A Guide to Crisis Communications: Rick Martin

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Written by Associate Director, Crisis Communications, Rick Martin.

We are thrilled to have expanded our global Crisis Communications team here at Kenyon Emergency Services, following the arrival of Rick Martin, who joined us in February 2024 as an Associate Director, Crisis Communications.

As part of his onboarding, we had the opportunity to explore his past experiences in crisis communications and learn about his insights into effective strategies for managing crisis communications. 

Join us as we explore the critical world of crisis communications with Rick Martin.

Can you tell us about your previous experience in crisis communications roles?
As the key spokesman for a local county government, I was responsible for delivering safety messaging to citizens through the COVID pandemic. Sharing this information while people were isolated in their homes was quite challenging, but essential. My team's can-do attitude made overcoming obstacles easy and with technology becoming more advanced, we were able to utilize and maximize social media for effective messaging. Notifying the public what was open and closed was valuable for the citizens of the community of Georgia I was responsible for. I worked with the County Health Department often to make sure we had the latest up to date information possible.

As the former Communications Director for Douglas County, Georgia, I was also responsible for responding to serious accidents that would cause our interstate roadway to shut down. This would impact thousands of motorists. I would not only respond to the scene of a fatal tractor trailer crash, but at one time, I responded to the scene of a school bus accident and conducted a live broadcast via Facebook to warn people to avoid the roadway and use alternative routes.

I also served as the key spokesperson during severe weather emergencies including hurricanes and deadly tornadoes, often informing people how to be safe. I would broadcast this from the Emergency Management Operations Center.

How do you believe your past experiences will contribute to the effectiveness of our crisis communications efforts at Kenyon?
I believe my past experiences will contribute to the effectiveness of our crisis communication efforts at Kenyon because I have an attitude of never giving up on our clients. Empathy with our clients and a vast number of diverse experiences helps me bring continued success to our way of always anticipating the clients' needs. Anticipating and staying ahead of what the client wants to know is very helpful. 

Why is crisis communications during and following an incident so important?
Crisis communications is so important because it helps with the trauma of a situation. Communication during a crisis helps bring calm and manage emotions. Often people dealing with a crisis want to be heard, therefore the power of communicating so the client is able to listen intently, helps dramatically.

What strategies or approaches have you found most effective in managing communication during a crisis?
Be consistent, be available and be transparent. My experience working in a global newsroom such as CNN for nearly 12 years has equipped me with the strategy of anticipation, on what the media or public wants to know. Working in the capacity of specializing in breaking news for nearly 30 years, I have the strategy or let's say the playbook of preparation on key story elements; who, what, where, when. Having this knowledge has been helpful during my experience as a communications executive. 

How do you ensure transparency and honesty in communication while still protecting sensitive information during a crisis?
Telling the truth is critical to obtain maximum buy-in. You must establish trust and provide accurate information during a crisis. It's important because sometimes the outcome of a crisis may not be immediately known. For example, if there's a building collapse and there's mass casualties, it's important to not estimate the number of deaths, rather just state 'believed fatalities' and not guess a number. 

As we continue to navigate the complex landscape of crisis management, Rick's expertise will undoubtedly bolster our readiness to effectively address challenges, protect reputations, and, most importantly, provide compassionate support to those impacted.