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Crisis Communications

A crisis situation can have a lasting impact on a university’s image and reputation. Therefore, it is important that we relay information to the media in a crisis situation with extreme care.

When information is released, every effort must be made to avoid misunderstanding, misinterpretation or confusion. Once a misconception takes root, it is always difficult and often impossible to make a full correction.

In the event of a major crisis on campus, it is essential that an effective communication play be put into effect to disseminate timely, accurate information and to ensure that inquiries are routed to the appropriate sources.

Distribution of Information

University Marketing and Communications, working in conjunction with campus leadership, is responsible for developing and distributing all UW Oshkosh communications during a campus emergency. Such communications may include internal communication with students, faculty and staff as well as interactions with the media. During a crisis, University Marketing and Communications will place priority on communicating with the media and will provide complete, accurate and confirmed information about the emergency situation and the University’s response. During a crisis, we will work to supply verifiable details to the news media as rapidly as possible. This may be done through personal contact, telephone, fax transmission, radio feed, video feed, background session or news briefing. After releasing information, UMC will monitor the news coverage and quickly correct any errors that might be made.

In the event of an emergency, the UW Oshkosh website will be used to update the campus and the public with details about the situation and the University’s response.

In the event of a widespread campus incident/disaster, a media center may be established. The media center may provide workspace for reporters, power, telephones, internet connection, campus and community directories and maps. A communication information center also may be established, if a high volume of incoming phone calls are expected.

During a campus emergency faculty, staff and students have a right to not speak with the media. The media has access only to the public areas. Any situations where individuals feel a reporter has abused their rights should be reported to Peggy Breister (

The communications objectives during a time of emergency are:

  • Ensure timely release of accurate information.
  • Communicate verified facts rather that speculative information.
  • Facilitate the flow of information.
  • Promote and protect the welfare of involved personnel and their families.
  • Retain employee, student, public and news media confidence in the institution.
  • Use a crisis, when appropriate, to educate the public on broader issues raised by the crisis: how we’ll prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, what programs we have in place and what we’re doing now.

Information that is speculative and should not be released:

  • Estimates concerning the extent of damage in dollars cannot be accurate during the first hours of an emergency and are best released later when verified.
  • Estimates concerning the length of time it will take to get a damaged facility back in operation.
  • Speculation on cause and blame placed on any individual, agency or piece of equipment.
  • Estimates of original costs.
  • Comments on judicial or administrative processes in which findings have not been issued.

When the crisis has passed, University Marketing and Communications will supply the emergency management team with a summary of news coverage.

During a crisis situation, the following steps will be taken:

  1. Review and note known facts. Determine those which can and which cannot be released and create fact sheets that can be distributed to the media and/or posted on the University’s website.
  2. Develop key messages that will be used to communicate with the media and the public.
  3. Determine who will act as spokespeople and conduct any last-minute media training. Ensure that spokespeople have copies of the most recent news releases or fact sheets.
  4. Carry out a web response. The University will use UW Oshkosh Today as a primary source of updates, linking from there to other pages with detailed information. If necessary, UMC will create special pages or sites about a situation, linking them from UW Oshkosh Today and the University’s homepage.
  5. Assign communicators to handle incoming phone calls. Maintain a log to record all calls and interview requests from the media.
  6. Open a media center in Reeve Memorial Union, if necessary. In a time of crisis, establishing a media center should be a priority. If needed, the media center may be relocated to the Oshkosh Sports Complex, should the immediate campus area be unsafe.

Members of the crisis communication team who will work alongside the emergency response team:

  • Alex Hummel, Chief of Staff – Chancellor’s Office
  • Karl EasttorpMarketing Director
  • Trevor Clementi, Associate Marketing Director