Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Case Study: the New Mexico Treasurer's Office

Imagine being at work one day and the FBI shows up. They seize all your equipment, forbid you from using your cell phone and even monitor your trips to the restroom. Oh yeah, they've arrested your boss and you've only been the government communicator there for six weeks.

That's what happened to Jodi McGinnis Porter one day, who at that time worked in the New Mexico Treasurer's Office. She shared her story with attendees of NAGC's 2008 Communication School in Albuquerque.

She was allowed to use an FBI phone and call her husband to let him know she wouldn't be able to pick up the kids that evening. "Why?" he asked. Her response: "I can't tell you but turn on the TV and I think you'll figure it out."

Porter was put in a difficult position. The media was all over the story, but she had no computer to work on. She borrowed the laptop of an FBI PIO and was only allowed to fax out a statement.

For the next several weeks, she had to put up with working in a closely-monitored office, a boss who ignored growing public sentiment to resign, editorial cartoons blasting the office, and growing stories of new allegations.

She built trust with reporters and learned a lot of lessons about crisis communications. While she now works for another agency, she has a new respect and appreciation for those who have to deal with such a crisis.

How would you handle her situation? Has something similar happened to you?

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