“Covid-19 Death Toll is Like 5 Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets Crashing Every Day:” Crisis Communications Tips to Land Analogies

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Crisis communications surrounding Covid-19 has been difficult. Why is it that you can put a medical expert in front of the media and they have difficulty landing your crisis communications message?

From a communications standpoint, it comes down to: 

  • facts
  • passion
  • outrage, and 
  • fear.

Before reading this blog further, watch the INTRO to the video which describes the disclaimer, my personal bias, and my personal goal for putting out this message:

Now, imagine if a medical expert got on television and made the impassioned plea below: (Note, the entire plea is demonstrated in today’s video for training purposes.)

“The daily death toll from Covid-19 in the United States is like five Boeing 737 Max 8 jets crashing every day and killing everyone on board.

Think about this. Governments around the world were outraged that 346 people died in two crashes of 737 Max 8 jets. Governments and airlines banned the planes from flying because 346 people died.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and there is no outrage when the number of people who die each day in the United States is equal to five jets crashing each day. 

The number of people who have died since the onset of the pandemic in the United States in March is equal to 750 jets crashing and killing everyone on board.

As a country, would we sit idly by if five jets crashed every day? 

As a country, would we be outraged if 750 jets fell out of the sky and killed 150,000 U.S. Citizens?

We would not stand for it.

If terrorists shot down five jets every day in the United States and killed 1,000 people, would we not declare war?

If terrorists killed 150,000 U.S. Citizens over five months, would we not mobilize every bit of energy we have as a united nation to stop them from taking one more life?

So then why is it that we are okay with letting 1,000 U.S. Citizens die every day from a disease that we can fight and stop?

So then why is it that we are okay with letting 150,000 U.S. Citizens die in five months from a disease that we can fight and stop?”  

©2020 Diversified Media, LLC

(…and scene.)

(Footnote: An Axios poll release while I am writing this says 30% of Americans believe the numbers I just used from the CDC are inflated.)

The opposing viewpoint has been effectively using the analogy that says:

“Covid-19 deaths are no different than the deaths we see every year from the common flu.”

The second analogy about the flu has stuck with about one-third of Americans, according to polls.

Here are three reasons why one side has been more successful in messaging:

  1. Medical experts are trying to sell scientific facts.
  2. Medical experts are failing to sell compelling fear or outrage.
  3. and #3 … and this is a big one… those with opposing views have done a better job of getting out front with their own analogies first.

And I’ll add this point to number 3 — Those who have been selling their analogies better, have sold them as a dismissive message to an audience that is usually motivated by fear. In other words, people who are normally motivated and inspired by fear are being told, “You have nothing to fear.”

— Now before you start wondering if this blog is motivated by my politics, the answer is no. For more than 25 years I’ve worked to share crisis communications strategies with you and this is just one more lesson.

It should be noted, that in most crises, there are not two opposing arguments. For example, when a jet crashes and kills all 200 people on board, the President, members of Congress, Governors, and elected officials are not standing in front of the media saying,

“It’s just one jet. More people die every day from the flu than died in that airplane crash.”

So no, this is not a blog that takes sides on the issue because of politics. It is a blog about how to be effective in your crisis communications.

Where did my airplane crash analogy come from? Recently on a television news program, a doctor was trying to use the analogy, but he failed to land the analogy. The doctor failed because his delivery of the analogy lacked passion, fear, and outrage.

So here are the realities as I write this on July 26, 2020:

  • Many passenger jets carry 200 people.
  • The 737 Max 8 was pulled from service after two crashes killed 346 people.
  • Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. at this point have reached daily death tolls of 1,000 people.

In conclusion:

  • Analogies are a great way to communicate.
  • Analogies that tap into fear and outrage can be more effective.
  • If you use analogies, you must sell the message with passion and outrage.
  • When your analogy is compelling, others will use it.

We’ve watched the viral spread of the analogy that Covid-19 deaths are no different than the flu. Let’s watch to see if the analogy about the airline crash takes off.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

4 Crisis Communications Considerations About Current Events

By Gerard Braud

What do you think about the riots, protests, political unrest, all during the pandemic?

Before you verbalize your answer, think not just about your answer to the question, but also the impact your answer could have on the reputation and revenue of your business. This is especially true for those of you who are in businesses that involve face to face contact with customers. While it is true that society needs to have discussions about the important issues of the day, what degree of caution should you consider in voicing a strong opinion to a customer who strikes up a conversation with you? And, what should be the guidelines for you or your employees when you consider whether it is appropriate to strike up a conversation with a customer?

