Tales from the Eclipse: Lessons Learned from Luna

Dave Thompson, APR, Public Affairs Program Manager, Oregon Department of Transportation

2:00 Pm, Sunday, April 22

The eclipse was just over the horizon, and as many as one million people were headed to Oregon to watch. State tourism folks were overjoyed at the expected huge economic boost; virtually every farmer in Central Oregon was renting roosts for campers to come witness the celestial marvel.

Transportation officials, on the other hand, were starting to sweat: How would about 250,000 more cars fit on Oregon’s rural two-lane highways? Easy answer: They wouldn’t. Car-mageddon? Apoc-eclipse? And all those travelers would point fingers and demand to know why we weren’t prepared for them. It’s not like we didn’t know this was coming!

But then tourism officials stated their goal, clearly and succinctly.

And that saved the day.

Life-safety agencies saw how to help travelers avoid cosmic traffic jams and heat-related health issues on the way to and from the celestial dance.

The tourism goal led to the overall state strategy that allowed usually negative Nellies in transportation and health to write positive, even almost poetic, press releases.

It’s what every strategic communicator craves.

Oregon Department of Transportation Public Affairs Program Manager Dave Thompson, APR helped lead the state of Oregon’s communications response for the Aug. 21, 2017 solar eclipse. He will narrate the true tale of how Oregon planned for a scheduled but uncontrollable event, pointing out valuable lessons learned. The good, the bad, and the unbelievable.

Learning objectives:

  • You’ll learn how the right goal, properly stated, can lead to collaborative strategies, even when your planning partners have different missions and therefore differing goals.
  • You’ll learn how to craft smart objectives that measure stakeholder behavior, not your “busy-ness” factor, even though you may not be able to measure behavior directly.
  • You’ll learn how to use the “power of 3” to craft memorable messages and metaphors. And you’ll learn how to control numbers—from our mistake.
  • You’ll learn how to avoid the “mistake of assumption”—when well-meaning communicators think they know your messaging, only to get it wrong. (Oregon suffered some gasoline hoarding because of this.)
  • You’ll learn how situation-specific crisis simulation training can prepare you and help test your messaging—and prepare you when it happens in real life.
  • You’ll learn just how incredibly cool a total solar eclipse is!
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Eventbrite - 2018 PRSA North Pacific District Conference

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