Burson counsels VA Tech in aftermath of shootings

BLACKSBURG, VA: Virginia Tech (VT) has enlisted Burson-Marsteller's assistance for work related to the April 16, 2007, shootings that killed 32 students and faculty.

BLACKSBURG, VA: Virginia Tech (VT) has enlisted Burson-Marsteller's assistance for work related to the April 16, 2007, shootings that killed 32 students and faculty.

Larry Hincker, AVP for university relations, said VT's communications office began working with Burson three weeks after the shootings to help cope with overwhelming media coverage and 1,000 journalists on campus for two weeks.

"No university has experienced the scale of what we had," he said. "When I brought them on-board, I needed boots on the ground."

Initially, Burson provided strategic counsel and tactical communications. Currently, it's providing strategic counsel through a weekly teleconference, as well as monitoring media coverage.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Hincker said the firm was not on retainer. No RFP was issued; rather, Hincker said he selected Burson based on its reputation for crisis management.

Hincker said higher education institutions traditionally deem the use of communications firms as somehow unseemly or improper.

"[But] we have a responsibility to tell the world what's going on," he said. "Folks in higher education are beginning to understand that the world of corporate communications has a role here."

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