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Great Sound Bites for Dumb Questions: Lessons in Crisis Communication & Media Training

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Carsten Spohr, head of Lufthansa

By Gerard Braud

The media, especially the 24 hour cable news channels, are asking some really dumb, speculative questions as they cover the tragic crash of Germanwings flight 9525. In media training the trainer should teach the spokesperson to never speculate. Yet many spokespeople don’t always deflect the speculative questions as well as I would like.

Wolf Blitzer of CNN is notorious for speculative questions about the impossible. As news broke that the Germanwings co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane, the dumb, speculative questions began from Blitzer and others. A typical dumb, speculative question might be, “How can this happen?” or “Does this mean we need stronger screening?”

A great quotable answer was given by the airline’s CEO, who said, “No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event.”

CEO Germanwings

CEO Germanwings

This is a near perfect quote. The only fine-tuning I would do would be to remove the phrase, “and we have incredibly high standards.” The reason I’d take it out is because an investigation could uncover flaws or compromises in those standards.

Great lines and great answers to speculative questions are best thought of and written on a clear sunny day, long before you need them.

The best way to approach this is to make a list of the most common speculative questions, then formulate answers that say a lot in essence, but offer no real details. And by all means, the statement must be a great quote.

This technique has been at the heart of my writing retreats and the large library of pre-written news releases I use in my crisis communications plans. Just give me a call if you have specific questions.

Media Training 23: Selecting the Right Spokesperson

By Gerard Braud

www.braudcommunications.com

Picking the right spokesperson really depends upon the situation.

Many organizations tend to have two extremes in selecting spokespeople. Some organizations always send out their top PR person while other organizations insist that only the CEO speak.

I endorse neither of these approaches as perfect and will suggest that sometimes the top PR person is a great choice and likewise in some cases the CEO is a great choice.

But in many cases, neither of these people is a good choice.

In fact, if you think back to lesson 12 in which we talk about passing the cynic test, many reporters cynically will think that the PR spokesperson will be too polished, slick and rehearsed, and is therefore serving as a buffer to protect executives who are afraid to talk and who are vulnerable to difficult questions. Conversely, if the cynics see the CEO out front as the spokesperson for certain events, they will assume that the event is more serious because the CEO is having to handle the situation.

As a reporter, I generally wanted to talk to the person closest to the story or issue I was covering. If a hospital has a new procedure to announce, I’d rather speak to a front line doctor than either the PR person or the CEO. If the news report is about a non-profit agency, the best spokesperson for the story might likely be a volunteer. If a company is accused of wrong doing, I’d like to interview the manager who is closet to the issue at hand. If there is a fire and explosion, I’d rather speak to an eye witness or line supervisor.

The closer you can get the reporter to the person closest to the issue or event, the happier they will be.

Of course, this means that when it comes to media training, you need to use the same principle that a great sports team uses. You must train lots of people and build bench strength.

Training deep means managing budgets and calendars such that you can do both primary training and refresher training on a regular budget. Usually, budgeting time and funds is proportionate to the size of your organization. In proposing deep training and budgeting, just remember that the value of a single news story can easily pay for a single media training session. In fact, in most cases, the relative ad value of a single news story is 3 to 9 times greater than the cost of a media training class.

As an example, a 30-second TV commercial during a newscast may cost $4,000 to $5,000, which might also be the cost of a single media training class. However, according to the rules of relative ad value, a 30 second TV news story is considered 3 times more believable than a 30 second advertisement, hence the relative ad value of a 30 second news story could be $12,000 to $15,000. Most news stories run 90 seconds, which could increase the relative ad value of a single TV news story to $36,000 to $45,000 dollars or more. To take it one step further, most towns have one newspaper, 3-5 television stations and multiple news radio stations. Hence, the relative ad value of a news event could easily be worth $300,000 or more, depending upon which city you live in and the price of a 30 second commercial. More modern measurement methods can be even more precise in measuring relative ad value because they calculate the positive and negative nature of the story. The bottom line is that you can easily justify investing funds to train multiple spokespeople based on the positive financial impact it may have. Remember our rule about, “if you could attach a dollar to every word you say, would you make money or lose money.”

