Case Study

A State University


A state university in the Midwest seeks to bridge the gap between operational preparedness and stakeholder communication in a crisis.


Crisis Preparedness, Planning and Communication


As a public university, this higher education institution follows the framework of the Federal Emergency Management Agency) National Incident Management System (NIMS) for crisis preparedness. While NIMS provides valuable operational guidelines for incident and crisis management, it falls short on communications procedures. The university needed to bridge that gap because organizations in crisis are judged not only on how well they respond operationally, but also how quickly and effectively they communicate with stakeholders.

With the help of Standing Partnership, the university developed a crisis plan that includes clearly defined roles for the marketing communications team members, aligning operational crisis response with a strategic communications response.


Standing Partnership audited the university’s existing crisis plans and worked with the university’s marketing team to identify key stakeholder audiences. Armed with that information, we made recommendations on how to best synchronize the operational plan with the resources of the school’s Office of Marketing and Communications. We worked with the university to develop a plan for prompt and efficient information dissemination in crisis situations that aimed to:


  • Create a process by which the communications function was notified in the event of a crisis; and
  • Divide responsibilities among members of the marketing communications team to communicate with specific stakeholder audiences and assist with crisis communications.


We also conducted media training with key personnel with crisis communications management responsibilities, including the school’s chief of police and select members of the marketing communications team.

Standing Partnership equipped the university to respond in a crisis. An updated notification protocol helped the university’s team members familiarize themselves with the new responsibilities. The plan outlined emergency scenarios – from minor to major – and included detailed responsibility descriptions for each role by level of emergency. In addition to the key roles of assistant vice chancellor and public information officer (listed in the NIMS operational procedures), we prepared members of the marketing communications team to deliver prompt and comprehensive crisis communications support, including:

  • Media monitoring;
  • Communication with internal audiences;
  • Media and public outreach; and
  • Communication with the broader community.

The updated plans, expanded role descriptions and the media training exercises increased the confidence of the university’s marketing communications team in handling a potential crisis.