Crisis PR during the government shutdown – stuck in Grand Teton National Park

What do you do when you’re facing a crisis situation that you can’t control? U.S. government entities are facing this situation now with the partial shutdown of the federal government, including the Jackson Lake Lodge where I am currently staying.

This week, Michael, Heidi and I, all with Fineman PR, are attending the Wilderness Risk Management Conference in the Park Service-operated Grand Teton National Park. Yesterday, all the guests received a letter notifying us that the lodge would have to close its facilities, and all guests would have to leave by Thursday.

First things first, kudos to the Jackson Lake Lodge team for a job well done. Communicating bad news is never easy. The letter was sympathetic, explained the facts and offered assistance to guests who would need to make other arrangements.

When you can’t resolve a situation (i.e., end the shutdown), don’t know when the crisis will end and can’t promise it won’t happen again, stick to communicating what you do know.

As with any crisis, don’t speculate, stick to the facts. If you can communicate that you’re the messenger and not the “bad guy,” your audience will be more patient and forgiving.

As for us, luckily we were scheduled to leave on Thursday so the shutdown didn’t affect our travel plans. And we have this view to put things in perspective:

Sunset in Jackson Hole, WY – Wilderness Risk Management Conference 2013

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