PR, Media & Crisis Mgt strategy reports

Keeping an eye on the media coverage of July 7th, and taking the media to task over their inaccuracies, mis-leading statements and distortions. Post all your complaints and responses here! If you spot inaccuracies in the media coverage, here's the place to tell us about it.

PR, Media & Crisis Mgt strategy reports

justthefacts
Joined: 05 Jul 2007, 02:18

12 Oct 2008, 22:01 #1

INSIDE STORY: The rapid response units

Independent, The (London),  Aug 8, 2005  by Kate Wiggans

07/07/05 Transport for London chief PR officer Paul Mylrea alerted at 8.51am

The MET's press bureau alerted at 9am of train crash at Aldgate. By 9.10am they knew there were multiple incidents, including explosions

Staff at St Mary's hospital receive major incident warning at 9.26am

By 10am the Muslim Council of Britain had drafted a press release condemning the attacks.

Paul Mylrea

Head of Group Media, Transport for London


By 11am we had taken more than 200 media requests for interviews. We had just revamped our website and the online viewing of press releases increased from 3,775 a day before the attack to more than 32,000 on the Thursday, then almost 95,000 on the Friday. We prioritised the British media, because we couldn't answer everybody; the most important thing was to get the information out

We were concerned about trying to protect our staff from excessive media demands while they were helping the wounded. There were staff who were happy to be interviewed because it was their way of dealing with the issues. We were frustrated by the conspiracy theorists who said we were putting out false information about power surges. It was actually because we were so efficient " we had the information out within 10 minutes of the alert " that we had a power surge. We knew we were dealing with a serious incident, but to define it as a terrorist bomb attack took some time.

Chris Webb

Head of News, Metropolitan Police


The press bureau was alerted around 9am with reports of a train crash at Aldgate. We then started getting reports of an explosion at Aldgate, then the other incidents started to filter in. By 9.25am, all the blue- light services were talking to each other through a conference call that I set up as part of departmental procedure. By 10.15am, we had a better idea of what we were dealing with. We set up the Gold Communications network, which the Met chairs and which looks at the strategic issues in response to a disaster. The director [Dick Fedorcio] and I then went down and spoke to the commissioner [Sir Ian Blair]. We decided to take him to Millbank to do interviews because we had four separate scenes and the media were having difficulty getting through the traffic. In that first week, senior officers did 250 one-to-one interviews, with press officers taking more than 2,000 calls. This is the biggest thing we've ever had to deal with.

Inayat Bunglawala

Public Relations Officer, the Muslim Council of Britain


As soon as we heard about the attack, we began to plan for the worst. When it became clear it was a terrorist attack, we were inundated with questions from the media, and the key was an unequivocal condemnation of a terrorist attack in London.

It was non-stop, we had to put forward MCB representatives for newspaper and TV interviews. In the main, reporting was done responsibly, without seeking to inflame tensions.

However, it was only a few days before Melanie Phillips [Daily Mail] was quoted as saying Britain was too soft in its treatment of radical Muslims. By Thursday night, there had been arson attempts on mosques. We are mostly volunteers. I was fielding calls all day; it was very difficult.

12/07/05 West Yorkshire police on-call press officer called into the office at 3am having been alerted to anti-terror raids at addresses in the area

Nigel Swift

Media and PR Manager, West Yorkshire Police


Overnight on 11/12 July our office got involved when our on-call press officer was called out overnight and worked until the next morning. This meant we had time to prepare, because it was the middle of the night and most of the media weren't working. We are quite a big force and used to dealing with major incidents.

Our tack locally was the public reassurance issue, which we felt was a key thing, not just in terms of the addresses being searched, but the day-to-day crime worries of people in the county. We didn't want them to think they'd been forgotten. We were liaising with communities and offering them assistance " it was a double shock for a lot of them because, on the one hand, they have to deal with potential bombers who've come from their midst and, on the other, they have to deal with a dozen satellite vans parked on their doorstep and the whole area being taken over by the media.

n Aylesbury Vale press office notified they should prepare for possible evacuation of area surrounding Northern Road near town centre. Press conference held the following day

