The word Ebola has instilled panic throughout the nation (we’re a little late to the party, though). The media and its audience, which is basically everyone, have responded to Ebola with a sense of fear and a large-scale spread of rumors. The facts have been muddled and distorted and a widespread uneasiness has enveloped mothers throughout the nation.
Kent State and Ebola: In what was, perhaps, the most unexpected turn of events for me, a Clevelander who attends Kent State; a Kent State alumna, who flew into Cleveland, linked the University to Ebola. We, Golden Flashes, can’t catch a break lately, am I right?
A nurse who had assisted in the care of Thomas Duncan in Dallas, an Ebola patient who died on Oct. 8, flew into Cleveland and stayed with family in Akron. Three of her family members happened to be Kent State faculty. Thus, Kent State became linked to the Ebola.
We’ve caught…rumors. Rumors quickly began flying through campus. By noon on Oct. 15 I had already heard a slew of variations of the big news. The most incorrect and worrisome of the bunch was the rumor that patient X, Amber Vinson, had visited campus.
Eric Mansfield with the win.
How we handled it: By the close of business, Kent State had tweeted updates, posted a press release and held a press conference. Each crisis tactic stayed true to key messages, responded to common concerns and reiterated the steps Kent State was taking to handle the situation, including asking Vinson’s family members to remain off-campus for 21 days.
Aside from the morning’s rumblings, Kent State did a good job of fielding rumors and dispersing the facts against all the odds. I felt as though the university took its time, thought out each response and replied. Honest key messages have been a difficult find during the Ebola scare.
Kent State’s tactics got me thinking about how I would handle a crisis. I compiled a short list of best practices.
What to do in a crisis:
- Have a plan- Walking into a situation like “Ebola at Kent State,” always works better with a crisis plan. The list should really stop here, but I know that’s unrealistic.
- Know the facts- If you don’t know the facts don’t pretend you do. “Let me get back to you,” is always a winner if you’re unsure of an answer.
- Stay on message- Know your key messages and repeat. There will be questions intended to throw you off, if you know your key messages and bridge back to them an interview wont be so daunting.
As a PR major, I was rather proud of the University’s communications surrounding the fuss. Ebola has taken hold of, and destroyed the reputation of, countless sources. Without proper crisis consideration and clear messaging the situation could have become vastly more grim than it did.