October 2016 Luncheon


Think you’re ready for your next crisis? Join the Greater Fort Worth Chapter of PRSA on Wednesday, October 12, for our professional development program. Test your level of preparedness during this three-hour simulation workshop led by Fran Stephenson, APR, of Step In Communication. Participants will work in teams to solve a surprise crisis scenario using role playing, critical thinking, project management and negotiation to prepare their spokesperson to go on camera and “meet the media.” A group debrief will help participants develop a framework for future crisis response. Additionally, after the event is over, Fran will provide a detailed written critique of each spokesperson’s media briefing, along with their video clip.

Register today!

Registration Deadline
Friday, October 7, 2016

***** Notice of Annual Membership Meeting of Fort Worth PRSA *****


8 a.m. – Seminar Registration/Networking
8:30-11:30 a.m. – Group Crisis Simulation Program
11:30 a.m.-12 p.m. – Luncheon Registration/Networking (Please note: the room will be changed over for lunch from 11:30 to 11:50 a.m.)
12-1 p.m. – Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon Program

During the annual membership meeting portion of the luncheon, members will vote on the slate of the officers compiled by the Nominations Committee for the 2017 Greater Fort Worth Chapter. (Please note: The full slate will be released at a later date.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM

City Club of Fort Worth, 301 Commerce Street, Fort Worth

Dress Code
Business Attire

Luncheon Only
Members $30.00
National Members $35.00
Non-members $35.00
Students $20.00

Morning Program Only
$75.00 (All registrants)

Morning Program and Luncheon
$85.00 (All registrants)

Register today!

Why Media Cover the Sandy Hook Tragedy

Students from Sandy Hook Elementary School returned to school earlier this month after less than a month since Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 students and 7 adults in Newtown, Conn. Many people have asked why the media have covered the tragedy the way they have. In some cases the media has followed the debate over gun control, while other media have followed the intimate detail of what happened on that horrible day, including a real focus on the perpetrator – Adam Lanza. As I have learned over the past 15 years, the media covers what they believe is most relevant to their audience.

With a little help from a couple experts that I reached out to, I hope to help provide some perspective on why tragedies like this are covered in the way they are, though each may be covered differently.

The first story the media try to cover is perhaps too obvious, but the “Facts about the case,” is story number one according to Texas Christian University Associate Professor of Strategic Communication, Dr. Amiso George, APR, Fellow PRSA. In this case, one of the first things that were reported was the name of the suspect and a possible motive along with the number of people believed to be injured and killed. George says the public often want to know, “Why the perpetrator committed the crime, the motive for the crime, whether he was apprehended or not. If he is dead, how that happened. If not, from the time the culprit is arrested and brought to justice is of import to the public.”
While putting together the stories, whether broadcast, internet or print, the media consider the 5 Ws and H according to a retired Dallas / Fort Worth television news manager. The first objective is to tell the audience what has happened. She went on to say, no one person says during the daily news meetings, lets cover the killer, they ask what we know and what can we learn today, how does it relate to our local audience.

To help the local audience relate, George says the media, “Look for a similar local case for comparison.” In addition they will look to, “Interview local experts on gun control and related issues and access to mental health. Interviews with psychologists are also important as anxious parents would want to know how and when to talk to their children about the case; what teachers/school officials can do to make the classroom and school premises a safer place for students; what churches or synagogues (especially Sunday School classes) can do to minimize children’s anxiety about such danger.”

In the minutes after the incident and the ensuing hours and days, very specific information can be difficult to come by, so the first piece of information or the most relevant will make the headlines when the deadline is hit. As I read through news comment sections and other social media, I saw a lot of concern that the media was making a lot out of Lanza’s name and perhaps making him a hero to the next killer, but according to George, she believes that the preponderance of that coverage was from the tabloid press, which uses material to sensationalize the story and draw in a larger audience.


As the law enforcement starts to issue reports, heroes and heroines are discovered, but who will talk about their actions? Who will tell the story of those who lost their lives saving the children? Neighbors will be talked to? Friends, family and glory hounds will come forward and must be vetted before they can be quoted or put on air to tell their stories.