Teresa Lane

Head of Communications, Aylesbury Vale District Council


When we had the raid, we had to set up with the police a press conference time and venue and let local people know what was going on. I also had to protect the reputation of Aylesbury Vale. We're right in the middle of a very big marketing strategy where I'm trying to raise the profile of Aylesbury Vale. There's not much you can do when a bomber has been found in a house in Aylesbury. But what I can do is make sure the media had good factual information like we have nil unemployment here and it's a very prosperous area with great relationships between the different ethnic communities. I knew Wednesday night that the focus would be on community leaders. We have got four or five Asian councillors, so on the Wednesday night we were in contact with them. We had helped set up the two minute silence in Market Square on the Thursday, I had been making sure the Immam went to that. The Thursday when we had the press conference was fairly frantic, I had staff who were meeting the media, showing them where to park, taking them to the venue, directing them to Northern Road, where Jermaine Lindsay lived.

21/07/05 Co-director of National Whitewater Centre, North Wales, Jonathan Gorman receives first calls about bombers whitewater rafting in June. Photos published next day.

Jonathan Gorman

Co-director, National Whitewater Centre


There are two directors here, myself and Paul. It's the busiest time of year for us. We had to take the brunt of dealing with the press. We had John Prescott come rafting and got quite a lot of media attention then, but this has been bigger. Any information we've been able to give we've given, because if you don't, they make it up anyway " or certain tabloids do. To be fair, they are actually very polite, so I haven't got any real complaints. The biggest issues have been the speculation really. The facts are that two of the original London bombers came whitewater rafting, end of story. It was only when the speculation about the second set of bombers coming here came out that it got much busier. The press were not so eager to publish that this information was not true.

Visit Britain press office start getting hundreds of press calls about their report on the impact of 7 July attacks on British tourism, published on 21st

Elliott Frisby

Corporate PR Manager, Visit Britain


We started getting busy on the Friday with non-stop calls from press regarding the impact the attacks had on tourism. We didn't have those figures, but we do have an internal group here that meets to assess the possible impact of events and to reassure our staff and that group met on the afternoon of the 7th. The Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group " TIER " met on the Friday morning with representatives from big industry players like British Airways, DCMS and others to asses, gather and co- ordinate intelligence on the impact. We got our first research back that covered the period 7 " 20 of July. That put a figure on the impact of the first incident which was a loss of pounds 300m from inbound tourism.It's been quite mad actually. What with the new leisure visas for Chinese citizens, and London 2012 and then this we have had constant phone calls " its been quite intense.

27/07/05 12 o'clock Press conference held in Birmingham, city council press office alerted early that morning of arrests at Heybarnes Road.

Janet Priestley

Senior Press Officer, Birmingham City Council


The day after Yasin Hassan Omar was arrested we set up a press conference on Asda car park near to the scene. The local community leaders and councillors wanted to have a press conference and we said it would be better to do it at the site because the media were camped there. So we had a community leader, one of the local councillors and district leaders talking about the community sticking together. On the Thursday afternoon the tornado hit so all media and staff attention was diverted. Added to all this on that Thursday there was a by-election so candidates were actually campaigning whilst all this was happening. We have been working all day and all night.

30/07/05 News broke about Osman Hussain escaping on Eurostar " neither the cross-channel company nor British customs officials checked his passport on the outgoing train.

EUROSTAR REFUSED TO COMMENT
But Duncan, what men believe isn't important - it's our actions which make us right or wrong. - Alasdair Gray - Lanark
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indisguise
Joined: 15 Aug 2006, 19:56

12 Oct 2008, 23:17 #2

I find Paul Mylrea's comments very interesting.
07/07/05 Transport for London chief PR officer Paul Mylrea alerted at 8.51am
...

Paul Mylrea

Head of Group Media, Transport for London

By 11am we had taken more than 200 media requests for interviews. We had just revamped our website and the online viewing of press releases increased from 3,775 a day before the attack to more than 32,000 on the Thursday, then almost 95,000 on the Friday. We prioritised the British media, because we couldn't answer everybody; the most important thing was to get the information out

We were concerned about trying to protect our staff from excessive media demands while they were helping the wounded. There were staff who were happy to be interviewed because it was their way of dealing with the issues. We were frustrated by the conspiracy theorists who said we were putting out false information about power surges. It was actually because we were so efficient " we had the information out within 10 minutes of the alert " that we had a power surge. We knew we were dealing with a serious incident, but to define it as a terrorist bomb attack took some time.
Interesting that he was alerted at 8.51 a.m. i.e. immediately - almost as if somebody had prepared ...

website had just been revamped.

