1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
2.0 NEWS MANAGEMENT
The media is facing increasing pressure and demands from the public for timely and varied news stories in diverse angles. Media agencies are seeking above all to be the one-stop conduit of information for their audiences and the understanding of these pressures and angles can help organizations to not only cope with media attention but to also turn it to its advantage.
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News management according to Underwood (2010) is the process by which organizations attempt to take control of the flow of news to the media and setting the agenda for the media. The media will always want to set the agenda- which is what they consider as newsworthy. Organizations, ranging from businesses to political institutions all leverage this tactic to either establish a positive reputation or counteract public scrutiny in its activities. This is done through; issuing of press releases, holding press conferences and staging events which is also very powerful as a strategy to influence the media in its coverage.
News agencies are considered to act as gatekeepers by seeking events and defining stories. The defining of stories that are newsworthy or not is done through a set of criteria called news values (Underwood, 2010). News value, as a criterion helps determine what makes a story and also, can make into the news. The selection of news events is determined by the creation of reality through choices of journalists related to their professional standards and what a journalist or editor considers an event is what they see to be an event and can make the news. For example, the opening of a multinational bank will make a potential news item than the same bank hiring new executives. Organisations can play the media at their own game through news values. For example, a political government choosing to announce details of an embarrassing report on the same day a latest report of an arrest of a corrupt official or an epidemic outbreak is announced. The arrest and epidemic issue may fit the media’s angle and thus rendering the report overlooked.
News management within the context of political organisations is seen as a practical solution for governments and political actors to use the media in furthering their political goals. According to Pfetsch (1999), a particular selection and shaping of news is dependent on the institution, political and media context of a country. With political organizations’ objective of controlling information on the public agenda, through shaping media coverage makes news management an important factor. Political actors use news management as a way to manage contingencies, considering instances when the media is fed with information and the organisation still has no power to control the main news coverage.
Framing and Spin-control are some of the strategies political organisations employ to control information. Framing as a structure of meaning and interpretation is seen to be connected to message contents, the media and the situation at hand (Klandermans, 1988). Spin-controlling is also a technique that is employed by political organisations in news management to fix results from happenings and to manage expectations of events about to happen (Bruce, 1992). This technique is used by organisations to stress more on features that is attractive to the target media and also avoid the features that are considered undesirable. For example, during election night news coverage, defeats in elections are interpreted as victories in front of television cameras.
A typical example of a spin was the news during the September 11th World Trade Center came falling and Jo Moore sent Stephen Byers (Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and Regions) her boss a memo proposing “it’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors expenses?” Unfortunately, the memo got leaked and she was reprimanded by her boss and there was a media onslaught and outrage. But on her part, it was a cynical spin which suggests she was able to divert attention on the serious event that has happened (Sparrow, 2001).
Every organisation is potential for media scrutiny and needs to be prepared any time. Organisations always strive for brand recognition and reputation building through activities using public relations and advertising strategies; however, the media’s coverage during any event can be unsatisfactory. Therefore, when a crisis event hit an organisation, it isn’t difficult to see the media coming to knock on the door step to seek stories that are newsworthy.
Organisations ultimate goal in news management should be to influence by all means possible what kind of news should appear in the media in any situation. Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has hit by a strain of influenza virus, has its image to protect in this crisis and as an organisation, it can only influence media coverage through setting the agenda for the media through an effective news management strategy.
An epidemic outbreak believed to be an influenza virus has come to the notice of the management at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Ghana. Several cases have been reported within the last 3 hours and seven people including three children are now hospitalized and one passenger reported dead from the influenza virus but in another country.
The KIA is an airport that has facilities and offers services in line with international standards. KIA has seen more than 2.6 million passengers in 2013. The recent reported a case on the passenger who died of the epidemic was reported to have been on a trip to Thailand.
The international airport has structured standard procedures to handle and protect the lives of passengers through its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) but the media in Ghana is criticising KIA on its poor cleaning routines and hygienic practices in controlling the epidemic so far.
As the media relations officer of KIA, this strategic plan is devised to manage the news and also counteract any media onslaught concerning the influenza epidemic.
