1. Role of media management in emergencies

A major objective in CARE’s Humanitarian and Emergencies Strategy 2013-2020 is that “CARE is consistently one of the first NGOs in the media following a major emergency.” Emergencies make news, and there is a short window of opportunity to gain media coverage for CARE’s emergency response. Media relations are therefore an integral part of CARE’s emergency response and high visibility is critical to raise funds, mobilize public support and influence policy.

This section is designed for media and communications specialists working on an emergency response, to produce high-quality, media and communications materials and raise media awareness of the emergency and CARE’s response, and for CO and CI Member staff to understand how to manage communications in emergencies. For additional detail about communications in CARE, please refer to the CARE International Communications Handbook and the CARE International Brand Standards. TIP: if you’re in the midst of an emergency, your Number One resource is the Media Checklist: Critical first steps in emergency media management for the first 72 hours in a rapid-onset emergency (Section 2.3).

CARE’s communications and advocacy should reflect that CARE is an independent, non-partisan, non-sectarian organization dedicated to ending poverty and providing humanitarian assistance. CARE’s media work in emergencies should:

Uphold the dignity of those affected. CARE is signatory to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, which stipulates that in our communications and media work, we shall recognize disaster survivors as dignified people, not hopeless victims. We will highlight the severity of a situation and the needs and rights of survivors, but also their resilience and their ability to be equal partners in the recovery and response.

Focus on women and girls. CARE places special emphasis on reaching and empowering women and girls in emergencies, recognizing that they are disproportionately affected by disasters. Our communications should emphasize CARE’s work to help women and girls as well as how women and girls are specifically affected by the emergency.

Do no harm. We will make every effort to ensure that CARE’s communications will not endanger lives, relationships, programs or funding, and have the goal of helping/benefiting the people we serve in the country/situation.

Be grounded in CARE’s expertise and program experience, and based on a thoughtful, credible and supportable analysis of what we know about the issue and impact on the people we serve in the country/situation. We use a serious, authoritative and generally non-confrontational tone.

In an emergency, communications materials will need to be produced, approved and shared extremely quickly, and media requests must be answered immediately. It is very important to be clear in advance who is responsible for what, and to coordinate between the Country Office (CO), Lead Member (LM), CEG Communications and CI Members (CIMs) to ensure needs are met and there is no duplication of efforts.

Position Key responsibilities
Lead Member Media Manager With the support of CEG Communications and COMWG and in coordination with the CO, the LM Media Manager is responsible to: provide emergency media support to their COs; ensure the timely provision of information and communication materials on rapid or slow-onset emergencies; ensure a senior CO staff person is designated as Media Focal Point; arrange for the deployment of an Emergency Communications Officer (ECO) and photographer/videographer if necessary; and arrange for sign-off of advocacy and communications materials according to CI’s sign-off procedures in section 2 of the CARE International Communications Handbook. If an ECO is not deployed, the LM Media Manager will remotely fulfil the responsibilities of the ECO.
CEG Communications In coordination with the LM, CO and COMWG, CEG Communications is responsible to: ensure that communications and media work is effectively coordinated for all emergency responses; and ensure regular production and dissemination of communications materials for new and on-going emergencies. In the absence of CO or LM capacity, CEG Communications will fulfil some or all responsibilities of the ECO and/or LM Media Manager in an emergency.
CO Communications Officer (Please note: most COs do not have a Communications Officer. If there is no CO Communications Officer, the LM Media Manager and CEG will provide remote support until an ECO is deployed, and the CD will appoint a CO Media Focal Point to handle media calls.) With the support of the LM Media Manager, CEG Communications and COMWG, the CO Communications Officer is the first point of contact for emergency communications and provides the immediate communications materials needed after an emergency.  If an ECO is not deployed, the CO Communications Officer will fulfil the duties of the ECO (see below). If an ECO is deployed, the CO Communications Officer works alongside the ECO to meet communications needs, with an extra focus on media outreach to national journalists and beneficiary communications where appropriate. See Annex 13.1 for a sample TOR for a CO Communications Officer.
Emergency Communications Officer The Emergency Communications Officer is an expert in communications who may be deployed or appointed from within the CO to support the response. This will be coordinated through the CCG call with the support of the CEG HR Coordinator who is responsible for deployments. The CEG HR coordinator will consult with CEG Communications to determine which individual either in CEG or on the CI-RED is most appropriate and available to deploy and support. With the support of the LM Media Manager, CEG Communications and COMWG, and in coordination with the CO, key responsibilities of the Emergency Communications Officer include: act as main contact for journalists and CI members for media requests; arrange media interviews with CARE staff; act as spokesperson when appropriate; arrange media visits to see CARE’s work; produce and disseminate communications and media materials such as talking points, press releases, stories, blogs, photos; manage/hire photographer or videographer; develop media strategy; train CO staff on media relations; and share news updates and media angles with CI. See Annex 13.2 for a sample TOR for an ECO. Note: For large-scale emergencies, the ECO may be replaced by an Emergency Communications Manager, a longer-term position. See Annex 13.3 for a sample TOR for an Emergency Communications Manager, and see section 3 for more detail.
Country Director (or Assistant Country Director or Emergency Team Leader) If there is no CO Communications Officer, the CD, ACD or Emergency Team Leader are usually the first point of contact for information about the emergency. Responsibilities include: approves communications materials as per the CI sign-off procedures; conducts media interviews; provides necessary information for the production of communications materials; in consultation with CEG through the CCG, ensures and supports timeliness of communications/media support to the CO to raise the profile of the emergency and supports media and CIM visits. If there is no CO Communications Officer, the CD will appoint a CO Media Focal Point to handle media calls.
COMWG The Communications Working Group (COMWG) is a network of all communications and media experts in offices across CI. Responsibilities of COMWG members include: raise awareness of CARE’s emergency responses and ongoing emergencies through all available media channels; provide support as needed for the production of media and communications materials; in coordination with the ECO, prepare media materials for their own national market. Full COMWG TOR here.

