The Ferguson, Missouri case spread nation-wide like wild fire and sparked civil unrest throughout many communities. While civil unrest is expected with national court cases involving racial matters, there are some ways that it could have been minimized. In the beginning of the crisis, some would say that Ferguson officials made a big mistake. The video of Michael Brown robbing a convenience store was released with good intentions. It was supposed to deflect the opinions of the public who associated Brown with the image of an innocent child. However, information later came out that this store robbery did not go hand-in-hand with the incident including Officer Darren Wilson. So, was it a good call or a bad call to release this video?
From the perspective of a public relations professional, the answer to this question is debatable. Because the robbery wasn’t directly related with the Darren Wilson incident, some would say that the video is not relevant and was strictly released to put positive attention on Officer Wilson. On the other hand, some would say that is is important to paint a true picture of who Michael Brown really was. He wasn’t a sweet, innocent boy who was shot and killed by a racist officer with no cause. The world now saw him (or at least some of the world), as a 6 ft. tall man with a criminal background. In this particular situation, it is hard to say whether the video should have been released or not. In other situations, you should ask yourself, “Is this video truly beneficial to this case?” Weigh out the pros and cons of releasing such information. Also, try to empathize with your audience; would they want this information to be released?
Following the grand jury decision not to indite Darren Wilson a few weeks ago, complete uproar struck Ferguson. Innocent bystanders watched as their local businesses burned to the ground or their cars were vandalized. With proper crisis management communication, this civil unrest could have occurred on a smaller scale. Below is a list of crisis communication tips that officials should have implemented:
1. Communicate with the public and press on a daily basis. Holding daily press conferences with updates on the matter establishes trust between you and your public.
2. Establish counseling or community outreach centers for those affected by the crisis. Local churches could also have been utilized here.
3. Create a social media page to release updates immediately. Online publishing is much faster than a scheduled press conference.
4. Monitor social media. This could have been a great deal of help following the grand jury decision. Locations of protests and criminal acts could have been identified.
5. Last but not least, enforce a curfew. This is a bit extreme, but this could have saved many destroyed buildings, cars, and a lot of injuries.