Communicating in a Crisis

by Janine Reid, Pres.; Janine Reid Group, Inc., Denver, CO,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2000, Vol. 70, Issue 10, Pg. 68-79

Document Type: Feature article


As professionals following the strictest ethical standards, civil engineers are entrusted with safety and well-being of the public, regardless of the scale or range of their designs. By and large, this trust is well-deserved, as engineers place the safety of their designs above all other considerations. However, mistakes and accidents can and do happen, and when they do, even the smallest engineering company can be tossed into the glaring spotlight of widespread public scrutiny. If a negative situation arises and the news media learn of the story, the manner in which the company communicates with the press�and through the press, the public�can either further damage the company's reputation or rescue it. Companies can take several steps to prepare their spokesperson for communicating in times of crisis, however. First, determine the core message you want to deliver, and deliver it as often as possible. Prepare for a press conference or interview by anticipating the questions that will be asked and developing answers in advance that bridge the question back to the message you wish to send. Practice will help the spokesperson avoid loaded questions and emphasize that the company cares about the situation and is doing everything possible to determine the cause and correct any mistakes. After the press conference or interview session is over, be sure to get back in touch with the media to deliver any new information or answers to questions that were not available during the first interview.

Subject Headings: Safety | Public health and safety | Load factors | Ethics | Engineering firms | Accidents

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