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Conference Recap: 4 Crisis Communications Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombings

October 29, 2013

After nearly 12 years with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Jerry Berger, director, media relations, found himself in the midst of an unprecedented event.

Out of the reported 264 people injured in the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, April 15, 24 people were taken to his hospital.

But the crisis continued to escalate: Berger’s supervisors called him into the hospital at 3 a.m. on Friday, April 19. Authorities had suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in custody and they were en route to Beth Israel. Medical officials pronounced Tsarnaev dead 15 minutes after his arrival.

“Things really got crazy” later that night, Berger said, when police captured the second suspect, Tamerlan’s brother Dzhokhar, who was also brought to the hospital’s emergency center.

During his professional development session at the 2013 PRSA International Conference on Monday, titled “‘Rules, What Rules?’ Crisis Response During the Boston Bombings,” Berger shared four key crisis communications lessons he learned in the aftermath of the marathon bombing.

  • Rules, what rules? All staff should know the rules about talking to the media so you can speak in one, clear voice.
  • All hands on deck! Coordination among the communications team is vital.
  • Paper remains useful. Keep printed lists of contacts and other key information for when you work remotely with just a cellphone — or a landline.
  • Social media is your friend. But it’s also a potential enemy that needs to be constantly monitored. — Kyra Auffermann

Read more

Code Red: When the ‘Biggest Story in the World’ Unfolds in Your Lobby, The Strategist


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