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Crisis Communication, Media Relations

A local municipality, the City of Oak Creek, found itself at the center of a story carrying national and international interest after a gunman entered a local Sikh temple on Aug. 5, 2012 and killed six people and injured three others before killing himself. Local, national and international media outlets descended on the city to cover the story and, in particular, seek exclusive interviews with the first two responding officers to the scene, one of whom survived being shot 15 times. Additionally, media requested access to dash-cam videos from the two squad cars that first arrived at the scene that showed the two officers’ response to the scene and the shooter himself.


Mueller Communications helped the City of Oak Creek develop a coordianted approach releasing the dash-cam video as well as handling requests for exclusive interviews with the two police officers.


Regarding the dash-cam video, we organized a news conference at which the released video was shown while explanation of what was occurring in the video was provided by the police chief. Officer Sam Lenda, the uninjured police officer who was among the first responding officers to the scene, was also present to talk about his experience on the morning of the Aug. 5th and how he went about securing the temple premises. DVDs and online versions of the released video were provided to all media members.


Prior to the news conference, Mueller Communications conducted a prep session with Officer Lenda with the goal preparing him for the types of questions he could expect. We also worked with him, the police chief and a representative from the city attorney’s office on appropriate messaging to establish boundaries for what could and could not be discussed, as a federal investigation on the incident was ongoing.


Messaging for those participating in the news conference focused on positioning Oak Creek as having a well-trained, professional police force that was ready and capable of handling a chaotic and deadly incident.  Additional message points focused on Oak Creek being a progressive, diverse community that came together to provide support and compassion to family members of those killed and injured, as well as to the Sikh community in general.


Once Lt. Brian Murphy, the first officer on the scene who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, was ready to participate in interviews, Mueller Communications formulated a media plan designed to maximize the impact of his compelling story and its reflection of the professionalism exhibited by the Oak Creek Police Dept. as a whole.


In order to ensure Lt. Murphy’s story was told completely, accurately and in a compelling manner, Mueller Communications developed a plan for the local daily paper – the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – to publish the initial story in order to establish a baseline from which all other stories could follow. Following the Journal Sentinel interview, Lt. Murphy was interviewed by CBS Evening News and another local TV news station. 


Coverage of the dash-cam video news conference resulted in 397 local, national and international broadcast clips along with thousands of print and online reports. The Lt. Murphy interviews resulted in 298 local, national and international reports across broadcast, print and online media outlets.


City of Oak Creek leadership, including the mayor, city administrator, police chief and city attorney, expressed a high level of satisfaction with Mueller Communications’ approach to managing the media and preparing Lt. Murphy and Ofc. Lenda for media interviews. City leadership was also pleased with the amount of positive coverage generated for the city and its police force.     

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