He is claiming that there was a power surge.

" ... to define it as a terrorist bomb attack ..."
Reply

justthefacts
Joined: 05 Jul 2007, 02:18

12 Oct 2008, 23:26 #3

Photographer Jane Mingay was at Edgware Road for an unspecified event, allowing her to get "iconic images" of the walking wounded etc.
But Duncan, what men believe isn't important - it's our actions which make us right or wrong. - Alasdair Gray - Lanark
Reply

indisguise
Joined: 15 Aug 2006, 19:56

12 Oct 2008, 23:46 #4

Transport for London Press Releases 7/7/05
Press Centre travel updates - 07 July 2005

07 July 2005

Following the incidents earlier today in the vicinities of the London Underground stations at Aldgate, Russell Square and Edgware Road and on a Route 30 London Bus at Woburn Place, the Metropolitan Police has advised that people should check route details and begin to make their way home.

16.45 hours - Transport for London advice to passengers travelling home

Following the incidents earlier today in the vicinities of the London Underground stations at Aldgate, Russell Square and Edgware Road and on a Route 30 London Bus at Woburn Place, the Metropolitan Police has advised that people should check route details and begin to make their way home.

With services likely to remain disrupted passengers should allow considerable extra time for their homeward journeys and continue checking travel information, as the status of services will continue to change.

TfL customer information line: 020 7222 1234 or visit www.tfl.gov.uk/realtime

The current status of London Underground, London Buses the DLR and Victoria Coach Station are:

    * London Underground
      The network is likely to remain closed for the rest of the day. London Underground staff will be working through the night in an effort to restore services to parts of the network tomorrow.
    * Buses
      From 3pm London Buses resumed services in Zone 1 although service delays are likely to continue. Services around the Kings Cross, Aldgate, and Russell Square areas will be subject to continued suspension or diversion and more details will be released when it becomes clear.
    * Additional Police Officers and wardens will be stationed at key locations and regular extra security checks will continue to take place on each bus, at all bus stations and garages for the foreseeable future.
    * DLR
      Full services have resumed following a Police sweep of the network. But Bank, Stratford and Canning Town - where the DLR interchanges with the Tube - will be closed.
    * Victoria Coach station
      The station is open and National Express is going to start running a restricted service.

16:11 Latest service information

    * Docklands Light Railway has resumed but will not be stopping at Bank, Stratford and Canning Town.
    * National Rail has resumed service but there is continued disruption.
    * Bus services in Zone 1 are returning to service.
    * London Underground will be closed for the rest of the day and will resume service tomorrow morning.

15:41 Transport for London Update

    * National Rail services are now being resumed and major terminals are re-opening
    * Bus services are expected to resume at 1600hrs
    * Docklands Light Railway services are being resumed
    * London Underground will be closed for the rest of the day and will resume service tomorrow morning.

14:25 Transport for London Update

Latest information confirms that there were four incidents on London's transport network this morning, three on London Underground and one on London Buses.

At 09:46, the London Underground was suspended and all stations commenced evacuation following incidents at:

    * Aldgate station heading towards Liverpool Street station on the Hammersmith & City line;
    * Russell Square station heading towards Kings Cross station on the Piccadilly line;
    * Edgware Road station heading towards Paddington station on the Hammersmith & City line.

Zone 1 bus services were temporarily suspended this morning following an incident on a Route 30 bus at Woburn Place and extra security checks were undertaken on buses remaining in operation and at all garages.

Emergency services responded immediately to all incidents and are dealing with a number of casualties who have been taken to hospitals across London. Unfortunately, whilst we can confirm that there have been fatalities no confirmed figures are currently available.

Additional temporary service suspensions and public information

    * The Docklands Light Railway has been suspended as a precaution - there have been no incidents on the DLR network.
    * Drivers are advised not to come into Central London.

13:50 National Rail services

Information on changes to National Rail services and London train station closures is available on the National Rail website.

