Research Project: AV Production Team Crisis Communication Plan

Heather Haynsen
COM 562
July 20, 2018
Final Communication Report

1. Introduction
The Matthew McCann Audio/Video Production Studio (AV) is a team of audio and video specialists within Pearson’s Online & Blended Learning (OBL) division. Founded in 2011 by McCann, AV’s mission as a shared resource is to create high quality, innovative, and cohesive audio and video products for internal clients throughout OBL. Internal clients include Curriculum, Training, Marketing, Human Resources, and Public Relations, though all AV products relate back to supporting OBL’s schools and the families those schools serve. McCann’s motto “We grow together” serves as a constant reminder that all products and personnel are interconnected.

This Crisis Communication Plan (CCP) describes policies and procedures for organizing information and communication within AV, OBL, and outside agencies as necessary during any emergency or controversy encountered while in production. AV defines “production” as any time staff is gathered solely for the purpose of recording video and/or audio media, during which time production staff may not have communication access. Potential crises include natural disaster, injury, criminal activity, students in distress, or employee misconduct.

Although Pearson employs approximately 30,000 people globally, the six person AV team based in Columbia, MD are the only employees who engage in production, which often takes place at third-party sites outside of Pearson’s control. This uniqueness warrants a specific CCP.

The AV CCP is targeted to all staff, independent contractors, and volunteers involved in AV production, and the plan is only in effect only during production.

2. Possible Crisis Scenarios
The potential threats faced by AV during production are numerous and serious. As part of OBL, threats and crises that have the potential to harm students are of the utmost concern. Since OBL is a virtual-first company and all of AV’s content is digital, cyber security is also an ever-looming threat. Other threats include natural disaster, injury, and employee misconduct.

Most students attend OBL virtual school in the comfort of their own homes, where the most dangerous and delicate of threats can arise. While filming in a family’s home, AV staff must be on guard to detect students in distress and when possible, take action to alleviate the situation immediately. Many individuals feel heightened stress while being filmed, and it’s pertinent that AV staff be able to differentiate situational distress versus issues that students may face continually from their home environment. This threat is diminished when filming school field trips or students in the AV studio, but it should never be forgotten entirely.

Cyber security encompasses everything from the safety of student and employee data, to digital file storage, to social media presence and beyond. Currently, varying teams within OBL and their independent contractors are charged with these different types of cyber security, but AV needs to do their part to follow recommended procedures and act in a forward-thinking manner at all times.

Natural disaster, injury, and employee misconduct during AV production are less of a priority to guard against. Many potential threats involving students in distress and cyber security could likely occur in tandem with employee misconduct, injury, or even natural disaster. AV employees are trained on proper policy and procedure that seeks to minimize threats of all kinds.

3. Stakeholders
During a crisis or threat scenario, the primary stakeholders of AV production do not change from normal operating procedure. Stakeholders identified in the initial Audio/Video Project Questionnaire document continue to be of primary concern, as those colleagues have built stronger relationships with the talent involved in production than the AV department is able to build. In a crisis, Project Stakeholders likely have better working knowledge of the area and situation than AV will.

Other than the pre-designated Project Stakeholders, there are several types of people who fall into the traditional category of “stakeholder” in a crisis situation:

    Talent (can be external to OBL)
    Families of those involved in production
    External organizations involved with production
    OBL and global Pearson team members
    Students & families attending OBL-run schools
    School board officials
    Governmental agencies who provide OBL funding
    The media
    Community partners
    Local residents

AV will obtain person cell phone numbers for on-set talent and emergency contacts for everyone involved in production. Contact information for other stakeholder categories will be discussed in pre-production meetings and added as pertinent for the type of set and filming. This list will be included on the production call sheet and e-mailed to all crew no later than two days prior to filming. There will also be a printed version of the full call sheet packed into the main camera bag for every production.

4. Incident Management Team & Action Plan
As communications professionals, the AV team is well equipped to develop messaging during a crisis or threat situation. However, as part of the Curriculum Product Development division of OBL, they are not allowed to do so. AV’s involvement in crisis messaging will extend only to persons currently involved in production, their emergency contacts, and the Manager of AV Production.

During production, AV typically works in a team of three Specialists with one or more project Stakeholders, and talent. One of the Senior AV Specialists will be designated crisis communications liaison prior to production; typically this will also be the Producer for the shoot. When communicating with those three designated groups, the AV liaison will draw on their expertise in crafting educational material to deliver only verifiable facts in a positive, clear, and steady manner. Messaging will be proactive, notifying necessary stakeholders as soon as a crisis has been identified.

As part of this initial messaging, the liaison will express concern for all affected by the incident, provide stakeholders with a callback number and estimated time until next update, and provide stakeholders with helpful actions to take (if possible). In the event that production occurs in an area with no cell phone reception or WiFi, the liaison will leave (if able) to find an area where contact can be made with first with the AV Manager, and then other stakeholders.