Years ago, I proposed a similar question, “What do you think of the protests going on in Baltimore?” The same crisis communications principles, and this same video interview recorded with a colleague rings true years later.

Anastasia Turchetta is a Registered Dental Hygienist and host of Hump Day Happenings, a video blog for the dental industry. Here is our conversation regarding how to handle talking about such crises in the workplace:

Small business owners, such as her dental clients are faced with two situations when top news breaks. Situation one is that a customer may initiate a discussion about the controversial issues of the day. Situation two is that the business owner or their employees initiate a discussion.

This raises four questions you must consider:

1) Is this the right time and place to talk about these important issues?

2) Could the conversation result in the customer getting angry and taking their business somewhere else?

3) Is that a risk you are willing to take?

4) What advice should be given to business owners and their employees?

If an event affects your reputation and revenue, a crisis exists, in some degree. If customers elect to buy goods or services from someone else because they feel slighted by your business, then you have an emerging crisis.

In the video blog, Anastasia reminds us of what many of us were taught by our parents, which is to never talk about religion and politics.

In addition to the decision you make about having controversial conversations with your customers in person, you must also think about the personal opinions a business owner and their employees post to social media. Be especially aware of those employees who have accepted friend requests from customers.

Each employer, whenever there are hot button issues in the news, should consider what they should say to their employees face to face, as well as on social media.

If you are passionate about the issues of the day, seek out the proper venue or community group to enact change. But consider carefully how your personal opinions and those of your employees will affect your livelihood, revenue, and business.

I personally know of many case studies in which entertainers, celebrities and business owners have been put out of business and lost all they owned because of how and where they voiced their opinions. Consider what price you are willing to pay.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash

Coronavirus Covid19 Crisis Communication Tip: It’s as Simple as A-B-C

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

While many companies and brands are responding and communicating about the coronavirus (Covid 19), other individuals are questioning whether coronavirus fears are being blown out of proportion.

The best crisis communications tip I can give you is as simple as A-B-C:

Always Be Communicating.

In the grand scheme, it doesn’t matter if you, personally think things are being blown out of proportion or not.

What matters is that you are managing the expectations of your employees, your customers, and your stakeholders.

Replace fear with facts.

And because things change on a daily basis, you must be prepared to communicate constantly. In other words – Always Be Communicating.

When you manage expectations, you manage, mitigate, or eliminate fear.

Here are a few things to communicate about:

  • What should employees do to remain safe?
  • What should customers do to remain safe?
  • Are any of your operations or services changing?
  • If everything is operating as normal, under what circumstances will change be enacted?
  • If changes are enacted, how will you continue to serve your audiences amid the changes?

You and your organization will be affected in some way. How severe the effect is can depend upon how effectively and how frequently you communicate.

Take your audience away from worry and take them to a place of informed decision-making.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Twitter versus Facebook: A Perfect Crisis Communications Case Study

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Crisis communication failures are easy for any expert to cite as an example of what not to do. It is far harder to find a crisis communication and crisis management case study where things are done correctly, because often the public never knows about a potential crisis that never reached a flash point.

Twitter, however, has publicly averted a crisis through both good crisis management and good crisis communications. The wisdom of their decision is punctuated by Facebook’s failure to avert a crisis.

Twitter has voluntarily decided to simply not run political ads. On the one hand, Twitter will lose ad revenue. On the other hand, Twitter doesn’t have to bear the blame of running false, deceptive, or divisive political ads.

Facebook, meanwhile, in what appears to be a grab to earn all the money they can, has publicly said they will run political ads, while also confirming that they will not check to see if the ads are false. Put in simple terms, if you want to lie, Facebook will take your money in order to help you promote and spread your lie.

It is refreshing to see a CEO like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey do what is right, rather than doing what earns the most short term money. It shouts INTEGRITY. I’ve been fortunate enough to deal with many CEOs who are willing to take my advice to do what is right, even if it means earning less money in the short term.

Ultimately, when you do the right thing you reap long term rewards, which offsets the short term losses. Only time will tell if this is true for Twitter, but Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is going to give it a try.

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg will simply add to their downward spiral of criticism. Facebook’s business model is to harvest as much of your personal data as possible, then sell that data to those who want to manipulate your beliefs for their own gain. This is true whether an ad targets you for laundry powder, toothpaste, or someone running for president of the United States.

Facebook, in many ways, is the platform that has made America so divided politically, because of the Facebook data harvested by Cambridge Analytica, which was used to benefit everyone from the Russians to political candidates in the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook’s engagement is down significantly because people are tired of having their data harvested and they are tired of seeing everything from divisive ads to divisive political memes from fake Facebook accounts. Ultimately, Facebook will be nothing more than a place where like-minded people gather to support their like-minded beliefs that are being reinforced by like-minded candidates who tell them what they already believe.

