navigating a national crisis on behalf of the oakland county prosecutor
On Nov. 30, 2021, just before 1 p.m., authorities received the first 911 call reporting an active shooter at Michigan’s Oxford High School. Eleven people had been shot, and three students were reported dead that day. As word of the tragedy quickly spread, the eyes of the nation turned to the small suburban town in Oakland County, Michigan, located 40 miles outside of Detroit.
In the hours following the incident, Identity was retained by the office of Karen McDonald, Oakland County Prosecutor, to coordinate the media outreach and crisis response to the tragedy. Identity immediately mobilized an expert integrated team of media and social media strategists who would spend the next eight days providing counsel to the prosecutor’s office and coordinating responses to local, national and global requests from journalists and newsrooms.
Four clearly-defined objectives emerged as Identity drew on decades of crisis communications experience: to provide high-quality counsel and media training, preparing the prosecutor to navigate high-profile national appearances—a new experience for her in this role; to shape positioning on the tragedy, crafting statements and messaging as events unfolded aligned with factual moments in time; to interface with high caliber press contacts, engaging with professionalism and sensitivity; to monitor and analyze the national conversation, using insights to advise the prosecutor on how and when to contribute.
Success for all parties involved meant serving as a resource to the prosecutor’s office and the greater community during a time of fear, grief and great uncertainty. This crisis moment was unlike any other in history for those involved, and the messages communicated in the days that followed the incident may forever change how the general public views school shootings.
strategy for success
Identity deployed the following strategies and tactics in order to help the Oakland County Prosecutor navigate this crisis:
Within hours of the incident on Nov. 30, Identity stepped in to interface with the press and crafted an initial statement for distribution to national and local media contacts. Identity managed all inbound media requests and assisted with the planning and execution of two press conferences, including maximizing space, creating a security plan, and preparing for comments. Additionally, our team moved to identify journalists who would be key players in the news cycle, allowing for quick, effective decision making regarding how and when to engage with journalists and ensuring local perspectives were prioritized alongside high-profile national voices like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. Identity coordinated more than 75 one-on-one media interviews within the week, including 40 interviews with national contacts and outlets, which fed the tens of thousands of media mentions of the prosecutor during this time of crisis.
social media & media monitoring
Identity rapidly activated media monitoring and social listening tools, collecting tens of thousands of mentions throughout the week and analyzing coverage to provide thoughtful counsel on the prosecutor’s response and next steps.
The six reports delivered between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4 summarized all press coverage and digital discussions, which shaped how announcements were planned by the prosecutor’s office to make charges and other information known. By monitoring the national conversation, Identity provided thoughtful, relevant insight into how key political figures—and the general public—were responding to the crisis. These reports also enabled Identity to provide necessary guidance for messaging themes, talking points and other preparatory documents, positioning the prosecutor as a community leader during a tragic time.