How to Prepare For an Ambush – A Uvalde Police Study

Dodging media questions on camera is a bad look for anyone. Crisis expert or not, everyone is not at risk of being chased down by a reporter or a producer looking for a response to a story that has the country and the world captivated. But stories that capture the attention of the press drive eyeballs to news sites and those stories are in hot demand and those types of stories can happen anywhere. They can be national; they can be local. But if eyeballs are going to a website, going to a news site, it’s going to be hot, and CNN is now that hot news outlet because they had their mike Wallace ambush moment. Here’s a gen x check Mike Wallace, one of the original correspondents for the CBS 60 minutes Father to Chris Wallace, formerly of Fox News CNN plus and now works for CNN full circle no one wants to be connected to a news headline that reads narratives and blames shift again as dysfunction engulfs shooting probe. That was according to the texas tribune. They reported that the Texas department of public safety said a local police chief had stopped cooperating and also walked back a statement that a teacher had propped open a door used by the shooter to enter the school. If you look on social media or if you look on Twitter, you can see the commentary in the opinions about the atrocious response and what is happening in the fallout of the shooting at rob elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. If you want to feel confident in your crisis response to any crisis. You need a plan. I know from working crisis situations from the inside. Even the day that I record this, I was on a call for an hour and a half with clients who were dealing with the crisis they were dealing and preparing for that ambush moment. Like what happens if so the majority of public organizations they can respond to emergencies using an incident command system? Yes, they can shield themselves from certain information, proprietary information, and legal information. But it’s difficult when you try to mitigate that public scrutiny. The scrutiny comes with bad planning. And we saw that last week, following the shooting, following a command structure isn’t foolproof.

So, today, I’m going to share with you some of the patterns of bad planning in a crisis and the right questions to ask to get you back on track to restore the public’s trust. So, Pierre and Dondo the embattled Vivaldi school police chief. He’s the one who is now known for leading a flawed law enforcement response to the rob elementary school shooting. He popped up on CNN when the reporter and producer tracked him down when he was tracked down. He declined to answer questions about the shooting really about this massacre.

I want to take a look at the patterns of bad planning in a crisis now. I write these plans for a living and in fact, I’m writing one right now. I take the basic structure of the incident command system that’s I. CS. I integrated into a crisis communication plan using A strategy. Knowing that news happens in a moment’s notice. We don’t have these news cycles, these 24-hour news cycles where it resets itself around the nightly news is constantly happening. It’s happening online. It’s happening on social media. So there needs to be personal accountability. There needs to be a chain of commands. There needs to be a communication plan within your crisis plan. So, to go back to Texas, let’s take a listen to how we got here and focus on a local school police chief Texas officials say you’ve all the school district police chief Peter Arredondo is not responding to requests for another interview in their investigation into the school shooting. He was of course, the incident commander who made the call to hold off breaching the classroom where all 21 victims were killed a few minutes ago.

“CNN’s Erin cooper said that he reached Arredondo who said he had been in touch with the texas department of public safety Shimon. Prokupecz. Also, in Vivaldi Shimon. I understand you got into contact him as well with him as well. What did he say? Any news? Well, just to give everyone the play-by-play here. Just happened moments ago you had Erin cooper, our producer out here who was at his home, uh seeing him, saw him leaving his home. So, we went to the office where we assumed he was going. And sure enough, we were sitting in our car when he drove in, so we quickly ran out and confronted him.

All right now, listen to the response. So yes, it’s an ambush. It is your classic reporter ambush. But Erin Dondo is clearly unprepared to speak. Even in an ambush. There should be a plan in place for a response. A crisis can always cause someone attached to the response to be in crisis themselves. Getting on camera and dodging questions is one of the fastest ways to develop a self-perpetuated crisis. There’s plenty of blame to go around. But right now, at this point in the recording, a lot of the blame, a lot of the scrutiny is on one person denials, resistance victim confusion and bewilderment all happening on camera. It creates a sequence of events that quickly erode the public’s trust when there’s no planning involved in a period on camera plan to look bad plan to further escalate the crisis, crisis reality to clumping can lead to a crisis. So, if you’ve been following the events happening in the new building, think of all of the photo ops, think of all of the pressers, the video, you’ve been watching it. They all involved just a group of men on stage, they’re either yelling at Beto O’Rourke to get the hell out of the press conference or they’re answering questions that lead to more questions. In the days after the massacre at rob elementary school officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety gave a press conference and they said a shooter encountered a police officer employed by the school district before charging through a back door. But then there were conflicting accounts about whether the officer fired at that gunmen and then the DPS director steve McCraw, he did a press conference and I distinctly remember watching it when he walked up to the microphone and it looked at first like he was chewing gum and I thought, oh please please do not tell me that he is going to speak about this event with gum in his mouth. So, it turned out not to be, but it was a distraction. Maybe it was just me. But I took that for nerves. But he also indicated in his presser that the school police officer engaged with the gun before he entered the school but did not exchange gunfire. But then another DPS official was quoted saying there was an exchange.

