This is a continuation of the Don’t Taze Me Bro’ discussion. Joe Hice, Associate VP, Marketing & Public Relations at the University of Florida was kind enough to share some insights on how he and his staff responded and what they went through to deal with an emergency situation.
Please understand that this is all in the context of conversation among PR professionals and not an official communication from the University of Florida. For that, go to the University President’s Web Page.
Joe estimates that he had a staff of seven working full time for a week week responding to messages. They received approximately 10,000 email contacts and more than 600 phone messages in three days. “We responded personally to every one in the same format the message was delivered in,” Joe says. “Even those whose demeanor was less than pleasant received an email, fax, phone call, etc., from the university. As a result of the personal responses we received dozens of comments back thanking us for taking the time to address concerns.”
Joe emphasizes that in every response they directed people to the University President’s web page. “That page was our key information outlet and on that page we posted a message and updates from the President, a complete copy of the police report filed at the time of the incident, our UPD policy on the use of force, and a video of the President’s press conference the day following the event. We’ve pledged to post new information such as reports from our own UPD’s internal investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a report being prepared by a panel of students and faculty as it becomes available.”
Joe says that the phrase has probably already become University lore; “kind of like three national championships in 13 months or $518 million in research funding last year, etc. And the ‘don’t tase me, bro’ quote will be with us all for some time to come. “
I’m sure he’s right that it will become part of UF folklore, but it will never be much more than that. It’s certainly whimpering out as a national rallying cry. It was, as I mentioned in the last blog, good theater for the moment and the masses are already on the scent for the next great act.
Joe adds that “the issues of free speech on campus and the importance of open and honest discourse have been highlighted. They have always been priorities of the university and of our President; even more so today.”
Joe says they can’t measure the impact the incident will have on UF. “I am hopeful that the work we’ve done in promoting the concept of a larger Gator Nation that embraces people and ideas from all walks of life will help us through this situation,” he says. “As we say in our campaign, ‘There is no bond stronger than the one formed when you become a member of The Gator Nation’ and events like this draw us closer rather than tearing us apart.”
Advice to colleagues? “I’d stick to what I’ve always said in the presentations I’ve done on crisis communications and the web: be as open, honest and transparent as possible when dealing with your students, faculty, staff and other groups that are important to you, including the media. Respond quickly with information that you know to be accurate, but don’t rush to quickly to judgment. And be prepared for an extended stay in the office. It’s 24/7 when something like this happens.”