Final Project: Crisis Communicator Pitch, for Production Teams

Hi everyone and thank you for tuning in today. I’m Heather Haynsen, specialist in crisis communication for film production teams. A “production team” can refer to any technical staff who work to produce audiovisual content within your company. So, although most corporate employees work in similar office environments, audio/video production staff operate differently, often engaging in their work outside of typical business hours and locations. That’s why it’s important to consult with a crisis communications expert well versed in the workings of production teams.

With over 10 years of experience in communications and in audiovisual production, I have the ideal combination of skills to ensure that your business’s crisis communication strategy encompasses the needs of your production staff. Whether you run a manufacturing company with one employee designated for production, or a large advertising firm with multiple production crews, I’m dedicated to helping you craft a communications plan that addresses those staff members.

Many of you may be familiar with standard crisis communication plans, which encompass possible threat scenarios, action plans, media relations, incident management teams, and more. All of those categories are needed for crisis communication during production, but they’re utilized much differently.

For example, your standard operating procedure may mandate that an employee report a possible crisis or threat to her supervisor immediately, and with good reason. However, when that employee is filming at a location without cell phone service, your thoughtful procedure becomes null and void.

Furthermore, your production team may encounter an unfolding crisis before the rest of your business, simply because they’re filming during evenings or weekends. If they’re the first team to realize an imminent threat, how do they ensure your stakeholders receive the timely, accurate information they deserve?

And lastly, in times of crisis it seems sensible to assign production staff to your business’s joint information center to help deliver content to the media, and in many cases that will be the best course of action. But if they were the team who first identified or encountered the crisis, they may not be up to the task, and there may not be production equipment available to use if anything was damaged during the incident.

So, these are some examples of production-specific problems I addressed in my most recent crisis communication plan, which was designed for the Audio Video Production Team at Pearson Online & Blended Learning. Let me delve into a little more detail.

For Pearson’s AV team, it made the most sense to begin by training their two Senior Video Production Specialists as crisis communications liaisons, as they frequently film without a manager present. This liaison training includes best practices in speaking to production staff’s emergency contacts, emergency services, and the media, as well as basic first aid training and decision-making skills for times in which proper authorities cannot immediately be contacted.

Training crisis liaisons may not be suitable for your organization, and I look forward to working with your stakeholders to see what actions will best fit your production team’s strengths and needs.

Again for Pearson, when working during evenings and weekends, their AV team can lean on the trainings of the liaison, but there’s room for the entire team to be involved. It made the most sense, for their business interests, for each member of the production team to monitor one of Pearson’s social media channels and so that they could report back what community members are saying as soon as the appropriate staff are able to join the crisis communication effort.

Another task that made sense to Pearson was to ask their production team to keep filming the unfolding threat scenario for as long as they feel safe to do so. This allows Pearson to have an account of the crisis situation for their own records, as well as possibly having content to share with the news media.

To address concerns with joining a joint information center, I was able to leverage the fact that Pearson typically utilizes only half of their staff during a production trip. This allows them to swap out team members to help with the joint information center, as long as the recording equipment can make it there as well.

As Pearson’s AV team typically works with three production staff and two cameras, I updated their crisis communication plan to specify in which camera bag their call sheet would be kept during production. Along with that daily call sheet, I drafted holding statements and basic media messages to be printed and kept in that camera bag.

Thinking about crisis preparation in a mobile way like that is crucial when considering what assistance your production team may need. Instead of grabbing papers from a desk or searching for a Google Doc, production staff need a document that travels with them and isn’t dependent on connectivity.

Whether your organization already has a crisis communication plan in place, or is starting from scratch, my expertise will ensure your production staff are covered in any threat situation. I look forward to discussing the specific concerns pertinent to your organization and working out how your production team can be best utilized to meet your overall goals while remaining prepared themselves.

But most importantly, don’t leave your production staff out when considering crisis preparedness; because you never know if they may be your biggest asset.