Lessons in crisis communication from the U.S. Army

A case study from the PR Daily Media Relations Conference

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The U.S. Army provides lessons for communicators crisis communicators.

U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen was reported missing from Fort Hood in southwest Texas on April 22, 2020.

On July 3, the Army confirmed that remains found near the Leon River in Texas belonged to Guillen.

During those two months when Guillen was missing, the U.S. Army was tasked with leading a crisis response as her disappearance became first a regional and then a national news story. And, according to former U.S. Army colonel and current communications director at Spirit AeroSystems Joe Buccino, that response did not always put empathy front and center.

Buccino spoke at PR Daily’s 2024 Media Relations conference about the U.S. Army’s crisis response to Guillen’s situation. He shared where their response fell flat – and what communicators can learn from their mistakes.

From his experience in both the Army and the corporate world, Buccino says to throw out your crisis comms playbook and instead lean on instinct.  Rejecting the rigidity of a crisis framework allows for a faster response because a formula may not fit situations that are complex and require empathy.

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