Last week, our e-board gathered at 4:30 for our bimonthly meeting held right before PRSSA meetings.
We were going on about business as usual, when the TVs in the Holliday Forum flashed a message on the screens: “Tornado Warning in East Baton Rouge Parish. Take shelter.”
We knew we had been under a tornado watch, and were watching the radar hoping the storm would blow pass. But when the watch was upgraded to a warning, we knew we had to cancel our first meeting of the semester so our members could stay safe. We sprung into action and applied everything we’d learned about crisis communication from class and PRSSA.
Dean Ceppos, our speaker that night, was upstairs in his office preparing for his speech. I notified him of the tornado warning, and he agreed that it was best to keep our members safe, especially those who live on campus and would have to walk through the storm to get to the Journalism Building. Digital Media Director Hannah Alkadi immediately sent out messages on all social media channels (even Snapchat!), and canceled the Facebook event. She actually changed the name of the meeting from “PR Ethics” to “MEETING CANCELED,” so that when guests got the notification that the event was about to happen, they saw that the meeting had been canceled without even opening the notification. After that, Hannah updated the home page of our website so that an alert would pop-up if anyone sought information on our site. President Tara Hebert utilized our text alert system, and texted all our members that the meeting had been canceled. Secretary Marissa Adams sent an email to all our members, and ImPRint Communications co-director JoLena Broussard sent an email to her team. Finally, we posted a sign on the Journalism Building door, in case any member hadn’t seen any of our other alerts.
No matter the medium, we used the same voice and message:
“Meeting Cancelled! Baton Rouge is currently under a tornado warning. Please keep indoors and stay safe.”
We made the decision as soon as we knew we were under tornado warning, and we communicated that message to as many of our members as possible via every communication channel we use.
Thankfully, we are able to reschedule our meeting to 6 p.m. Feb. 11. Dean Ceppos will still speak on the importance of public relations ethics. Hope to see you there!