12:50 Heathrow Express services are suspended as a precautionary measure.

12:35 Docklands Light Railway services are currently suspended. This is precautionary measure

    * Victoria Coach Station is currently operating a limited service.

10.55 hours - Zone 1 buses temporarily suspended

    * Following an incident on a route 30 bus at Tavistock Place all services in Zone 1 have been suspended for the time being.
    * Extra safety checks are being undertaken on all buses that remain in service and at all bus garages.
    * The congestion charge has been suspended and we advise drivers not to come into central London.

09:55 hours - London Underground suspended

    * The network has been suspended until further notice and all stations are being evacuated.
    * This follows major incidents at Liverpool Street and Edgware Road (Hammersmith & City) stations. Emergency services are on site and are working closely with London Underground.

TUBE

    * This is the worst incident in the history of London underground
    * The last serious incident was the Kings Cross fire in 1987 when 27 people died after a machine room under a wooden escalator caught fire. This led to a major overhaul of emergency procedures
    * There was a derailment at White City on May 11, 2004 but there were no injuries or fatalities
    * There was a derailment at Camden Town 19 October 2003 with 7 injuries and no fatalities
    * There was a derailment at Chancery Lane 25 January 2003 with no injuries and no fatalities
    * Each AM peak 370,000 use the tube.

Well prepared

    * London Underground conducted a live emergency exercise at Tower Hill station two and a half weeks ago on 12 June which fully tested the combined emergency services response to an emergency
    * Each year LU holds an emergency exercise to test procedures
    * There was a multi national emergency desktop exercise, Atlantic Blue, earlier this year which focused on the response to a potential terrorist attack.

Precautions

    * There has recently been a renewed campaign in conjunction with the Met Police to report suspect bags and packages. These posters are highly visible in Tube stations and on buses
    * A London resilience team has weekly meetings - London wide resilience plans have been fully tested.

BUSES

    * Approximately 325,000 people travel on buses during the morning peak
    * CCTV pictures will be used to assist police.

In the original article that started this thread, Transport for London Chief PR Paul Milrea says
We knew we were dealing with a serious incident, but to define it as a terrorist bomb attack took some time.
Yet if you look at the 9.55 a.m. press release (at the bottom of teh long quoted section) it looks like it took less than an hour. What do other members think? Does it suggest terrorism esp. the mention of CCTV and police?

edit: Was this press release issued before the bus explosion?

2nd edit: Bus explosion is given as 9.47 a.m. The press office seems very well informed.
Reply

Bridget
Joined: 26 Nov 2005, 01:46

13 Oct 2008, 00:05 #5

Just like the MPS, TfL gave different lines and the opposite direction to the later story:
14:25 Transport for London Update

Latest information confirms that there were four incidents on London's transport network this morning, three on London Underground and one on London Buses.

At 09:46, the London Underground was suspended and all stations commenced evacuation following incidents at:

    * Aldgate station heading towards Liverpool Street station on the Hammersmith & City line;
    * Russell Square station heading towards Kings Cross station on the Piccadilly line;
    * Edgware Road station heading towards Paddington station on the Hammersmith & City line.
�To those who are afraid of the truth, I wish to offer a few scary truths; and to those who are not afraid of the truth, I wish to offer proof that the terrorism of truth is the only one that can be of benefit to the proletariat.� -- On Terrorism and the State, Gianfranco Sanguinetti
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Bridget
Joined: 26 Nov 2005, 01:46

01 May 2009, 15:10 #6

Attack on London: Crisis plans hold firm in scrum for information on bombings

Dan Bloch 15-Jul-05

PR teams for the public services were tested to their limit in the wake of last Thursday's London bomb blasts as they tried to make sense of the unfolding tragedy and keep the media updated.

Transport for London press officers went to Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations to keep media out of the way of emergency services, while the rest of the team dispersed information via emails, handled interview requests and helped arrange the midday press conference with police on Thursday.

TfL deputy head of news Stephen Webb said: 'The golden rule is never to put anything out unless you are absolutely sure. The difference on the first day was that this was an unprecedented event. It took us until after lunch to realise it was four bombs, not seven.'

