Library's Crisis Communications Planner: A PR Guide for Handling Every Emergency

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Is your library vulnerable to challenges arising from difficult patrons, censorship, budget issues, natural disasters, or disgruntled staff? Almost daily, libraries tread the line to limit the scope of problems and complaints so they don't expand into full-blown crises.

When emergencies escalate, knowing what to do in advance is the key. Libraries that are equipped with ready contact information, talking points, and spokespeople at hand are prepared to limit damage from big events or ensure small problems don't escalate. Expert library PR pro Thenell illustrates communications basics in this step-by-step primer, designed to prepare libraries for communicating to critical contacts in times of crisis.

This expert custom-made planner will guide you to creating a time-savingresource to have at your fingertips for any emergency situation.

Must-have tools include:

  • Communications information kit for everyday use—and for times of crisis

  • Practice scenarios for appointed spokespeople

  • Checklists that provide a head start when an emergency happens

  • Communication-readiness throughout the organization

  • Confidence-boosting tools to deal with the media

  • Customized news releases that tell your story effectively

Following these proven guidelines, libraries will gain the confidence to handle any crisis, as they lay the foundation for ongoing communications with key audiences on a regular basis.


Part 1
The Crisis Communications Plan
When Emergencies Turn into Crises
Developing Your Crisis Communications Plan

Part 2
Gathering and Maintaining Crisis-Ready Information
Ready to Respond
Gather Your Contact Information
How Will You Communicate?
Basic Library Information: What to Have on File and on the Website
To Do

Part 3
Assembling the Team: The Collective Intelligence
Creating a Balanced Team
Makeup of the Crisis Communications Team
The Voice of the Library: The Leader-Spokesperson
The Importance of Speaking with One Voice
To Do

Part 4
Identifying Library Audiences and Stakeholders
Identifying Your Library's Stakeholders
Maintaining Regular Communication with Stakeholders
Creating a Stakeholder Communications Grid
Educating and Nurturing Stakeholders
To Do

Part 5
Assessing Your Library's Crisis Potential
Your Library's Annual Checkup
Conducting the Vulnerability Checkup
To Do

Part 6
Creating Ready Responses for Areas of Vulnerability
Stay Ahead of Your Critics: Prepare and Practice
Crisis Response Example: Workplace Violence
Ideas for Talking Points
To Do

Part 7
Building Positive Media Relationships
Working with the Media before a Crisis Occurs
Working with the Media during a Crisis

Part 8
Communicating during a Crisis
The Power of Emotion: Messages with Feeling
What to Do Immediately
What to Do As Soon as Possible
To Do

Part 9
After the Crisis: A Time of Opportunity
What People Hear, Believe, and Remember
After the Crisis
Conclusion: A Crisis Communications Success Story
Your Crisis Plan: A Work in Progress

Twenty Tips for Writing an Effective News Release
Sample News Release

Further Reading

Jan Thenell

Jan Thenell serves as adjunct professor in the communications department at Portland, Oregon's Marylhurst University. She recently retired after 14 years as director of public relations at Multnomah County Library system. Thenell holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications and received her APR designation, accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She also served on the media relations and communications staff of Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh. Her work has won awards from the ALA and PRSA. She has contributed a library case study to the fifth edition of Hendrix's Public Relations Cases.

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