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).
1.1 CARE’s communications principles
1.2 Roles and responsibilities
1.3 Follow-the-sun protocol for global emergency communications coordination
1.4 Multi-country disasters
Being prepared for an emergency is critical. An emergency is not the time for educating staff about media work! Below are some basic tips for being prepared to handle media in emergencies.
Checklist: Before an emergency: be prepared
- Ensure media and communications are in your Emergency Preparedness Plan. What support will you need if an emergency hits? Are there any sensitive issues you need to be aware of, like ethnic divisions, political controversies, government view of NGOs? How will you manage communications in an emergency if there is an Internet outage or the mobile network is down?
- Identify your spokespeople. This will likely be the CD and ACD, and Emergency Team Leader if you have one. Ensure they have media training.
- Identify your media focal point. Who will handle media requests until an Emergency Communications Officer is deployed? This will likely be your Communications Officer if you have one, or your ACD or Emergency Team Leader.
- Implement a CO Media Policy. Ensure your staff know what to do if they are approached by a journalist. Monitor national news for information relevant to CARE’s work.
- Ask your Lead Member for media relations training for your senior staff so you have the skills and confidence to handle media interviews in an emergency.
- Have communications equipment on hand. Ensure you have a camera, branded clothing and stickers, etc.
CARE International Members:
- Ensure media and communications are in your Emergency Preparedness Plan. What support will you need if an emergency hits? Do you have holiday coverage for spokespeople or to ensure sign-off, or to launch an appeal? Does everyone know their roles and responsibilities? Do you have a pre-approved statement to post on your website immediately after a disaster strikes to show CARE is prepared to respond?
- Do you have a staff member on the CI Roster for Emergency Deployment (CI-RED)? Having a staff member on the CI-RED increases your chances of having one of your nationals deployed to an emergency, which can be of interest to your national media and ensure you have a native speaker available for interviews.
- Identify who is your communications focal point for emergency media. This person should be monitoring your media on a regular basis for angles of new and ongoing emergencies that would be of interest in your media market.
- Clarify your approval procedures. Who do you need to sign off your press releases?
- Identify spokespeople in your office and ensure they have media relations training.
- Coordinate with fundraising. Who can sign off on launching an appeal?
- Develop a list of key contacts: photographers, journalists, videographers etc.
2.1 Before an emergency: be prepared
2.2 During an emergency
2.3 Critical first steps in emergency media management: what to do and when
2.4 Communications guidelines for slow-onset or chronic crises
Most COs do not employ a full-time national Communications Officer, so an Emergency Communications Officer may need to be deployed to meet CI communications requirements. Either through the CCG call or in direct talks, the Lead Member and the CO, in consultation with CEG Communications, will advise if they need support in deployment of an Emergency Communications Officer. If support is needed, the CEG HR Coordinator will immediately consult with CEG Communications to determine who is best suited and available to deploy. An Emergency Communications Officer will usually be deployed for two-three weeks to support CARE’s emergency response. If a CO does have a Communications Officer, they will work closely with the ECO. Deployment should follow the standard personnel deployment procedures as described in the CARE Emergency Toolkit Chapter 21: Human Resources.
If you are deploying as an Emergency Communications Officer, see the (What to do when deploying as an Emergency Communications Officer?) checklist. Funding for communications deployments should be covered by project proposals, or through interim funding through the Emergency Response Fund (ERF) or LM; if this is not possible, CEG Communications can ask ERWG/COMWG members if they would be willing to contribute funds. See Communications Budget in Emergencies for cost estimates for communications positions. At the end of a deployment, the ECO must provide a written or verbal handover to CEG Communications and whoever will be responsible for managing any future communications for the emergency, including the media log, updated media strategy (if available), and any outstanding tasks.
Whether or not to send an Emergency Communications Officer depends on:
- size and scope of the emergency including anticipated impact;
- capacity of the CO to manage communications needs;
- potential for negative media coverage or risk to CARE’s programs and staff;
- level of media and donor interest;
- potential for the ECO to support CARE advocacy or fundraising objectives;
- specific interest of one or more CIMs who are willing to offer communications capacity or funding to deploy an ECO;
- uniqueness of CARE’s response (does CARE have a unique story to tell?)
Mega or “corporate” emergencies (Type 4): Additional communications support will be required for Type 4 emergencies. See Annex 13.5 Checklist for Type 4 mega-emergencies for full detail.
Ongoing or protracted emergencies: Emergency Communications Officer(s) are deployed for two-three weeks on a rotating basis during periods of high media interest or critical changes in the emergency; OR a national Communications Officer is hired and trained for longer-term coordination of the situation; OR funding is secured for a long-term deployment of an Emergency Communications Manager.
3.1 Go Kit for Emergency Communications Officer
3.2. Protocol for Hiring Photographers in Emergencies
When deployed to an emergency, the Emergency Communications Officer is seconded to CARE International and works on behalf of all CI offices. Different CARE offices will have different needs for communications materials; what may be of low media interest in one country may be extremely newsworthy in another. It is therefore the responsibility of the Emergency Communications Officer to work with COMWG and the CO to anticipate and respond to media requests and opportunities worldwide. While each emergency will be different, the following are the main communications activities required in an emergency. In some emergencies these will be quite simple, but in others they may be more complicated; media outreach for an earthquake will be fairly straightforward compared to media outreach for a multi-country conflict, for example. An ECO or CO Communications Officer should use as many different tools as possible to get coverage in traditional media and social media: meeting regularly with reporters, taking reporters on visits to the field, posting on social media, issuing press releases, setting up and doing interviews with journalists, writing op-eds, sending tailored ‘pitches’ or story suggestions to individual journalists or publications, etc.
4.1 Conduct a rapid communications risk assessment
4.2 Create a media strategy
4.3 Approvals and sign-off procedures
4.4 Sensitive or controversial issues
4.4i Simplified emergency sign-off procedures
4.4.ii Natural disaster or complex emergency – sensitive issues
4.5 Boilerplate emergency statement for rapid-onset emergencies
4.5.1 Example boilerplate emergency statement: Haiti 2010
4.6 Press releases
4.6.1 Including Maternal Health Figures in a Press release
4.7 Talking points, key messages and Q&As
4.8 Social media
4.9 Media training
4.10 CO Media Policy
4.11 Working with journalists in country and arranging journalists’ visits
4.12 Working with local media
4.13 Communications with Disaster-affected Communities
4.14 Maintaining a media log
4.15 Coordinating with Communications Officers from other NGOs, the UN, and donors
Sharing and storing information in an emergency is critical, as CARE offices worldwide need rapid and ongoing access to up-to-date, accurate information to share with donors, media, governments, policy makers and the general public. See the CARE International Communications Handbook for detail about information sharing and storage.
5.1 Sharing information throughout the CARE confederation
5.2 Sharing information within the CO
5.3 Storing documents
5.4 Sharing photos and videos
5.5 Sharing major media hits
5.6 Global information e-mail lists
Checklist: Key communications materials in an emergency
- Prepare and circulate human interest stories, blogs, photos and video to CI.
- Provide regular Twitter and social media updates.
- If time permits, prepare op-eds, audio files, photo galleries and other creative material.