My suspicion is that Facebook is betting they can make big bucks by doing what I would professionally consider to be the WRONG thing. I suspect their short term gain will result in long term losses as more users leave the platform.

In the meantime, let me lift up Twitter and Jack Dorsey for every company and every CEO to see. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Do Mass Shootings Inspire Better Crisis Communications Plans? Five Steps You Can and Should Take Today

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Amid three mass shootings in two weeks, it was surprising to get a call from the public information officer (PIO) of a city, asking what it would cost them to implement my crisis communications plan system for their town.

“We have lots of festivals and I think we are vulnerable to a mass shooting like they had at the Garlic Festival in California,” she said. In that shooting, four people died, including the gunman, and 13 others were injured.

Why is it surprising that a city wants a crisis communications plan? The reality is, every community and business should have a crisis communications plan with pre-written news releases for mass shootings and workplace shootings. But history tells us that a crisis seldom generates a discussion along the lines of, “What would we do if that happened here?” as it relates to communications and specifically crisis communications.

Hats off to this PIO for wanting to open a discussion with her city leaders. She admits that she’s been rebuffed before when she has tried to generate interest for having a robust crisis communications plan. The city’s elected officials seem to think it is a waste of time and money. They expect the PIO can just magically respond.

This flawed thinking is common among elected officials and corporate leaders. Many are in denial or ignorant about how fast news travels on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels. This is due in part to the fact that many of these decision makers don’t like or use social media, so they know of it… but they don’t understand the nuance of how fast bad news travels.

Time was when each shooting used to generate an article from me, urging people to evaluate how each school, community or business responded. We would examine whether news conferences were done correctly, whether the first news release was issued in less than one hour, and we would examine how media filled the void of news with mindless speculation. Those articles usually led to rebuffs alleging that it was “too soon to talk about it” or that it was “too opportunistic to talk about it.”

Experts in crisis communications would advise you that each crisis, whether it is a mass shooting, workplace violence, natural disaster, or sexual misconduct allegation, creates an opportunity to have a conversation and ask, “What would we do?” and “Are we prepared for something like this?”

If you want to be the crisis expert in your school, community, or company, here are 5 Steps that you can take immediately:

1) Conduct a Vulnerability Assessment to determine all of the potential crises that could befall your community or your company. This becomes your road map for your crisis communications plan and the number of pre-written statements you will want to have in your crisis communications plan.

2) Write a Crisis Communications Plan that precisely guides the organization through the process of gathering information quickly, confirming that information with leaders, then quickly issuing a series of statements to the public, the media, employees, and other key stakeholders.

3) Write a Library of Pre-written Statements that can be edited and customized quickly for distribution. That same statement should go to all employees, the public, to your website, and to your social media channels.

4) Conduct Media Training for all potential spokespeople and teach them how to conduct a news conference using the pre-written statements. The statements must be written for the spoken word and they must proactively answer every question that reporters will ask in a news conference. Never send a spokesperson out to ad-lib a news conference. It gets ugly fast.

5) Once you have completed the above four tasks, conduct a Crisis Communications Drill so that you can test your plan, your pre-written statements, and your spokespeople. Pepper your drill with misdirection, mock social media posts, and add at least two mock news conferences to your drill.

Be bold. Start a conversation that others may not be willing to have.

Be bold. Take action.

If you’d like to dig deeper into these five steps, request your free access to the 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Use this link to register.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications Workshop – November 7, 2019 in Baton Rouge

If you would like to master the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, now is the time to register for the Louisiana Hospital Association’s full-day workshop on November 7, 2019 in Baton Rouge. Learn how you can be a crisis communications expert.

For full details, use this link to download the brochure.

To register, click here.

The cost is only $195 for LHA members and only $250 for corporate guests.

To hear more about what you will learn in this workshop, watch this video:

When: Thursday, November 7, 2019
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: Map this event »
LHA Conference Center
2334 Weymouth Drive
Baton Rouge, Louisiana  70809
United States

Presenter: Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC – Gerard Braud Communications


Contact: Melissa Arthur
marthur@lhaonline.org
225-928-0026

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Crisis Communications Planning: Q4 Use It or Lose It

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

If you operate on a fiscal budget calendar, May can be a great time for your crisis communications planning. Read more

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

A public relations professional reached out to me to acquire a license to my Crisis Communications Plan. The company was all set to make the purchase to use my plan. Then the CEO asked, “Why do we need a crisis communications plan? Can’t we just figure this out on the day that something happens?”