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said 25 ambulance operations managers received media training last year, to give them more confidence in dealing with the media at incident scenes. This was in addition to ten media-trained paramedics operating across the city. But last Thursday, only six staff were on hand at its headquarters' press office and the service drafted in three performance statistics staff to help. 'Each staff member has a role defined in the crisis operations manual,' said the LAS spokesman.

'One would communicate minute by minute to the team. Another would collate information and write press statements. Someone would go to assist on scene. But in this situation there were four incidents and we couldn't spare all those people. Considering everything, it went well. It's about sticking to protocol, not being phased, and thinking on your feet.'

Westminster Council head of comms Alex Aiken organised a meeting of police and the Bangladeshi community in the Edgware Road area to pledge mutual support on Friday afternoon. 'This was a reaction to circumstances and critical because of the nastiness of what happened,' he said.

But the overall comms effort followed carefully rehearsed plans from the London Resilience Forum, which is jointly chaired by minister for civil resilience Phil Woolas and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone. It includes representatives from the emergency services, businesses and local authorities.

The Government brought in a dozen volunteer press officers from departmental offices to work in the Cabinet Office news co-ordination centre, handling media enquiries and setting up ministerial briefings.

And Scotland Yard and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister established the central media briefing facility at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster at midday on Thursday - the venue for all media briefings after the bombings.
�To those who are afraid of the truth, I wish to offer a few scary truths; and to those who are not afraid of the truth, I wish to offer proof that the terrorism of truth is the only one that can be of benefit to the proletariat.� -- On Terrorism and the State, Gianfranco Sanguinetti
Reply

Bridget
Joined: 26 Nov 2005, 01:46

01 May 2009, 15:30 #7

7 July: Putting crisis theory into practice  
PR Week
29 September 2005

When terrorists bombed London, media officers had to put the ultimate crisis plan into action.

At 8.51am on 7 July, one minute after the first bomb exploded under King's Cross Station, Transport for London director of group media Paul Mylrea was told via his pager that a large power surge had cut all power to London Underground, and that 'loud bangs' had been heard. As the minutes passed it became clear that a major incident was unfolding; the crisis comms teams of the emergency services would be facing their busiest day.

The Tube and bus bombings shook an unsuspecting public. But as the media jammed switchboards for news, for the PR teams manning the press offices it was a scenario they had long rehearsed for. Only the previous Friday, London Underground had gone over its crisis drill in the event of a major incident in the capital.

When a major emergency in London occurs, PR is co-ordinated by the Gold Communications Group, chaired by Chris Webb, deputy director of public affairs at the Metropolitan Police. It includes senior representatives from the Met, TfL, the Mayor's office, the Association of London Government and the emergency services. Here, the Met's messages are given priority. 'In a multi-site incident, effective co-ordination of news is crucial,' says Webb.

For the other communications heads of the organisations affected on 7 July, one of their first actions was to manage staffing according to their crisis strategy. This differed depending on operational needs – TfL for example, sent six of its 20 press officers to the affected Underground stations to aid workers and keep media at bay. The London Fire Brigade's policy was to keep press officers at base manning the phones, leaving press liaison officers – uniformed fire officers with media training – to talk to journalists at the scene.

At the Royal London Hospital, which received the bulk of casualties, director of communications Susan Cunnington-King divided her team of eight into two groups. One group was left in the Aldgate press office dealing with calls while Cunnington-King led the hospital team to manage the mounting media scrum and channel information from doctors to journalists.

Maintaining contact

At the Scotland Yard press office, the priority was to keep as many of the eight-strong team on the phones as possible. 'We despatched two press officers to Aldgate when we heard initial reports of one explosion,' says Webb. 'But as soon as we heard about Tavistock Square we knew this was no accident. We didn't want to run out of people so everyone else stayed put.'

In fact, 'staying put' was the most important message broadcast by Met officers that morning. Broadcasters were told to tell people to tune into the TV or radio, despite the conflicting reports doing the rounds of the number and type of devices that had exploded.

Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair made his first televised statement at 11.15am, deflecting speculation about al-Qaeda's involvement by concentrating on the Met's message to stay indoors and listen for announcements.

At the same conference, London Fire Brigade officers emphasised the training they had practised since 9/11 to check for signs of chemical, biological or nuclear threats. At the Royal London Hospital doctors responded to questions about casualty numbers while giving the impression that their organisation was in control. 'People needed to hear that we were well prepared and that the victims were getting the best possible care,' explains Cunnington-King.

