Keeping words of wisdom in your toolbox will help you when you are put on the spot to answer questions, send a response, or make a statement. It has always been my philosophy to be proactive and not reactive in any situation you face.
We never want to think of a time of tragedy, emergency, or traumatic event, but we must be prepared. The people we serve count on us to be ready and not respond to the emotions that take over in these catastrophic, life-changing events. This is when they need an authentic leader to guide, support, and provide at times of great need.
In my training with new school leaders, I have guided in preparing a resource toolbox of readiness for events we do not want to prepare to face. A few examples are:
- Statement to staff and students (Student death)
- Statement to the public (Student death)
- Letter to parents of the deceased student.
- Announcement of special recognition to remember the deceased student
- Statement to staff and students (Staff members death)
- Statement to the public (Staff members death)
- Letter to the community (Staff members death)
Preparing for Media
Having a media plan is an essential part of your toolbox. Having your leadership team understand how to respond when a crisis or traumatic event occurs helps to reduce the misinformation and confusion if we maintain a strict communication line. When people go off script and begin to put in information, this leads to people inserting statements unrelated to this event.
- Designate a spokesperson (For consistency)
- Maintain an updated folder of talking points for each crisis event until all facts can be gathered for a detailed statement or report.
- Personal and authentic communication is critical in helping everyone deal with the trauma of each crisis we face. Get in front of the cameras and speak directly to those served. They need your calm voice and approach.
- Prepare yourself to expect the unexpected. Have a key person or object to look at. Have a folder with important messages you can share: Calm, Care, Consistency, Concern, and Correct information. C’s the moment before it overtakes you.
As a leader, I have had to, unfortunately, deal with more crises, death, and traumatic events than I wish to report. I am thankful for leaders who supported me during some of the most challenging times. We are emotionally connected to those we serve, work alongside, and the communities we live in and love. Gathering your strength and courage to speak to calm others is difficult when you want to bury your head to grieve. Finding your words can be difficult, so preparing them in advance is helpful. If you are reading this and think this would never happen to me, I hope it does not. However, prepare just in case. If it never happens, it was time spent preparing as a reflection of how important each individual is in the world we live in. Every life we serve is essential!