Category Archives: Crisis Management

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) created a terrific infographic on pandemic prevention and preparedness. I wanted to share it; we’ve tweeted it, but we need all the coverage we can get of this critical issue.  Click here for the full visual.


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I started working on pandemic threats in 2005 with the outbreak of H5N1 influenza virus (avian influenza) in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I was a communication technical advisor on a USAID-funded project managed by AED.  We were juggling treatment (while not knowing WHAT the virus really was) and prevention. Much like the early days of HIV and AIDS, the response strategy of the groups involved was first to stop internal hemorrhaging, while tracking the disease epidemiology to reveal a prevention route.

It has only been nine years – a lifetime in the cycle of a virus – and since then there has been H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza…and now we’re watching H7.

Another RWJF’s NewPublicHealth blog on pandemic awareness lists “top five things you didn’t know could spread disease” including sweaty strivers crawling through mud and various obstacle courses in races like “Tough Mudder” — and an unvaccinated child  as the top risk, which seems obvious to those of us on the ground but is not apparent to a growing number of parents.

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But while the experts work to decode and prepare a response to H7, remember to wash your hands regularly, sneeze into your inner elbow, stay home when you’re sick, and follow hospital room behavior:  Any surface may be contaminated.

Thanks to RWJF for letting us remind you that another pandemic could happen, and that individual practices can reduce those odds dramatically.

— Dee Bennett

Being in Washington has professional advantages. We are assailed by all types of communication on a variety of issues—advocacy, mobilization, public awareness, and, too often, crisis.

It isn’t unusual for these types of communication campaigns to happen concurrently and for different issues.

Some of the best strategic communication thinkers are here in Washington and we get to see their talents on display in the traditional news, digital media, and on the street (spontaneous protest are not so spontaneous).

Credit: CQ Roll Call

Credit: CQ Roll Call

Unfortunately, we also get to regularly witness some heavy-handed or non-strategic communication…

And this week has been a good example of that.

The website finger-pointing went to the Hill today…and it was a vivid reminder of what not to do when handling a major crisis situation.

For those fortunate enough never to have had to deal with crisis communication, here are the basics of crisis management:

Step 1: Admit Wrong. You wouldn’t be here if something didn’t go haywire.

Step 2: Take responsibility for the situation. Don’t blame others. This is especially true when your client is the US Government (Just saying). Explain what the problem is in simple and clear language.

Step 3: Explain how you are fixing the problem. Spell it out in practical, concrete language. Describe how and when you expect things to be righted.

Step 4: This goes for all the Steps: Don’t lie. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Don’t overstate. But especially: Do. Not. Lie.

Step 5: If you don’t know something, say you don’t know. Don’t speculate and don’t hypothesize.

Hope you don’t need to use these. But now when you watch people and organizations handle a bad situation you’ll know what to listen and look for….and determine how they do.