Hence, develop bench strength so you can have a large number of spokespeople to send forth and not just the head of PR or the CEO.

As for using the PR person, in Don Henley’s song, “Dirty Laundry,” he speaks of the bubble headed bleach blonde news anchor who comes on at 5 p.m. and how she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. Well the same is true of many PR spokespeople, which makes them not my choice on many occasions as spokespeople.

Regardless of whether news is good or bad, some spokespeople are able to stand before reporters and maintain a bubbly persona as though all is well, even when it isn’t. Their answers are often glib, superficial and poorly rehearsed. I hate that and so do most reporters and that is why many times I don’t want a PR person to be the spokesperson.

At the same time, many CEOs attempt to be too serious, attempt to communicate way too many details and generally look like the world’s biggest grump. I hate spokespeople like that.

The one time when I always want the PR person and the CEO ready to both act as spokespeople is when I write a crisis communications plan for an organization. I generally ask that the PR spokesperson and CEO both be included as spokespeople, along with a host of other executives.

Generally, in the first hour of a crisis, when information is still limited and most executives are busy managing the crisis at hand, I suggest that the PR spokesperson read what I describe as the “First Critical Statement.” This document lays out the very basics of what is known until more details are available.

Generally, I follow the initial statement one hour later with a more detailed statement delivered by a manager who has more expertise and knowledge about the subject at hand. This is one of the reasons why mid level executives need to be media trained.

Many companies will have sent out their CEO by this point to serve as the point person and lead spokesperson. I do not agree with this approach because I would prefer for the CEO to be leading the crisis team during the crisis. Furthermore, if a company uses a CEO as their spokesperson and the CEO misspeaks, who will come behind the CEO and clean things up if the CEO makes a mistake. Generally, I save the CEO to be the final spokesperson when the crisis is over. It both allows the CEO to clean up after any misstatements by middle managers and it allows the CEO to be portrayed as a leader who was managing the crisis.

Words are important, but you also send signals to the media by whom you select as your spokesperson. Choose wisely.

In our next lesson we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of a news conference.

Ebola Crisis Communications Lesson: Ask for Help

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudOf all the Power Point presentations by his leadership team members, the CEO only stood and applauded the vice president who showed he was having difficulties in his division, when the other vice presidents showed rainbows and green lights. The company was millions in debt with falling sales and the CEO knew that everyone who painted a rosy picture was either a liar or delusional. The one who asked for help was the star.

A colleague shared this story supporting my premise in yesterday’s Ebola communication considerations blog. In the blog I suggested that public relations, marketing, media relations and crisis communication professionals will not be fired if they ask for help. Instead, your CEO and leadership team will respect you for telling the truth and knowing that your truth may save the reputation and revenue of your organization.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braudThe field of communications is misunderstood, even by the C-Suite. Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. They expect publicity. Often the CEO will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Sadly, many with MBAs don’t really understand the differences either.

Even in public relations, many do not realize how difficult it is to be a crisis communication expert. The expert is the one who prepares on a clear sunny day for what might happen on your darkest day. At the university level, most public relations classes touch on crisis communication as an evaluation of how well you manage the media after a crisis erupts. That is outdated and flawed. Preparation = professionalism.

Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge and expertise rather than asking for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue.

Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue.

Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Ask for help.

If you’d like some FREE help, join me on Friday, October 17, 2014 for a free webinar that explores what you need to do today to prepare for your possible Ebola communications tomorrow. Register here.

