Dealing with a crisis of some capacity within your local Little League® program is, unfortunately, a reality and it may just a matter of when a crisis will occur. To help prepare for that moment, be sure that your local league has a Crisis Communications Strategy that each of your league officials is aware of and can implement when the time comes.
Identify a Spokesperson
The most important thing to do when a crisis emerges, no matter the size of it, is to identify a spokesperson that can speak on behalf of your league to both the media and to your constituents. This person is often times the League President, but doesn’t necessarily have to be. The spokesperson for your league should be someone that is well-spoken, knowledgeable about how the league operates, and understands Little League’s Official Rules and Regulations. When a crisis emerges, it is important to have the spokesperson be the one to communicate all information, statements, and updates to both constituents and the media to ensure the information is consistent and delivered properly. When multiple people from your league begin dismaying information, rather than your spokesperson, that information can often become misconstrued and lead to further confusion and potential issues.
Keep Everyone in the Loop
The most important thing during a time of crisis is communication. When things aren’t going right, everyone is going to turn to the spokesperson for information and updates to know what is happening. It is important to keep everyone informed of what is happening in a timely manner, without giving too much information out before it is known. When sharing information and updates, it is important to first notify your League Officials and District Administrator (D.A.) of the situation. Once information becomes available, and has been communicated effectively to your league officials and D.A., a general statement explaining the situation and/or what actions will be taken place should be shared with your constituents (i.e. parents, volunteers, and coaches) as well as to the media to keep them apprised. If there are potential legal implications, your league’s Board of Directors may wish to hire an attorney to help assist the league in handling the situation and in reviewing any potential statements.
Everything is Public
No matter what you may think, any information that you share (whether in an email, on social media, or to the media) becomes public information. Carefully think about what you are sharing at all times, not just when a crisis occurs. When a crisis does happen, it is important to create a statement that you can rely on as a response to both constituents and the media that is easy to digest and provides important updates. It should be expected that anything that is sent to your constituents will likely end up with the media, so keeping the two communications consistent is very important.
Creating a Statement
Creating a statement on behalf of your league is typically a good first step when a crisis occurs, and can become a response that your league relies on to provide updates to both your constituents and to the media as you figure out the situation. A statement should provide general information and updates, without providing too many specific details or binding information that may cause damage in the future. Statements should contain generalities (such as “will continue to work with” or “in the near future”) rather than specific deadlines and promises (i.e. “we promise to resolve this issue” or “we will have a decision by 5 p.m.”) that may change as information becomes available. You should feel confident that your league’s statement can be used in response to any inquiries, from media or your league’s constituents, until the situation is resolved or more information becomes available. Most importantly, keep in mind that the media may use any part of your statement in their reporting, and may not always use the entire statement, so be sure that each piece of the statement can stand alone and support your stance. If the situation is or may include legal action, it’s typically best for the league to approve using an attorney to help in reviewing a statement or assessing if it’s appropriate for the league to make a comment on the situation.
Handling the Media
Building a relationship with members of your local media is important all year long, but can especially be beneficial when a crisis arises. Having that established relationship with the media can create for a more positive dialogue when negativity surrounds your league, which is important when trying to position your statement with the media. While we encourage you to rely on your statement for most situations, especially those of a larger magnitude, you are welcome to participate in interviews if you feel comfortable and that it will not hinder your situation any further. If participating in an interview, it is encouraged to ask the reporter for sample questions ahead of time so you know what to expect, as well as the deadline for you to get back to them. When possible, email or written questions (rather than on-camera interviews) can be beneficial to give you the time to discuss the questions with your local Board of Directors before answering, as well as rely on your statement if you are put in a tough situation.
Read More: Five Tips for Dealing with the Media
You’re Not Alone
At the end of the day, remember that you are never alone when dealing with a crisis. Along with the help from your local league Board of Directors and your District Administrator, always remember you can rely on your Regional Office and Little League International Headquarters if there is ever a question or concern about how you should handle something. Remain confident and utilize the knowledge, skills, and expertise of those around you to get through the crisis and continue to provide memorable opportunities for all those in your league.