The recent tragic collision of a commuter train with a Union Pacific freight train that killed 25 people and injured at least 130 others is a recent example of poor handling by an organization faced with a crisis.
Denise Tyrell, spokesperson for Metrolink, has resigned following the train’s board chair calling her comments to the media “premature” and also “unauthorized.” Tyrell had said that Metrolink, and specifically the engineer driving the train, were responsible for the accident. Her comments and the timing of them also angered the National Transportation Safety Board.
It’s a safe bet that the commuter train umbrella organization, Southern California Regional Rail Authority, did not have a crisis communications plan in place that, among other points, would have identified a decision tree and protocol for when and what to communicate as well as by whom, to whom.
While Tyrell likely believes she did the right thing by getting out in front of the crisis and commenting to the media, she did so alone and only with the authorization of the CEO who (surprise, surprise!) is now unavailable for comment.
Yes, getting your story out first when dealing with a crisis is a top priority. But it’s a distant second to having a crisis communications plan in place that includes a detailed media relations strategy, media policy and protocol.