It was the Fourth of July and Michael O’Conner was lying next to his four-day-old baby when the mayoral candidate whose campaign he was managing called. “I just hit an 11-year-old kid,” the candidate said. O’Conner took a breath, asked it the child was okay and immediately kicked into crisis-response mode. The worst thing a campaign can do is get stuck in the limbo of analyzing a situation, O’Conner said. This was the golden nugget of advice at the “How to Crisis Manage and Survive” panel at the Art of Political Campaigning conference. O’Conner successfully managed the campaign, helping Bart Peterson become the first Democratic Indianapolis mayor in in 32 years. Now a principal at Bose Public Affairs Group, O’Conner advises campaigns to give the media all the information immediately. “We took the story to all the reporters we knew,” O’Conner said. While the police report explained the child “came out of nowhere,” it was still a potentially explosive story that ended up being buried on page six of the newspaper the next day. The message had five key aspects: honesty, timeliness, patience, humanity and humility. And they bought the kid a new bike for good measure. Situations like this end successfully when you have a relationship with the press, explained panelist Tony Bawidamann of Focal Point Communications. A crisis can be a catastrophic meteor you don’t expect to hit you; it can be contained because you’ve anticipated it; or, worst, it can be self-inflicted. To control a meteor like the one that hit Peterson’s campaign, Bawidamann prescribes media contact at the outset of the race, making future damage control less contentious. The key is to make a list of all the contacts in the press, read their articles, get a feel for their tone and ask if anyone on your staff has a relationship with them, Bawdimann said. Potential disasters for campaigns can be contained if you are armed with an arsenal of strategies to address potential crises. It helps if you have an idea of what might hit you, Bawdimann said, because the message the media puts out is not beyond your control. Journalists are generally good people and you should become a source for them. An amazing number of people do not anticipate what is going to happen, said Smith, an associate director with Enhance Corporate, a nonpartisan, Australian, government relations and lobbying firm. He advises playing a war game before the campaign. Get your team, a few beers, pizza, your campaign tune and anticipate the worst, Smith said. Think of all the worst-case scenarios and be prepared. Smith likens a crisis situation to a chess game. If played well, it can end in a check mate for your candidate.