Chapter Rewind | Lessons Learned from Pulse

April 15, 2017

Chapter Rewind | By Zenaida Kotala

FPRA and PRSA Members Listen to Lessons Learned from Pulse

FPRA and PRSA Members Listen to Lessons Learned from Pulse

Plan ahead and develop relationships before you ever need them.

That was Heather Fagan’s message to a group of public relations professions gathered for a special FPRA and PRSA’s joint March breakfast workshop at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando.

Fagan, Mayor Buddy Dyer’s chief of staff, spoke about how her office communicated to the media and the public during and after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.

The sold-out workshop featured Fagan and other public information officers that responded to the Pulse tragedy including representatives from the county, Orlando Health, and former PR Pro of the Year Sara Brady who represents the owners of the nightclub. WKMG reporter Eric Sandoval also provided his perspective because he was one of the first reporters on the scene.

The shooting at the gay nightclub left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded. Many were members of the Hispanic community. Pulse is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Despite the tragedy, the tone of the city’s initial response helped create a spirit of resilience that translated into #OrlandoUnited, which has been recognized worldwide.

Fagan was called early Sunday morning, 10 minutes before Mayor Dyer picked her up on the way to the scene.

The city has good partnerships with police, the county and the hospital already so it was easier to call people in the early morning hours, she told the crowd. It’s important to have good relationships, but it is also key to have a process to responding to crisis situations.

A disaster is not the time to be negotiating who is going to be responsible for what, she said. Plan it out and practice with multi-agency mock drills. That way when a crisis happens, you are better able to respond in a timely manner, Fagan said.

She also talked about the power of social media and the early decision to use Twitter as the city’s official way to communicate with the media. There was just no way Fagan and her team were going to be able to keep up with requests, so social media was the way to go. The team responded to thousands of inquiries that continue even today, as the community prepares to remember the tragedy on its first anniversary.

Kena Lewis, APR, the director of public affairs for Orlando Health, referred to the hospital’s crisis manual during her presentation. Her advice – if you have a plan that would accommodate 50 people, now blow it up for 100 or more. You can’t predict exactly what the crisis will be, but there are steps that can be taken to prep and then you have to have good relationships to be able to pivot when circumstances change.

Other speakers shared their personal stories and provided tips for PIOs who may find themselves dealing with a massive crisis.

Tips included:

  • Have relationships with set up protocol before you need to.
  • Assign someone to monitor the news because you won’t have time to do it. And sometimes you’ll have to respond to information you weren’t aware was out in the public domain.
  • Record interviews, that way you can remember and correct facts.
  • Ask for help, you can’t possibly handle it all.
  • Prioritize by asking yourself, do I have to make that decision today?
  • Keep a jump bag handy at all times.
  • Assign someone to take care of your PR team so they eat and sleep.

Quotes Corner

April 13, 2017

Stefania Markowicz, Director of Communication for Quotes, the PR Club at UCF

New Changes Bring New Opportunities

By Stefania Markowicz, Director of Communication for Quotes, the PR Club at UCF

Moving to a new city can be scary. Especially if you’re going away to college. Three hours away from home. With no mom and dad. At a university with over 64,000 students.

I came to the University of Central Florida (UCF) this past fall – a mere 8 months ago. It was my first time in college, and I didn’t have many friends who were planning on attending UCF with me. This meant adjusting to a completely different lifestyle, managing my time more efficiently and forming a new circle of friends. I was excited, but nervous. For the first time in my life, I truly had to be independent.

To be blunt, fall semester was rough. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to get involved or how I was going to make friends, so I ended up doing nothing besides going to classes and doing homework most weeks.

But then, a magical thing happened in the spring. I discovered Quotes, the PR Club at UCF – and it’s probably the best thing to have happened to me at UCF so far. Quotes has done so much for me; it has motivated me to get into the Advertising-Public Relations major at UCF, helped me to make friends with very similar interests and allowed me so many opportunities for networking in the public relations world. To me, this is priceless.

Roger Pynn, APR, and Ashley Tinstman of Curley & Pynn. “They spoke about a topic I had never heard of before – The Message Matrix®”

Being in Quotes allows me to go to unique events and learn valuable information for furthering my career as a student wanting to be a PR pro down the line. Just this past month, for example, I was taking part in an event led by Roger Pynn, APR, CPRC, and Ashley Tinstman of Curley & Pynn. They spoke about a topic I had never heard of before – The Message Matrix®. Had it not been for Quotes, I would have never known about this event, where I learned the basics of reputation management and consistent message delivery.

Now, my life is not “go to class and get your homework done.” It’s “go to class and get your homework done, and attend Intern Pursuit, and sit in on PR speaker events, and tour downtown agencies, and update the Quotes Facebook account and go to Tallahassee for a three-day PR trip.” To a random person, this might seem overwhelming. But to me, it’s exactly what I wanted in a college experience.

So thank you, Quotes, for everything you have given me up to this point. I will never stop being thankful for it.