Lessons in PR: Learning from Disaster, 9/11

9/11.

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Communication served as a vital means of restoration during 9/11 – from the press, from businesses, from people and from PR practitioners. – Photo Credit: Imani Lewis at the Newseum

For any person in America, these numbers convey the horrific events of that day in 2001. This weekend, I  visited the Newseum’s 9/11 Gallery and experienced some flashback moments of my own. Despite feeling sad, I left inspired. The press showed heroic dedication to document what happened that day. History is grateful for them.

 After visiting the exhibit, I was curious to know about similar actions of PR practitioners during 9/11 and how crisis communication played a part in the recovery process. After a bit of research, I found an article by the Harvard Business Review, “Crisis Communication: Lessons from 9/11” discussing the key means of crisis communication during 9/11 that were critical to connecting with employees and reconstructing business life. The author Paul Argenti listed several steps in successful crisis communication of which I have the three following takeaways.

Focus in, then out

At Ground Zero, several  corporations made reconnecting with their employees the priority in the first few days following the attacks. It provided sources of comfort and opportunities for executives to uplift business associates through frequent and sincere communications.

Be friends with the media

With many channels of communication inoperable, businesses had to depend on the media to reach their employees and publics. As the Newseum exhibit evidences, being able to work well with the media was crucial.

Redirect  passions

During the aftermath of 9/11, many businesses used their employees’ passions to aid in relief efforts to build rapport and to encourage unity. The businesses pushed the idea of providing service to customers in need as a means of keeping up the quality standard.

Learning about 9/11 at the Newseum exhibit and reading about it has helped me understand the key points of crisis communication. As a future PR practitioner, it was inspiring to learn how these tactics made real change for people in need.

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