From a presentation point of view, the hospital's media team says it was boosted by the fact that doctors who appeared on BBC show Trauma – filmed at the hospital – were on duty that morning and could provide commentary. 'Being able to show viewers familiar faces was definitely an advantage,' Cunnington-King says.

Although emergency services PROs dealt with hundreds of interview requests around the scenes of the bombs effectively, domestic media and PR officers identified the need for a media centre. One of the first actions of the Gold group was to set up such a centre at the Queen Elizabeth II building near Parliament Square. Sky News associate editor Simon Buck, who sits on the Media Emergency Forum which evolved the idea of a central media location, believes the centre was an important step forward. 'This was the first time most journalists had covered a story on this scale. Having the media centre made it easier for journalists to get live briefings,' he says.

But for all the planning, 7 July brought comms teams challenges they could never have foreseen. Chief among these was the almost immediate, and sometimes overwhelming, quantity of so-called 'citizen reporting'. With a public hungry for news, blogs with eyewitness reports – and wild conspiracy theories – became almost as popular as output from the major broadcasters. For PROs battling to minimise panic and misinformation it was a distraction they did not need.

'We had to knock journalists down quickly when they phoned about these stories by checking what our operations people said,' explains Webb. But it meant the Met's press office spent a lot of the day denying there had been a bomb at Waterloo, that there were two other, unexploded bombs (information apparently sourced from the CIA) and that a sniper had been shot at Canary Wharf. There was no time for PROs to contact those responsible for the blogs – they simply had to continue to state the facts and hope the public believed the official statements.

Frustration and misinformation

PROs also had to deal with a vast amount of eyewitness statements fed speedily to journalists by media-savvy Londoners. 'There were reports soon after the bus bomb that people had seen someone fiddling with a bag, but we couldn't respond to that,' recalls Webb. 'We had to keep emphasising that our job at the time was not to get drawn into discussions about causes.'

At TfL there was frustration that the early reports of a power surge were widely believed to be a deliberate ploy by the authorities to minimise panic. 'The simple fact is that there was a power surge,' says Mylrea. 'It was one effect of the bombs and the first thing that our control room picked up. I was frustrated by the critical response to that: if we hadn't been so open with information we would have probably been accused of holding back.'

There was also the problem of self-appointed 'experts' being quoted on TV. Webb remembers a spokesperson from a passenger transport body telling viewers to evacuate the city. 'The last thing we wanted was millions of people on the streets,' he says.

More problems developed when the authorities ran out of answers. Journalists were frustrated by apparent inconsistencies in statements, another fuel for conspiracies. 'I still can't understand why it took them [TfL and the Met] days to tell us that all the Tube bombs went off virtually simultaneously,' says The Guardian crime correspondent Rosie Cowan. 'They gave us little until they could establish exactly what had happened. It was obviously a well-rehearsed plan.'

There is no doubt though, says Webb, that the Media Emergency
Forum improved the ability of PROs and journalists to work together in the event of a crisis
. The Met, for instance, gave off-the-record briefings to explain why it took time to identify bodies. 'This way journalists could understand the difficulties our officers faced without quoting the full horror about body parts,' adds Webb.

He found that the period following 7 July and the failed bombings two weeks later were tougher to manage than the initial day of drama, principally because of the difficulty of trying to fill a media vacuum without factual information. Did this pressure have an adverse effect when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot at Stockwell station by police officers? Webb prefers not to comment on the press office's role in the false reports of the incident due to the inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Commissioner Blair had told a press conference that 'the man was challenged and refused to obey instructions'. As this is now known to be false, it appears that Blair was badly briefed for his TV appearance. There is also the issue of journalist briefings on 21 July, in which senior police officers confirmed that de Menezes had caused police to believe he was a terrorist. (??? The day before?)

James Kelliher, client services director at crisis management agency Whiteoaks, believes the need for speed overtook the desire for accuracy and that the Met's planning was inadequate: 'The Met clearly had a plan for the events of 7 July and 21 July. But look what happened when something occurred which they couldn't have planned for.' The Gold group, as well as the Met, will be waiting keenly for the results of the inquiry.

