Effective communications with the media are critical to East Georgia State College's ability to carry out its mission and promote continued support for the college.
Effective media relations best serve the college by:
•Informing the public of what we can do for them
•Promoting the college's achievements, activities and events of significance
•Expanding the general visibility of the College
•Ensuring that accurate information is conveyed to the public regarding incidents and issues of a controversial and/or sensitive nature
The director of public relations, along with members of the President's senior staff, serve as official college spokespeople and convey the official college position on issues of general college-wide impact or significance or situations that are of a particularly controversial or sensitive nature. Inquiries from the media about such issues should initially be referred to the director of public relations.
Depending on the specific circumstances, the president or the director may designate another college administrator to serve as spokesperson on a particular issue.
In cases of critical significance to the College, the director of public relations will work with other college officials to develop a written statement outlining the known facts of the situation and summarize the college's position. He/she may also develop a reactive Q&A. Public responses will be published to the College's website in a timely and efficient manner.
In the event of a crisis or emergency situation, the director of public relations will handle all contacts with the media, and will coordinate the information flow from the college to the public. In such situations, all campus departments should refer calls from the media to the office of public relations.
Dealing With The Media
Members of the faculty and staff are free to respond to requests from the media regarding their research, scholarship, teaching or professional expertise. In such cases, the director of public relations should be notified as soon as possible to inform him/her of the contact. Such notification can be particularly important if follow-up inquiries are made with other college personnel to ensure a coordinated, consistent college response. Media inquiries should be referred to the director of public relations if they involve issues with college-wide significance and/or are of a controversial or sensitive nature.
The Public Relations Office promotes the college through press releases regarding special accomplishments, events and activities, programs and plans. All releases intended for off-campus or external audiences should be routed through the director of public relations.
Since positive media solicitation is an integral element of the college's communications program, any ideas for articles or pieces that would positively portray the college, its work or its community should also be directed to the public relations director. Likewise, the office of public relations should be notified about negative occurrences that are likely to rise to the level of a news story.
Guidelines for communicating with the media when the issue is non-controversial and limited to the faculty/staff member's area of expertise:
•Obtain the name of the person calling, the media organization and, if available, the anticipated time of release of information in print or broadcast. This information should be included when the notification is made to the office of public relations.
•The best approach with the media is to be prompt, helpful and honest. All contacts from the media should be returned as soon as possible, in deference to reporters' deadlines. At the most, a call should be returned within a half-day. If that is not possible, an alternate employee (if appropriate) or the public relations director should be asked to handle the call.
•Make sure you understand each question from the media before answering. If you cannot answer the question, or are uncomfortable providing a response, take the reporter's number and advise him/her that someone who can provide the information will contact him/her as soon as possible. Follow-up by contacting the director of public relations.
•Do not offer speculation or gossip. Do not answer a reporter's question with "no comment." Do not be condescending or underestimate the reporter's intelligence, but make sure the reporter understands your responses. Provide your phone number and/or email address for follow-up questions.
•Remember that in responding to the media, you can be seen as representing and speaking for the college. Personal opinions should be clearly and carefully identified as such.
•Issues that should not be discussed with reporters are 1) legal issues, 2) personnel issues, 3) questions that involve college integrity, such as ethics or issues that may result in harm to others, or 4) a campus crisis or emergency. Refer all such inquiries to the director of public relations.
•Any media inquiries that involve information about specific students should be directed to the Vice President of Student and Enrollment Services. Such inquiries will be handled in strict compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This federal law protects the confidentiality of a student's education record. Information that may be given includes information found in a directory: the student's full name, local address and phone number, dates of attendance and degrees, honors and certificates received, class level (e.g. freshman), and academic major(s). Grades may only be provided to the media if a student wishes to release the information in connection with an award or scholarship.
•Any media inquiries regarding EGSC faculty or staff should be referred to the office of Human Resources.
Emergency / Crisis Communications
Crisis communications have a lasting impact on institutional reputation and public support. How well we convey our message to the public greatly depends on what is reported to the news media. This is especially true in a crisis, during which the news media is the primary means of communication to our constituencies. Because of the emotions that usually accompany crises, images formed from crisis reporting are especially important in shaping long-lasting public impressions of the institution.
In the event of a major crisis on campus, it is essential that an effective communications plan be put into effect to disseminate timely, accurate information and to ensure that inquiries are routed to the appropriate sources.
Some general guidelines for handling media relations during a crisis are as follows:
•NEVER say, "No comment." Also, NOTHING is "off the record."
•The rights and well-being of the people affected are paramount to all other considerations. If you are in a position to do so, minimizing loss of life or injury should be your chief concerns.
•Maintain the good reputation of East Georgia State College.
•Show that you care.
•Provide accurate information. If you don't know the details, don't guess or assume; refer inquiries to the director of public relations or official spokesperson.
•Avoid legal problems.
The priority will be on maintaining timely and open communications with the media, providing complete and accurate information that has been confirmed about the emergency situation and the college's response to the crisis at hand. Communications with the media will be conducted throughout the duration of the emergency situation. The EGSC website will be utilized as a key medium for updating our campus community and the public on the details of the emergency situation and actions we are taking to address all related issues.
A media center will be established in the event of a widespread campus incident/disaster. The media center will include workspace for media personnel, electricity, telephones, Internet connections, campus and community directories and maps. A media pool of representatives from print and broadcast media outlets may be appointed to establish rules of conduct for the media.
In a campus emergency faculty, staff and students have a right not to speak with the media. The media has the same access to campus as any other member of the community, so it is important, especially during a crisis or emergency, to be vigilant about what you say and who you are saying it to. Any situations where individuals feel a reporter has abused their rights should be reported to the director of public relations.
A communication information center may also be established, if a high volume of incoming phone calls are expected.