By Jonathan Gabriel
Last month at the UCF Executive Development Center, the FPRA Orlando Area Chapter received hands-on training in the essentials of crisis communications from Ron Sachs, Jon Peck and the team at Sachs Media Group, a strategic communications firm headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida. Both Sachs, founder and CEO of the company, and Peck, vice president of public relations, worked in journalism and served as top communications aides for Florida governors.
“He is possibly the most accomplished media consultant in the state of Florida,” said Lindsay Hudock, FPRA Orlando president, about Sachs. “His thought leadership and ideas have created projects that generate local, state, national and even worldwide attention.”
Sachs and Peck split attendees into two groups and gave them a simulated crisis to handle. Picture the scene: a tractor trailer carrying potentially hazardous materials has exploded and burst into flames in the fictitious city of Jenkins, Florida. As the city’s PIO, what do you do?
“We want you to think through the responses that would be required from the various agencies, including the city, your elected officials, police department, school district, local emergency management,” said Peck.
Of course, like a real crisis, things on the ground didn’t stand still, forcing communicators to adapt their strategies to accommodate new situations. As groups discussed effective responses, Sachs and his team shared new information learned about the crisis, including social media posts and TV news reports created especially for this exercise. Members of each group were selected as spokespeople and held a simulated press conference with questions from the media – played by Sachs and Peck – that they had to field on the fly.
FPRA members learned the importance of developing a coherent plan, since in a crisis, events move fast. And thanks to Sachs Media Group, they now have a greater understanding of crisis communications that they can take back to their workplace.