So, when there are clumps of people contradicting other clumps of people, it makes for a clumsy crisis response. Too many people are in the room where the decision should be made, where it appears that no one can make a decision. The plan is you need to involve management or a team early on and you must define roles. Who is the leader, who is in command? Where does the buck stop think of most crises within a crisis? The event isn’t the crisis management of the crisis is the crisis. The definition of a pr crisis is not external. External events are external incidents. That’s not a crisis. The crisis is usually a result of something happening internally. That’s why you need an effective management response. So, no planning around the chain of command is bad planning in a crisis put someone in charge immediately.

Now, we’re dealing with public officials here municipality, I would assume they must be following an incident command system. They have to be, but they’re just doing it poorly. There are so many weaknesses in their plan. There’s a lack of accountability, there’s a lack of order there. It looks like there’s a lack of planning. There’s no common flexible management structure that’s happening there. And we can all see that and that leads to crisis reality #3, which is heads will roll in crisis situations. People need to go down when things are going down. People who are charged with leading and speaking are inherently in a stressful situation. We give you that it’s stressful to be the face of a crisis. It is stressful to be the person responding to a crisis standing behind a podium, there is so much risk. People understand that pressure causes mistakes and people tend to try to minimize the mistake and when those attempts happen, they can lead to bigger problems when you’re not prepared.

For people in a position to manage a crisis or help them communicate during a crisis, they’re usually that, you know deer and there’s that deer in the headlight moment when they’re not prepared. But even for the people in a stressful situation, when they’re under attack, if you’re prepared and you know what to say, you can get through it. So those are three crisis realities. But now, what are the right questions to ask? How do you prevent bad planning? How do you disrupt the patterns of bad planning in a crisis to get you back on track. So, as I mentioned, the crisis comes from the management of the crisis, it’s something internal. Usually, the scrutiny has created a group or created a faction of people of stakeholders. Could be the press, could be local, could be activist groups, it could be the public at large.

If you’re under attack, there are questions that you need to ask in this moment of crisis. Think about the stakeholders that matter to you. What would reasonable people appropriately expect in your response? What do they need from you in Uvalde texas, what people want are answers. They want to know specifically what happened in that police response. What didn’t happen? Where did they fall short? Where is the accountability? So, if you are ever in that situation, you’re the leader, you’re planning with the leader, you’re a part of that team. Trust becomes the consequence if you do not properly plan. So, the questions to ask, did we fulfill a promise? Did we do what we were expected to do? Were expectations met? And did we do both of those things while showing our values? Because our values help you with those promise those promises, those plans and help you with those expectations. You need to map out these expectations these promises.

If you’re lacking your trust will plummet with your stakeholders and when stakeholders feel betrayed their strike? And they do that by asking questions, they ask them loudly and they asked him very publicly. So, if you’re in that situation or you know, you’re headed into that situation, the questions that often that leaders often ask themselves in the middle of a crisis, it’s the ones they lose sleep over is wondering like why are they under attack? You know, why don’t, why don’t people like us, why are they acting this way? Why do they do this to me? And how did we get them to do this to me? Why does everybody hate me right now? If you can’t ask that question, you can’t lead, you can’t lead.

Especially now in a crisis, Beware of the 48-hour window, the time between the event and that crisis trigger. You have two full days of a new cycle. Again, not just a nightly news hit. We’re talking about every moment, every hour of the day. If you have two full days, that means the press is in place, people are paying attention, and you need a crisis plan Because everything happens in 48 hours.

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