Follow-the-sun is a method of interdependent working in which responsibility for global emergency communications coordination passes between CEG, CARE USA, and CARE Australia according to working hours in different time zones. From 09:00-18:00 Central European Time, CEG Communications is responsible for global emergency communications coordination; when responsibility transfers to the Media Advisor at CARE Australia or the Director of Communications at CARE USA under the follow-the-sun protocol, they will then be referred to as the ‘Office-in-Charge for Global Emergency Communications Coordination’.

The Office-in-Charge will fulfil the duties of CEG Communications, including coordinating emergency communications activities, producing and sharing communications materials, and providing communications support to the CO (see Table 1.1 for detail). If it is a sensitive issue/country, the Office-in-Charge for Global Emergency Communications Coordination will call the relevant Lead Member for any necessary approvals, regardless of the time. Click here for the COMWG contact listClick here for a list of countries and their Lead Members. At the end of their ‘shift’, the outgoing Office-in Charge will provide any necessary handover information via e-mail or phone to the incoming Office-in-Charge. The Follow-the-Sun protocol applies seven days a week. NOTE: CEG Communications retains the authority at all times to intervene if needed or mediate any differences of opinion regarding communications coordination in emergencies.

Time (Central European Time) Office-in-charge for Global Emergency Communications Coordination
9:00-18:00 CEG – Geneva
18:00-00:00 USA – Atlanta
00:00-09:00 Australia – Melbourne


Example of follow-the-sun in practice:
 If an earthquake hits Indonesia (CARE Canada LM) at 05:00 Central European Time (23:00 Ottawa time, and 13:00 Melbourne time), it is the responsibility of the CARE Australia media team as the Office-in-Charge for Global Emergency Communications Coordination to coordinate emergency communications and produce communications materials on behalf of the confederation, until CEG Communications take over communications coordination at 09:00 CET. At 18:00 CET, CEG passes the role of Office-in-Charge to CARE USA. Note: when the Office-in-Charge is not the LM, they will offer support LM as per the roles and responsibilities of CEG Communications outlined in Table 1.1.

NOTE: If it is a large disaster with high casualty rates, and/or high media interest and/or extensive damage, the first office to hear of the disaster is to call CEG Communications OR the CI Humanitarian Director/HEO immediately, regardless of the time.

In the case of an emergency that affects multiple COs, particularly with multiple LMs, coordination will be especially important in order to ensure that communications is effectively coordinated between all affected COs, materials are signed off quickly, and that all public communications reflect CARE’s regional presence and response to the emergency, and not just the response in one CO. While each multi-country disaster will be unique, the following steps should be followed:

  1. The affected CO or CIM is to immediately contact CEG Communications (or the Office-in-Charge for Global Emergency Communications Coordination; see Section 1.3 for detail about Office-in-Charge and the Follow-the Sun Protocol) before issuing any public communications. CEG Communications (or the Office-in-Charge) will be responsible for overall communications coordination.
  2. CEG Communications (or the Office-in-Charge), in coordination with CEG will declare that it is a multi-country disaster and inform COMWG and the involved COs and LMs.
  3. CIMs and COs can tailor emergency communications materials to their market, but they must include information about CARE’s regional response, impact or presence in all affected countries.
  4. In situations where multiple COs are involved, CEG will work with the affected COs and LMs to develop a streamlined sign-off procedure for communications materials. See Annex 13.4 for an example of regional sign-off procedures .