The aim of this plan is to get the public informed about the influenza outbreak, provide safety actions at the airport and to also assure the public with the trust and confidence of putting the crisis under control. The plan also seeks to counteract any form of media scrutiny and protect the reputation of the KIA.
The following are the objectives of the strategic media plan:
- To install confidence to travellers at the KIA and how management is working effectively to keep the outbreak under control within 72 hours.
- To inform and communicate facts on the outbreak and minimize rumours before the end of the second day.
- To promote a positive understanding of the epidemic response, mitigation and control programs in place by the end of 48 hours’ time.
- To maintain confidence and order in the safety and operations at KIA by the end of the week.
3.0 THE CRISIS COMMUNICATION TEAM (CCT)
In the development and implementation of a strategic plan, the first step is the creation of a team who will plan the response and provide the media with all details pertaining to the influenza outbreak at KIA. All the employees will be informed with measures on the influenza epidemic but authorised not to respond to any media enquiries. The CCT will include the following:
i. Director of Airports
The Director of Airports is Dr Gani and has been serving in that office for 15 years with vast experience and knowledge on the business at the KIA. He will be in authority to direct, control and coordinate the overall management of the epidemic crisis. He will work closely with his deputy in to oversee all measures put in place to control the epidemic and also manage all the section/team heads.
ii. Health and Safety Director
Mrs Ganira as the director will be playing a very important role. She will be responsible for coordinating all health and safety functions during this emergency at KIA. She will coordinate with all departments and provide messages and information regarding safety conditions to help minimize the outbreak. She will also coordinate with health services for emergency responses and quarantining of affected passengers.
iii. Public Information Officer (PIO)
Miss Claudia will be responsible for managing all media enquiries and assists in the preparation and dissemination of information and brief the media before a press conference. Supervise and monitor all information for accuracy and consistency before being discharged into the public domain via the media. She will prepare the spokesperson for any press conference or interviews and also train him on regular basis. She will be in-charge of the Media Information Centre (MIC).
- Chief of Operations
Mr Saah will lead the operations section in the development and implementation of the health standard measures. He will ensure the planning and logistics functions support at KIA. He will support the MIC with operational information. He will identify the deployment and actions of each team and also someone to keep a log on all activities throughout.
3.1 DESIGNATED SPOKESPERSON
In considering someone as the spokesperson for the team, factors considered include someone who is a real communicator, has a respectable public figure and the media are familiar with and can convey accurate and important messages to the media and public. With such qualities, no other person can occupy that other than Mr Godwin, who is the Deputy Director of Airports. With his vast experience in his past work history as the director of operations for the Ministry of Health, he suits the position to be the spokesperson for the crisis team.
3.2 TIPS FOR THE SPOKESPERSON
Every spokesperson is expected to know or possess some characteristics to be able to engage and utilise the media to the organisations advantage. The following tips are considered and followed to gain some form of representation from the media.
- He must know the policies of KIA and be informed thoroughly on any current information before engaged by the media.
- Show empathy with those affected but not using words like “we regret…” which might make it look like a lawsuit.
- During interviews or Press conferences: When reporters or journalists put up sticky questions to him, he must answer them but will bridge them to the key messages he wants to convey.
- Must avoid “No comment” phrase. He will need to avoid replying questions with that phrase he do not want to answer. Appropriate answers can be, “I don’t have that information with me now. May I research it and get back to you?”
- And avoid using jargons or acronyms when speaking with news reporters and stick to the facts.
4.0 KEY MESSAGES
The key messages play a very important aspect during crisis communication. They need to be few in number, short and concise to the public through the media. Other factors considered for key messages include giving positive action steps, not speculating, use of pronouns and cut-to-the-chase. The message map below shows the key messages to be used.
Table 1: Message map for the influenza pandemic crisis
|Key Message 1||Key Message 2||Key Message 3|
|The influenza virus did not originate at KIA.||The health of passengers forms KIA’s utmost concern to protect||Travellers are safe to travel through KIA.|
|Supporting Information-1||Supporting Information-2||Supporting Information-3|
|Nobody is reported dead at KIA||Best efforts are on-going to control the outbreak.||Cooperation with other International airports has been established.|
|Supporting Information-1a||Supporting Information-2a||Supporting Information-3a|
|All passengers are being screened and affected passengers will be quarantined.||Cleaning routines and hygiene practices have been increased by engaging Ministry of Health Emergency Service – Cleaning department||KIA is doing everything in its power and possible best to detect and track any strain of influenza.|
5.0 STRATEGIC MEDIA CHANNELS
Media agencies are every time seeking above all to be their audiences’ avenue for information and make it important for the organization to meet its needs. It is imperative for organizations to establish positive relationships with the news media to help build partnership during any situation.