Furthermore, AV will draft a holding statement to be used as an acknowledgement, which aids in speed and consistency of delivery (basic draft in 6. Media Relations). A printed version of this statement will be kept in the main camera bag with the call sheet.

If possible, one member of AV will continue recording as the crisis or threat unfolds, in order to create an unbiased account of the incident. However, the health and safety of everyone involved in production is of the utmost importance.

5. Joint Information Center Participation
All AV productions operate with the bare minimum of employees; therefore it is not within the scope of our Crisis Communication Plan to operate a Joint Information Center (JIC). The appointed liaison will act as the Lead Public Information Officer (PIO) on location or on set during production, but only until contact with the AV Manager or other appointed project stakeholder has been established.

Once the AV liaison has relayed the situation to the appropriate authorities, either OBL corporate, the OBL business unit, or the third party corporation at which production is taking place will then form a JIC in conjunction with their respective CCPs. However this is not a complete hand-off of the situation from the AV liaison; s/he will function as the Field PIO until the production site is closed.

Here AV is in a unique position to transfer their production from the crisis situation into the Information Gathering arm of the JIC that takes over. If possible, the AV manager will contact remaining AV staff to switch out with the staff present during the crisis situation. Rotating staff will be in charge of bringing additional audio-visual equipment for the JIC that may not have been on hand during earlier production.

Since this AV production CCP is very limited in scope, and the AV team is often needed throughout an organization in times of crisis, addressing the four major functions of the JIC are difficult, but possible. On scene, and later as part of the JIC, the AV team will gather information necessary for communicating with corporate and the public. During the original incident, the AV liaison will be in charge of disseminating information to appropriate high-level stakeholders and emergency contacts. However, functioning as part of Operations Support and Liaisons is more difficult with AV staff’s clearance and skillset. Those functions will need to be fulfilled by the larger corporate office that operates the JIC.

6. Media Relations
The OBL AV team does not possess clearance to publish or speak to any content, either internal or external. In a crisis or threat situation, this does not change. The appointed AV liaison for the production day is authorized to contact only project stakeholders, production personnel’s emergency contacts, and emergency services.

OBL, OBL business unit, or a third-party production site will exclusively handle media relationships and media contacts. Project stakeholders will determine this responsibility prior to AV authorizing production. Under no circumstances will AV be left in studio or on location without the designated project stakeholder. The AV Manager is not a substitute for a project stakeholder. In such cases as the AV Manager is present during production, she takes the role of AV liaison, though this is an unlikely scenario.

During a situation in which the AV liaison must notify project stakeholders of a crisis or threat situation, the following template will be used: “While filming [project name], an incident occurred that we need to make you aware of as the high-level project stakeholder for this project. [Describe incident, steps taken to rectify incident, state whether production was cut short or will finished, verify names of everyone present.] Please share this information with [OBL, OBL business unit, third-party production manager]. If you have any further questions while we [finish filming, head back to the office, take shelter, etc], please contact me on my personal cell phone [phone number].”

For production personnel’s emergency contacts, the following template will be used: “Hi [emergency contact name], this is [AV liaison name] with Pearson Online & Blended Learning’s Audio Visual team. While filming with [production personnel’s name] for [project name] at [location], an incident occurred that we need to make you aware of. I know as an emergency contact, you never expect to actually receive a call, and I’m very sorry to have to call you under these circumstances. [Describe incident, steps taken to rectify incident, state whether production was cut short or will finished.] We are deeply saddened by this incident and are working with [OBL, OBL business unit, third-party production manager] to investigate what lead to this situation and how to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again. If you have any further questions while we [finish filming, head back to the office, take shelter, etc], please contact [OBL, OBL business unit, third-party production manager] at [phone number].”

6a. Social Media
The use of social media by AV falls in line with their approved clearance for traditional media. However, the use of social media is ubiquitous in our society and if a crisis or threat is widespread, friends and family of AV staff will turn to social media for updates. For that reason, the main objective of production staff using social media during an identified crisis or threat situation is to note their safety. AV may note their safety and, remaining positive, name others involved in production who are also safe.

Secondarily, as production often takes place outside of normal business hours, AV staff may be asked to monitor the social media accounts of OBL, an OBL business unit, or Pearson corporate until the proper staff becomes available. Again, as AV staff cannot log into any of these accounts, they will be tasked with noting public concerns, misinformation, or anything else deemed appropriate by management.
Staff may have a variety of personal accounts across multiple social media platforms, and the objective of asserting their safety applies strictly across all those accounts. Monitoring functions will cover the four main social media sites over which most OBL-affiliated businesses hold accounts: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. Based on how many AV staff are present during production (typically three), monitoring will be divided up accordingly.

7. Maintenance
This CCP will be reviewed, revised, and approved by the AV Manager and Senior Director of Multimedia Standards & Design every January. Additionally, this plan will be reviewed, revised, and approved whenever there is a change in the number of AV staff or their job titles.