There are other, more tactical, lessons that PROs can derive from the bombings and their aftermath. Most practically, the need for satellite phones to be available in case mobile phones or landlines fail. Mylrea also admits he should have kept his B-rolls more up to date to meet the requests for recent bus and Tube footage.

At the Royal London Hospital, Cunnington-King is considering dedicating part of the website to useful information in a major emergency. Such a facility might have reduced the 25,000 calls made to the hospital switchboard after the bombs.

Clearer channels

It appears the comms channels between the Met and businesses may also need streamlining. Regester Larkin director Tim Johnson says his clients experienced difficulty finding out when they should allow staff to go home on 7 July.

But these are relatively minor amendments given the scale of the events. Johnson says the Met perfectly communicated the three C's – 'concern, control and commitment (to preventing further bombings)'. Rob Shimmin, founder of crisis comms agency Shimmin.biz, adds: 'There was an extraordinary display of professionalism, led by three superior communicators – Sir Ian Blair, Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone. I liked the Met officers' statements branding Londoners as stoical during a crisis.'

7 July was a great testament to crisis planning. But it also served to illustrate the fact that plans can only guide one in the right direction – the rest depends to a large extent on remaining flexible to the needs of the hour, as Westminster Council's PR team discovered. In the days after the bombings it was asked to perform a number of tasks beyond the usual bounds of PR, including setting up a family liaison centre and a mortuary, and arranging a memorial for the victims.

And all the planning in the world cannot mitigate the horror that this kind of incident produces. 'The textbook response belied the emotions of the day,' says Cunnington-King. 'Nothing could have prepared us for what we felt and saw.'

HOW EVENTS UNFOLDED

8.50 Three bombs go off on the London Underground: between King's Cross and Russell Square, Liverpool Street and Aldgate, and at Edgware Road.
8.51 Transport for London director of group media Paul Mylrea (right) is alerted by pager that there has been a power surge on the Underground system. A press officer is posted to the control room to keep the comms team informed of developments.
9.00 Managers of the Metropolitan Police's communications team are just finishing their morning meeting when a press officer tells them
that an incident has been reported at Aldgate station. Two minutes later he relays reports of an explosion.
9.10 Mylrea despatches six TfL press officers to the sites of the explosions to manage media. The 14 press officers remaining at the Victoria Street head office have already started to field media calls, the first of which comes from Capital Radio.
9.12 Met deputy director of public affairs Chris Webb makes the First Alert call from the London Resilience crisis plan – informing partner organisations in the Gold Communications Group,as well as emergency services, TfL, the Association of London Government, the Mayor's office and the Cabinet Office.
9.16 Sky News is the first TV channel to broadcast any details of the bombings, referring to reports of an explosion at Liverpool Street.
9.25 The first official statement is released to the media from the Met, saying that police are responding to an incident at Aldgate station.
9.26 First conference call between the Gold Communications Group leaders.
9.30 The Royal London Hospital, the nearest to Aldgate, activates its major accident plan.
9.40 The Met's press office starts to receive reports of explosions at King's Cross, Russell Square, Edgware Road and Liverpool Street, along with suggestions of derailments and power surges on the Tube network.
9.45 The Met's control room advises the press team that the suspected explosions have generated at least 800 casualties and every London hospital has been put on alert.
9.46 A Sky News helicopter hovers over Aldgate, broadcasting live footage of Tube passengers streaming out of the station.
9.47 A No 30 bus explodes in Tavistock Square. The bomb is witnessed by Sky News producer Bob Mills, who immediately phones through a live report. It is also heard by the Met's PR team at Scotland Yard.
10.00 Mobile phone networks prioritise emergency service calls.
10.10 The Met issues its second statement, saying that police are responding to reports of multiple incidents.
10.15 The Gold group's crisis plan for a
multi-site incident calls for the setting
up of a centrally located media centre. The Queen Elizabeth II centre, one of a few sites identified in the
plan as suitable, is contacted and found to be free.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister takes over arrangements.
11.00 The Cabinet Office opens the News
Co-ordination Centre, a cross-government press office, to handle enquiries.

