A Briefing Card That's On Point

Case Study 6 min
Review lessons to emulate and paths to improve upon like how the Navy's Briefing Card for Hurricane Sandy's response efforts achieved an effective and thorough response by combining command messaging and answering all the right questions.

This briefing card, prepared by the Navy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, is a great example of how to thoroughly communicate necessary information to the public during an incident. It is important to clearly outline necessary background information and the stance of your command so the lead can accurately and confidently discuss the topic with the proper tone and manner.

From there, your card must cover the who, what, when, where and why of all the unclassified and releasable information. Prepare the lead with these answers and the knowledge of what they can release and are releasing to the public.

Finally, put yourself in the mind of the media and the public. Think about the questions they will want you to answer.

  • What will be reasonable questions?
  • What will be tough questions to answer?
  • Is there additional context they might take into consideration that was not covered anywhere else in the briefing?

Think of community events, community impact, outsider support and/or response to public opinions. Include those questions to prepare the lead for what could come and provide an informative answer.  

The briefing card thoroughly covers the Background, Posture, Current Overview, Talking Points, Questions/Answers and who prepped the card. The points think beyond the main events and consider community events and community impact.

Lesson Learned

Not all briefing cards need to be as thorough or lengthy as this one, but be sure to include the following points to have the most up-to-date template of information: 

  • Background
  • End State
  • Public Statement, or Holding Statement if not releasable until a certain date
  • Theme
  • Command Message and Talking Points

Briefing cards should also provide a list of points of contact at the end of the document. Having contact numbers of agencies impacted by the mission ensures increased awareness, which is especially important if those agencies have units participating. In the attached briefing card, it should have listed a number to call for the lead public affairs office, Defense Security Cooperation Agency public affairs office (as the lead Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief coordinator) and Federal Emergency Management Agency. This will assist the PA using the document to ferry a question to the right authority if they cannot source an answer locally.

Remember that the effective response equation is gauged to the audience and how they will receive the message. In some cases, the most effective response will be made up of the command message plus the answer to a question. Other times it will be more efficient and effective to answer with just the facts regarding what happened, and in some cases it's best to respond with just the message itself. How you respond is subject to the audience and how they receive the message.

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