Critical first steps in emergency media management: what to do and when

Checklist: Critical first steps in emergency media management for the first 72 hours in a rapid-onset emergency

The Lead Member Media Manager and CEG Communications will work together with the CO to do the following:

  • CO media focal point: Decide on immediate media focal point in CO and tell all staff to channel media requests through the media focal point.
  • Spokespeople: Identify approved CO spokespeople. Provide CI with spokesperson names, contact info, nationalities, languages spoken and headshots. Ensure all staff are aware that only authorized spokespersons should give interviews. Provide media coaching to spokespeople when needed, and ensure they have updated talking points. CIM can also use their own staff as spokespeople unless otherwise advised. You can create a spokespeople grid.
  • Who’s doing what: Divide responsibilities for handling press releases, talking points, CI member requests, media etc. between LM, CO and CEG Communications. Notify COMWG of who’s doing what.
  • Approval procedures: Agree on approval procedures for press releases, talking points, HIS etc. as per the sign-off protocol in the CI Communications Handbook (page 12).
  • Media strategy: Develop an initial media strategy. Identify any security risks/political sensitivities, advocacy messages, etc. You can find examples here.
  • Deploy Emergency Communications Officer(s) and/or photographer/videographer: Determine if it is necessary/beneficial to deploy an Emergency Communications Officer(s) and/or photographer/videographer. If yes, they should be identified and deployed ideally within 48 hours as per the personnel deployment protocol. Notify COMWG immediately and send contact info for Emergency Communications Officer.
  • Sharing information: Send all approved information to; copy relevant CO/RMU staff. Post press releases, blogs and stories on Reuters AlertNet. Send press releases to
  • Within the first few hours, the following should ideally be sent to CI:CO media focal point info
    • Spokespeople info and headshots
    • Direct quotes/observations from CO staff or CD to use with media or for social media posts
    • Customized pre-approved emergency boilerplate statement (updated as more info arrives)
    • Relevant twitter handles (key CO and emergency staff)
    • Press release
    • CO factsheet (or basic info about CO programming)
    • Photos (from CO preferably, or link to Reuters AlertNet photos)
    • As soon as a CARE person is on the ground: audio clips of observations/quotes
  • Within 12-24 hours, the following should ideally be sent to CI:
    • Blog, story or direct quotes from CO staff
    • Initial short talking points and/or Q&As
    • Dollar handles
    • Number of CO staff: local and international
    • Regular e-mail update(s) with any additional information or guidance
  • Within 48-72 hours, the following should ideally be sent to CI:
    • Initial fundraising target and press release announcing launch of appeal
    • Content for emergency factsheet sent to CEG, who will arrange for design
    • Video (if connectivity permits)
    • Fundraising pipeline (how much has been raised so far)
  • Ongoing activities:
    • Identify and share stories, photos and media hooks featuring women and highlight how CARE’s response is particularly helping/empowering women.
    • Establish a media contact list and a media log to keep a written record of when contacts with the media take place, the name of the journalist and subjects discussed. Alert the relevant CIM if you have contact with a journalist from their market.
    • Proactively develop relationships with media on the ground for maximum coverage.
    • Develop and share ongoing materials for communications use, including further press releases, twitter/social media updates, updated messaging, Q&As, human interest stories, blogs, photos, video, etc.
    • Arrange journalist visits to CARE sites. If a journalist visits a CARE site, have a CARE staff member and preferably the Emergency Communications Officer with the journalist at all times. Provide logistical support to journalists when possible.
    • Assessment of media demand on country office and whether LM Executive Management Team member or CEG leader is needed for reinforcement, to do media interviews and take pressure off CO spokespeople.
    • Be aware of the domestic media reactions to CARE’s presence in the emergency. Work with the CO Communications Officer (if available) to liaise with domestic media.
    • Develop an appropriate response to any negative/inaccurate media coverage.

NOTE: The above timeframes are ideal targets only for rapid onset emergencies. In some cases it will take longer to get certain information, deploy staff, or even contact the CO due to communications difficulties.