11.05 TfL logs 200 bids for interviews.
11.10 London's mobile phone network collapses through
volume of traffic.
11.15 Webb takes commissioner Sir Ian Blair to Millbank to give
a televised press conference about the response to the bombs.
12.00 The Met updates the media that there were four explosions, rather than the six that have been reported.
12.25 Media are told that they can broadcast footage from traffic cameras, usually used only for traffic reports, as long as they exercise sensitivity over images.
1.00 The Queen Elizabeth II media centre opens.
First afternoon editions of the Evening Standard hit
the newsstands
3.00 Joint emergency services and TfL press conference at the
media centre.
3.50 Forensic examinations of the scenes allow the Met to confirm to journalists that terrorists are responsible.

THE BMA'S RESPONSE

Linda Millington, head of media relations at the British Medical Association, was in Bristol at a conference on 7 July. She had been trying to contact colleagues in the association's head office on Tavistock Square that morning, finding it strange that she could not get through. Shortly after 10am she received a call from Sky News telling her that there had been an explosion on a bus in front of the BMA's office. Coupled with the explosions on the Underground, she realised this was a major incident and set about putting crisis plans into action.

The immediate problem was that with BMA staff evacuated from the building, journalists could only get hold of Millington and one other staff member working from home. When the mobile phone system collapsed during the morning, even those contacts were lost. 'That was crippling,' says Millington. 'But it was something that could not have been planned for.'

Journalists were keen to make contact because the BMA's role in the Tavistock Square incident was not limited to its proximity to the bus bomb. Up to 50 doctors, who had been in meetings at the office that morning, were performing first aid on casualties. 'We had a huge number of requests for interviews,' reveals Millington. Once the last casualty had been despatched to hospital at 1pm, Millington began arrangements for 12 doctors to talk to the media.

For the next 24 hours, these doctors received what Millington describes as 'blanket coverage', and she called a halt to the interviews. For the next ten days, the six-strong press team – now working from a small office because the Tavistock Square building was designated a crime scene – continued to take many media calls. A pool system for journalists was also arranged to cover the 21 July memorial service in the BMA's courtyard.

FOREIGN MEDIA MUSCLE IN

'It's hard to believe people would do that.' It is a comment that is not inappropriate when talking about 7 July. But this was a reference to an Australian news crew that Royal London Hospital PROs had to forcibly restrain from wards.

It was not the only source of trouble from foreign media. TfL director of group media Paul Mylrea ended up calling the Foreign Press Association to complain about the overzealous approach of an American film crew trying to get onto a platform at one of the bombed stations. 'There are strict rules for filming on the Underground that any domestic broadcaster would be aware of,' says Mylrea. 'In that situation it was doubly inappropriate.'

The Met had a tussle with foreign media on 29 July during arrests in west London. Domestic broadcasters had sent crews to the scene at midday, which the Met allowed to keep filming as long as they delayed broadcast until after the operation had ceased to be covert.

But American broadcasters, conscious of the potential for a live feed to the US breakfast shows, took much more convincing to honour the agreement. 'American crews work in a very different environment – they are used to being able to get into crime scenes,' says Chris Webb, the Met's deputy director of public affairs.

Carol McCall, head of security, intelligence and resilience within the Cabinet Office's communications team, also encountered this problem. Her team received requests for assistance from PR people at the bomb sites – they were struggling to deal with insistent foreign media.

McCall is keen to establish links with foreign media in a similar way to the Media Emergency Forums set up following 9/11 – regular meetings held with domestic media to plan the response to major incidents.


7 JULY IN NUMBERS


16 Press statements issued by TfL's media team in the 24 hours following the bombs.

60 Journalists outside the Royal London Hospital.

270 Interviews conducted by TfL staff over the 24 hours after the bombings.

800 Daily calls to the Met's press team over the ten days after 7 July (seven times the usual volume of media enquiries).

1,500 Calls to the Met's press team on 7 July (TfL received a similar quantity).

95,000 Hits to the press section of the TfL website in the 24 hours after the bombs.

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�To those who are afraid of the truth, I wish to offer a few scary truths; and to those who are not afraid of the truth, I wish to offer proof that the terrorism of truth is the only one that can be of benefit to the proletariat.� -- On Terrorism and the State, Gianfranco Sanguinetti
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