Reputation management – reacting to the St. Patrick’s day riot

It’s been almost a week now since over 1,000 youth rioted in London, Ontario. What was the issue they were rioting over? Freeing a wrongful accused prisoner? Advocating for the rights of the less fortunate? No – it all had to do with the fact it was a warm St. Patrick’s Day.

While the images of a television van bursting in flames with youth throwing items onto the fire went viral, emergency, City and Fanshawe College officials coordinated their response.   Happening less than a year after the now famous Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, BC, the officials in London were wise to implement lessons learned from the west coast incident.

The response from the London Police and City of London was quick and terse. Official didn’t mince words – calling the actions disgusting and disappointing. They used language most people following the story would have in conversation with friends. They promised to take swift action, and officials at Fanshawe College quickly set up an email address for people to provide photos, videos and tips.

When a crisis hits, it’s important to get out infront early on. In this case, police responded while the crisis was occurring – showing their involvement. In the days following, officials from the police, City and college consistently presented a united front. They tackled tough questions head-on and had consistent messaging.

While the events of the night are regrettable, tarnishing the image of a great college, the collective and swift response shows the importance of crisis communications in managing an issue and calming public concern.