The PR team asked me, “How do we make a strong case for crisis planning with our boss?” I created an entire web page to help them make the case. It may help you.

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss?

1) Identify the industry you are in.

2) Identify something in that industry that has policies and standard operating procedures that are written and designed to be followed.

Make your case that just as other teams have written, standard operating procedures that need to be followed, so too must the public relations and communications team have a written set of standard operating procedures.

For example, in a chemical plant, if a specific chemical is released there are written policies and procedures that the Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) teams in the field and in the control room follow in order to stop the leak and recover from the situation.

Just as those teams have a policy and procedure, so should the communications team.

3) Another way to make a strong case for crisis planning with your boss is to conduct a Vulnerability Assessment. You can learn more about this in my free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, by registering here.

A Vulnerability Assessment is the first of 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Spend time with your boss and the executive leadership team listing all of the things that could go wrong in your business that would require communications with employees, the media, customers, and stakeholders.

If you define a crisis as any event that can damage your reputation and revenue, your Vulnerability Assessment should list all of those things.

Next, pick any one of those things and put a price tag on the amount of revenue a company might lose if that event happened. Take that single dollar amount, and budget it toward a Crisis Communications Plan and the entire 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

In other words, taking the steps to prepare on a clear sunny day for the crisis that might befall you on your darkest day should more than pay for itself.

One final note: Your boss might simply say, “Why don’t you do this? Why do we need to hire someone else? That’s what we pay you for.”

Your answer should begin with an outline of how much time it takes to write a crisis communications plan and a library of pre-written news releases. The plan that I license to clients along with more than 100 news pre-written news releases took me 4,000 hours to perfect. To break that down in a 40-hour work week, it would take you 100 weeks – two years of work – to do it on your own.

So the response to your boss should be, “Sure, we can do that. Would you like me to put everything else on hold for two years to complete this, would you like me to hire a new employee for two years to do this, or would you like me to call Gerard Braud and we can have this done in two days?” (Shameless plug)

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss? Look at the dollars and cents in order to make sense.

 Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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Crisis Communications: Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In the world of crisis communications, May should be a pivotal time for crisis communications plans, spokesperson media training, crisis drills, and vulnerability assessments.

Why?

The phrase “Mayday, Mayday” is the international distress call.

Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923. Reportedly, it was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer in London. The phrase was selected in part because it sounded like the French word “m’aider,” which means “help me.”

May isn’t an official time for crisis communications planning and preparations, but we can start. Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

Need help?

There are five steps to effective crisis communications. In January I issued a dare to all of my followers to spread those five steps out over the year. (If you want a deeper dive on the five steps, sign up for my free five part video series on The Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.)

The 5 Steps To Effective Crisis Communications Include:

  1. Conducting an initial Vulnerability Assessment
  2. Writing your Crisis Communications Plan
  3. Writing a library of pre-written news releases
  4. Conducting annual media training for your spokespeople
  5. Conducting an annual crisis communications drill

Many people have taken the challenge and moved forward. I’m thrilled at the response.

Not surprisingly, many have done nothing. As predicted when I issued the challenge in January, many people get trapped in a winter funk and delay decisions and actions until spring.

Spring has sprung. Get to work if you haven’t done so yet. But, pretty soon, people will disappear for summer vacation and projects, training, and decisions will get once again get delayed.

Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

No one can rescue you if you keep waiting for the most perfect time to take the first step or the next step in your crisis communications planning. Just as a disaster or crisis doesn’t wait for the most perfect time, neither should you wait for the most perfect time.

Be a leader and lead. If you are a good leader, others will want to follow. Pick a step; pick a date; invite people to participate.

If you feel the need to shout “Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!” do it. I’m standing by to answer your distress call.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

The PIO and the Right to Know: 2nd Annual Communications Summit

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

I’m thrilled to be the opening keynote speaker for the 2nd Annual PIO and the Right to Know Communications Summit at Wayne State University in Detroit. 

Crisis communications and crisis communications planning is hard work. We’ll tackle every aspect of it.

To help attendees, this page serves as a resource page for my presentation called:

When “It” Hits the Fan

Download your handouts here:

Download a PDF of my slides here https://secureservercdn.net/166.62.110.232/vjm.ac1.myftpupload.com/pdf/2019-PIO.pdf

Connect on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerardbraud/

Connect on Twitter @gbraud

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BraudCommunications/

Website https://braudcommunications.com/

Email Gerard@BraudCommunications.com

To learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, click here. You will receive five 10-minute videos that go more in-depth on each of the five steps.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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