Pol-Crisis Communication

policy crisis communication modified Mon Oct 31 2022 10:12:47 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

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University of Louisville



Crisis Communication


July 1, 1995*




This policy applies to the University Community (administrators, faculty, staff, and students).


The University of Louisville is committed to taking a pre-emptive approach to public relations crises, using disclosure whenever possible as the preferred strategy for preventing or minimizing public relations crises.

No one is authorized to speak to the news media in a crisis without clearance from the Office of Communications and Marketing.


Crisis Prevention

Communications and Marketing will maintain regular contact with vice presidents, deans, directors, department heads, campus police, and faculty, staff and student leaders, advising the appropriate administrator(s) when internal issues or developments appear likely to lead to public relations problems.

Similarly, UofL's administration will regularly notify Communications and Marketing of internal developments that may escalate into public relations crises.

Communications and Marketing also will monitor local, state and national news coverage of higher education, advising the appropriate administrator(s) of issues and/or trends that might lead to negative stories.

Crisis Response

When crises erupt, Communications and Marketing will gather and verify information about the crisis, assess the severity of the crisis, and develop strategies concerning how information is to be released, who should speak for the institution and who is to be notified.

The office also will work out logistical details of releasing information and distribute verified information as quickly as possible to internal and external audiences.


For terms of this policy, a crisis is defined as “A significant disturbance in the university's activities which results in extensive news coverage and public scrutiny, and which has the potential to cause long-term public relations damage.”

  1. Foreseeable crises 
    1. Crisis assessment
      Senior Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing (or his/her designee) will be notified immediately of an emerging crisis. 
      1. Senior AVP will confer with the appropriate U of L official(s) to assess the nature and severity of the crisis. 
        1. Senior AVP may be able to devise a simple strategy to forestall the crisis, particularly if it is confined to a single U of L unit.
        2. If issues and events are of sufficient complexity that they require input from several U of L units, or if a simple strategy is not likely to be effective, the Senior AVP will recommend to the University President (or his/her designee) that a crisis team be quickly formed.
    2. Formation of a crisis team
      Senior AVP or University President (or his designee) will assemble and chair a crisis team made up of the highest-ranking officials available from the units involved in the crisis. 
      1. The composition of the team will vary according to the situation.
      2. The crisis team will convene in the President's Conference Room unless another meeting location is specified by the President or his/her designee.
      3. At the session, the Senior AVP will: 
        1. Gather as many details as possible.
        2. Recommend strategies for internal and external communication.
        3. Select an appropriate spokesperson (see University Spokesperson).
      4. Final approval of the recommendations will rest with the University President (or his/her designee).
  2. Sudden crises 
    1. When the sudden occurrence of a severe crisis precludes convening a crisis team, the following emergency procedures will take effect: 
      1. Senior AVP will: 
        1. Be notified immediately of the crisis.
        2. Be apprised of all known facts/background.
        3. Have direct, priority access to the President or his/her designee to develop a "first-wave" communication strategy.
      2. Communications and Marketing will implement the strategy immediately upon approval by the President or his/her designee.
    2. After implementing "first-wave" communication strategy, the Senior AVP will assist in forming a crisis team to develop ongoing strategy.
  3. Establishing a clear line of communication 
    1. Communications and Marketing will be authorized to gather and verify information in a crisis, and will be the only department authorized to release information. 
      1. A representative of the operating unit "working" the crisis will quickly supply Communications and Marketing with all known details.
      2. All news media contacts will be directed to Communications and Marketing.
  4. Releasing information internally 
    1. Whenever practical, Communications and Marketing will attempt to inform U of L employees of crises before details are released externally. 
      1. Communications and Marketing may: 
        1. Notify U of L units by telephone, personal contact or courier.
        2. Issue a campus-wide alert through the UofL Alert system.
        3. Issue news bulletins through U of L's administrative computer email network and on the university's main page on the World Wide Web.
        4. Post details on UofL News.com.
        5. Distribute informational flyers.
        6. Set up a telephone hotline.
        7. Offer follow-up coverage on www.UofLNews.com and via the university’s computer email network.
  5. Informing outside parties 
    1. Communications and Marketing will coordinate notification of outside parties likely to be affected by or strongly interested in the crisis. 
      1. Whenever practical, attempts will be made to: 
        1. Inform affected parties of impending media calls.
        2. Supply them with written information before it is distributed to the news media.
        3. Notify them of any planned U of L news briefings.
      2. The U of L officials with the closest working relationships to the parties will handle actual notification.
  6. Releasing information to the news media 
    1. Communications and Marketing will work to supply verifiable details to the news media as rapidly as possible. 
      1. This may be done through personal contact, telephone, email, FAX transmission, radio feed, video feed, background session or news briefing. 
        1. It may become necessary to schedule periodic news briefings.
    2. After releasing information, Communications and Marketing will monitor the news coverage and quickly correct any errors that are made.
  7. Evaluation and follow-up 
    1. Communications and Marketing will document the news coverage surrounding a crisis, including wire stories, newspaper articles, radio and television broadcasts.
    2. When the crisis is past, Communications and Marketing will supply the crisis team with a summary of news coverage. 
      1. Members of the team will review this report and evaluate U of L's performance under fire. The team will note: 
        1. Overall success or failure of the crisis communication effort.
        2. Problems to be avoided in the future.
        3. Appropriate follow-up measures.
      2. Upon request, Communications and Marketing will report the findings of the team to the President's Office.

Communications and Marketing will be responsible for developing crisis communication strategies.

Final approval of these strategies will rest with the University President or his/her designee.


Senior Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing


Office of Communications & Marketing

2323 S. Brook Street, Louisville, KY 40208




*This policy has been in effect since at least July 1, 1995.

Revision Date(s): June 30, 2016

Reviewed Date(s): June 30, 2016

The University Policy and Procedure Library is updated regularly. In order to ensure a printed copy of this document is current, please access it online at http://louisville.edu/policies.