Crisis Management Training

This photo from the front page of the Haveeru newspaper sparked a lively discussion of Crisis Management on Day 3 of the workshop for government communication officials. Background: the opposition DRP party has been organizing protests of rising utility rates. This one was covered live on DhiTV, and apparently got a bit out of hand with protest leaders threatening to take over the president’s office and the defense headquarters. That’s when the cops moved in with water cannon and tear gas. Notice that the water stream is aimed at someone or something that is out of the picture, but it is a misleading image because it looks as if the protestor is defying the power of the police. Is it EVER okay for the police to use force against citizens exercising their right to free expression? What is the role of public relations in explaining the real story? Is TV being irresponsible by televising a call to overthrow the government?
Our workshop covered the nuts and bolts of defining your message, speaking in soundbites and having a plan for crisis communication. Here’s a role playing exercise showing how to set up an interview. We covered how to select an appropriate location, appearance, voice, body language and gestures. Each agency faces different challenges: the government fishing agency MIFCO is dealing with competition for the dwindling tuna catch, hospital and bank officials balancing transparancy with the privacy concerns of patients, investors and customers, and customs officials facing the usual challenge of enforcing the law while informing the public. Although many of the participants are new to the job, they showed outstanding talent for making their case and staying on message.