Crisis Communication with Kristi Wyatt

By: Taylor Carfield

Crisis communication is a huge part of the public relations industry.  This Wednesday, TXST PRSSA was fortunate enough to have Kristi Wyatt, Director of Communications of the City of San Marcos, give us the run-down on how to effectively handle tough situations from a PR perspective.

Wyatt, a former PRSSA member, got her start in the television news industry, where she worked for Fox News for a year.  After spending her time in the television industry, Wyatt found her calling here in the city of San Marcos. Crisis communication soon became a passion of Wyatt’s after dealing with a few major natural disasters in the first months of her newfound career.

After a major website breach, the Memorial Day and the All-Saints Day flood was no match for Wyatt and her organized public relations agenda.  All of these listed disasters took place in the beginning of Wyatt’s Director of Communication career and taught her many important lessons that she shared with us.

  • “Establish trust with the community before a crisis. Once a crisis happens it is too late to establish the relationship that you want with your audience.” Wyatt stressed the importance of using your social media as a news source. Posting reputable information regularly will make your account an authorized source on your specific topic. If your social media handles are known for accuracy, your audience will turn to you in a time of crisis.
  • “Be Present” There are a lot of touchy subjects and difficult situations to deal with during a crisis. Make sure that you’re present and aware of everything happening. Be aware of sensitivities of the situation that the crisis victims are facing. People may become frantic in a time of distress and it is essential to be patient and help people to the best of your ability.
  • “Pictures are the Kings and Queens of social media” Share photos and videos that come from your audience members in order to get a perspective that you might not have in the office. Pictures and videos speak great measures and receive a substantial amount of feedback and engagement; use that to you advantage in spreading the word.
  • “Sometimes wrong stories become true just due to sheer numbers” Try to get the correct information to the media as soon as you possible. If someone else puts out a rumor and it goes viral, it will be known to the public as the “truth.” Therefore, rumor control is a huge aspect when dealing with a crisis. While you can’t control what every person is saying in the media, it is important to debunk major rumors that are being spread. Stay on top of rumors by sharing press releases on your social media accounts and stay tuned in to what the public is saying through the use of hashtags.
  • “Take time to maintain your sanity” Crisis communication can be incredibly stressful. Handling disasters effectively can sometimes be a 24-hour task. Wyatt emphasized that you need to remind yourself to take a break and that you cannot do everything for everyone.
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Left: Guest Speaker, Kristi Wyatt. Right: PRSSA President Kristen Torrez.

We would like to thank Kristi Wyatt for such an informational speech. We learned so much from her experiences and advice.

To stay informed about crisis communication, follow the City of San Marcos on Twitter.

For more information contact Kristi Wyatt at, kwyatt@sanmarcostx.gov.

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One thought on “Crisis Communication with Kristi Wyatt

  1. Thanks for having me! It was a pleasure to share information with such an intelligent and engaging group. Just a quick note on my experience. I worked in the broadcast news industry for almost 7 years (three station, FOX Houston was the last.) I’ve worked in the government communication space for nearly 9 years. Just want to make sure you all know that it takes some experience and trails and errors to master crisis communications.

    Look forward to future collaboration with Texas State PRSSA!

    Kristi Wyatt, Director of Communications & Intergovernmental Relations for the City of San Marcos

    Like

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