Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Solid Crisis Response and Damage Control by TCU

The Brown-Lupton University Union at Texas Chr...
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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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