 

— By Gerard Braud

Ebola Crisis Communication Planning and Crisis Management Planning

EBOLA webinar Gerard Braud

Register Here

Is it too soon to talk about your Ebola crisis communications strategies and plan? A New York based public relations professional asked me that question today. I responded by saying, “Why wait? One week ago no one in Dallas gave Ebola crisis communications a second thought. Today, at lease 14 businesses and government entities have to send spokespeople out to talk to the media about their portion of the Ebola crisis.”

I say start getting your Ebola crisis communications plan and crisis management plan in place now. Your Ebola crisis can crop up without warning. Your crisis could result not only from an actual Ebola case, but from the hysteria of false information about a case.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braud

Register Here

You may own a business, be the CEO or leader of a business, hospital, school, or non-profit. You may be the public relations or crisis management professional for a business, hospital, school, or non-profit. NOW is the time to realize that it only takes one case of Ebola to be associated with your organization for a world of media attention to descend upon you. Along with media scrutiny and hysteria, you will also have to deal with the online social media trolls. If you skip a beat… if you hesitate… if you are just slightly behind the story or the crisis, the institution you are associated with will be treated like a 19th century leaper – no one will want to have anything to do with you. It becomes the ultimate crisis, defined by complete harm to your reputation and revenue.

Examine the case in Texas, in which Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The airline, the TSA, the Border Patrol, the hospital, the apartment complex, the sheriff’s department, the patient’s church, the school system, the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Governor, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas County Coroner, and the mortuary that cremated his body are all suddenly players having to communicate about some aspect of this crisis. That means thirteen entities that were far removed from the crisis a few days ago are suddenly thrust into the crisis. Fourteen people, if not more, suddenly need to be a spokesperson about their portion of this crisis. Each suddenly needs a crisis communications expert. Even Louise Troh, Duncan’s longtime partner, has retained a public relations firm to speak on her behalf.

The piece-meal communications I’ve seen indicates that each of these entities are having to develop their crisis communication strategy on the fly. If they have a crisis communications plan, it appears none were updated prior to the crisis to address Ebola. In other instances, it is clear that no crisis communication plan exists, which is the reality for many organizations. And experience in reviewing a vast number of documents that public relations people call their crisis communication plan has proven woefully inadequate. In no way do they meet the criteria of a document that would guide and manage communications in a crisis.

Gerard braud Ebola blog 1

Click image to watch video

Could you suddenly be a small part of this bigger story? You bet.

Are the odds low? Maybe yes, maybe no?

Could that change quickly because of variables beyond your control? Absolutely.

Is the risk high enough that you should invest time and money to prepare? The vast majority of organizations will say no, because they are in denial about how real the potential threat is. Yet it is a fool’s bet to stay unprepared, when the act of preparing can be done quickly and affordably. Furthermore, when done correctly, you can develop a crisis communications plan that will serve you for Ebola, as well as hundreds of other crises you may face in the future.

Is this line of thought logical? In my world it is very logical. I believe in being prepared. Yet experience tells me that this thought process will be rejected by the vast majority of you reading this and the vast majority of leaders and executives who run corporations, hospitals, non-profit organizations, schools, and small businesses. Human denial is a stronger power than the power to accept a simple option to prepare.

“We don’t need to worry about that,” is easier to say than, “Let’s get a team on this to prepare. The chances are slim, but if it happens it could destroy us.”

“Destroy us?” Is that too strong of a suggestion? Well, two weeks ago the Ivy Apartments in Dallas were a thriving, profitable business. Do you think anyone wants to move into those apartments after an Ebola victim has been there? Do you think existing residents will stay? The owners are already feeling the symptoms of damage to reputation and revenue.

Based on my crisis management and crisis communication experience, don’t be surprised if you see the Ivy Apartment complex bulldozed and the land left vacant for a time, all because they were, through no fault of their own, associated with a global crisis beyond their control.

What are the odds? Very small.

What is the reality? Likely financial ruin.

Are you willing to roll the dice if you own a company? Are you ready to roll the dice if you are the public relations expert for a company?