KIA has built a positive relationship with key news media agencies in the capital. Therefore during this crisis, KIA’s goal is to be accurate, timely and reliable with its news coverage. There are a wide range of available media channels KIA can employ to disseminate and engage the media to reach its audience. However, the success will depend on the unique and best conduit for widest possible audience. The following will be considered by KIA.
5.1 Press Conference
The first action to be taken when KIA has news on the influenza strain within 1 hour to 2 hours is to extend an invitation to media representatives (See Appendix A for Ghana’s media) to attend a press conference. This will help project KIA with an authoritative image and with a credible message during the crisis. To do this, the press statements will be brief, true, and accurate. As first official information, the key messages will include elements like expression of concern for passenger’s welfare, confirmed facts and action steps, the process, commitment statement and where to go for more information and the spokesperson will stay on the key messages throughout.
The next within the 2 hour period of the crisis it to create a crisis page on KIA’s official website and updates will be continuing on any new development on the epidemic at the airport.
5.3 Press release
Within 3 to 5 hours period, possible topics would have been identified and press release sent to both the traditional and social media. They will include facts on the epidemic at KIA, and will stay on the key messages 1, 2 and 3. A media kit will be included with detail facts sheets on the crisis at KIA.
5.4 Social Media
Considered as the fastest and uncontrolled channels for information travel, KIA will engage the public through key social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. YouTube channel will also be used for broadcasting the information on the epidemic.
All key messages will be tweeted often as well as images posted. This will help inform and give details on the epidemic at KIA and users can also engage with the team to know how the crisis is being controlled. Continues updating will be done.
Twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org and all posts will start with a hash tag (#).
Since radio listening is one of the most listened media outlets, KIA will leverage this tool to reach the wider public through news shows and live talk shows within 42 hours of the crisis. ‘Talk radio’ will provide KIA an opportunity to speak directly on important health messages and share the actions KIA is taking to protect passengers and the spread of the influenza epidemic in the region. (see Appendix B for list of radio stations KIA will be hosted on)
6.0 MONITORING INFORMATION FLOW
It is critical to monitor the news on both the traditional media and social media to identify and rectify rumours or misleading reportage. KIA will establish a Media Information Centre (MIC) to function as a central point for all epidemic-related communications and queries from the media. The MIC will serve as the media-monitoring office to monitor all news and make immediate responses.
Ghana’s media enjoys a high degree of media freedom and thus can pose a threat to organizations during a crisis event. They are free to criticise authorities without fear with a lively press and an often phone-in programs on many radio stations. Radio is the most popular medium with over 200 stations and many of them based in the main cities. The State-run media is the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). The key media will be listed for the purpose of the plan
|Press||Private / Public & Times||Coverage: High-Low|
|Daily Graphic||Public – Daily||High|
|Daily Guide||Private – Daily||High|
|The Ghanaian Times||Public||High|
|The Ghanaian Chronicle||Public||High|
|The People & Places||Private||Medium|
|Accra Daily Mail||Private||Medium|
|GBC 1 & 2||Public||Medium|
Source: BBC (2013)
Schedule for Talk Radio shows
|Radio Station||Show||Time Frame||Audience|
|Citi FM||Morning Breakfast Show;
Mid-day News &
|8:00am – 9:00am
5:30pm – 7:00pm
|Everyone especially the literates (only English)|
|Joy FM||Mid-day and Joy Drive Home show||12:00pm
|Peace FM||3kwansu Show||3:00pm – 5:00pm||Everybody (both local and English language)|
|Radio XYZ||Morning and Evening News||6:00am & 6:00pm||Everybody (both local and english)|
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SPARROW, A. 2001. Sept. 11: A good day to bury bad news. [online] Available on: //www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html [Accessed on 6 January 2015]
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