendations for the future. 
  • Media hits are not measurement. 
  • Measure effectiveness of the program against objectives. 
  • Adjust the plan, materials, etc., before going forward. 
  • Can serve as research for the next phase or program. 
  • Were you able to get key messages out and heard?

Using the RPIE method (or similar methods) is a solid way to make sure your key messages have the greatest opportunities to reach your target audiences. It's also the foundation to determine what's working, what's not, and how to tell the difference.

Photo credit: mackenziedreadful via Flickr Creative Commons