The media, by in large cover the incident without bias toward any one side, the simply try to tell a story with information that they have gathered. In some cases, the media have “only seen here” or “first reported here” when a resourceful reporter is able to break a new piece of information based on a quality interview or inquiry to a trusted source. In the end, the media are not trying to champion a cause or publicly convict a suspect. As you take in your news understand what you are reading or watching, is it tabloid – think TMZ, Access Hollywood or Extra; is it an opinion – think O’Reilly, Face the Nation or the editorial section of the newspaper; or is it a news program like the evening news or traditional newspaper.

This post first appeared on the Murnahan Public Relations Blog. Brian Murnahan, President of Murnahan Public Relations, brings more than 15 years of corporate communications experience in multiple different business sectors, including aviation, oil & gas, privacy, transportation and public policy. Murnahan specializes in media relations, crisis communications, public affairs, community / stakeholder relations, international outreach and media training.

BP: A disaster on all fronts

By Margaret Ritsch, APR (cross-posted from the Balcom Agency blog)

As PR professionals watch the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history unfold, we just shake our heads in wonder. Are there any seasoned public relations people at BP’s executive table?

It is clear that BP’s mistakes not only have damaged untold species, livelihoods, and local economies. Its problems are compounded by the apparent disregard for some of the key principles of crisis communications. Granted, lawyers are now in control because of the likelihood of criminal charges. But early in a crisis is when a company’s behavior and communications matter most. Failure to respond quickly and communicate openly in ways that meet the public’s needs and expectations will always make matters worse.

1. Accessibility and openness. When a company has a big problem that causes public harm, that company should communicate both internally and externally just as aggressively as it works to fix the problem.

This is one of many principles taught by James Lukaszewski, APR, a leading national figure in crisis communications and public relations. (I’ve learned a lot from Jim Lukaszewski. His company’s website is worth a visit: www.e911.com.)

A public crisis of this dimension demands that a company’s top executive step up, communicate, and answer the hard questions. CEO Tony Hayward should be much more visible and accessible to press and to the many publics affected by this disaster. Sorry Tony, you can’t have your life back, not for a while.

I believe BP would benefit from allowing TV cameras on its rigs to talk with the workers who are laboring around the clock to repair the leak, drill relief wells and perform other demanding tasks. Workers cleaning up beaches also say they can’t speak with press. Now controlling the message is important to a company in a crisis, but within reason. There ought to be a way for the company to demonstrate and describe its cleanup and repair efforts at the ground level.

It would go a long way to rebuild confidence that BP is working tirelessly to try to ameliorate the damage caused by the oil rig blowout and continuing oil flow. It would humanize the company.

2. Responsiveness. Companies have a responsibility to talk about problems affecting the public and to provide important, relevant information as quickly and completely as they can — especially when health and safety are at risk.

Only this week has BP provided the HD video footage that shows the oil gushing out of the well hole. Scientists and others have been asking for this video for weeks in order to accurately gauge the amount of leakage.

3.Ethics. If a company is at fault, it should admit its mistake, apologize, and explain as quickly as possible. With an absolute commitment to telling the truth. Granted, this was a complex operation involving multiple companies besides BP. Still, BP owes its employees, shareholders, and all affected parties a huge apology, an acknowledgment of its role in this disaster, and an assurance — grounded in reality — that this kind of problem will never happen again.

4.Engagement. It is important in a crisis to answer the public’s questions and volunteer information that may be of interest — to use a two-way communications model so that the company is not just talking, but it is also listening and responding.

Instead, BP is engaged in an elaborate, costly, one-way advertising campaign. It is talking at its publics through full-page color ads in the New York Times and likely other news vehicles and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing Google and Yahoo search terms. More direct engagement with the publics affected by the disaster would cost a lot less and be more effective in rebuilding trust in the company.

5. Commitment. Companies need to learn from their mistakes, talk publicly about what they learned, and commit publicly to fixing whatever needs to be fixed internally to prevent big mistakes from happening again.

BP pleaded guilty in the 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery to violating the Clean Air Act. It pled guilty again to another federal violation for its role in causing oil spills in Alaska in 2006. One has to wonder if BP has learned from its mistakes and examined the business practices that have now led to an enormous environmental disaster. In my humble opinion, from this small agency in Fort Worth, this should be BP’s first priority.

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