“Better safe than sorry,” is my suggested approach. Yet, “That won’t happen to us,” or “The chances of that happening to us is so small it isn’t worth our time and effort,” is what the vast majority of organizations will think or say.

In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.

I’m available to answer your questions on this issue. Call me at 985-624-9976.

Gerard Braud

Secrets to Effective Key Messages for Media Training

KeyMsg1 By Gerard Braud

Do your key messages suck? Most people think not. I think they usually do.

Expert Media Training requires solid key messages. But public relations people have been taught that a key message is little more than giving your spokesperson or CEO a handful of bullet points, then turning them loose to do a media interview.

This spells disaster and here is why.

[ Learn more with PRSA – Effective Messaging: Writing & Speaking With Words That Resonate  ]

In a media interview the goal of the spokesperson should be to deliver a great quote because great quotes manipulate how the reporter writes his or her story. Great quotes seldom come from a spontaneous ad-lib. The greatest quotes are planned, written, and practiced to perfection.

Here is an example of what the average PR person at a hospital might give to his or her CEO in a media training class as they prepare the executive for a media interview.

They may tell the boss, Our three key messages are:

1) patient care

2) our new equipment

3) giving back to the community

The average CEO would then ad-lib: “We have the best doctors and medical staff in tKeyMsg2he state and we’ve won numerous awards. We have the best equipment in our region, including the new super knife computer system that we paid $20-million dollars for. Our surgeons are all well-trained. And I can assure you the care of our patients is our top priority. Plus, we give back to the community”

That’s horrible.

What if your CEO said this: “At Denver Hospital our goal is to be there when you need us the most. We do that by treating those simple illnesses that make you feel crummy; by treating you or your family members when they are challenged by major hospitalization; and by offering wellness care to keep you healthy.”

Which sounds polished? Which sounds professional, yet approachable? Which uses the language of the patient without being sucked into jargon? Which sounds internally focused and self-centered and which sounds as though you truly are putting the customer first?

If you’d like to learn how to effectively write and deliver key messages, join me in Chicago on September 17, 2015 when the Public Relations Association of America (PRSA) presents, Effective Messaging: Writing & Speaking With Words That Resonate

You will spend time evaluating your current messaging. You will learn to write new messaging using a conversational tone. Then, you’ll have a chance to verbally test-drive your messages to determine if they resonate with your audiences.

Great communications is no accident. Great communications requires great writing, practice and implementation.

Postpone Your Crisis: Crisis Communication Wisdom with a Twist

K2 copyBy Gerard Braud

Consider this: scheduling your crisis may be the wave of the future. Rather than being ambushed and surprised by a sudden crisis, which forces you into crisis communication, consider the model used by many of your leaders who ignore my plea to plan for the worst.

Here is how it works. Many public relations people have e-mailed me to say that they cannot conduct media training or crisis communication training with their executives because the executives do not have time. Often these public relations people are asking for only a single day for media training. Sometimes they are asking for two days to write a crisis communications plan. Regardless of which communication training you ask for, there are always too many other projects more important than preparing to effectively communicate in a crisis. Hence, if an executive does not have time to schedule the training for the skills that would be mandatory in order to protect the profits and reputation of their company during a crisis, it only makes sense to declare that no crises should take place unless it is scheduled.

So next time you want to schedule media training or crisis communication training and you are told there is no time on the schedule because we have too many higher priority projects, just ask your executives when they would like to schedule their crisis?

Sure, it has been said that, “If you fail to plan, than plan to fail.” But under this new crisis communication model, we could simply say, “Plan to fail.”

If you’ve ever been told there is no time on the schedule for communication training, please share this article with the person who told you that, then send their reaction to me.

Rural Electric Cooperative Communications: The Times Are Changing

electric co-op movie gerard braud

Click video to watch

Consider this: Just a few years ago rural electric cooperatives were not under pressure to communicate rapidly with the media, members or employees. Today, you have less than one hour to control the flow of accurate information.

There are three major reasons why this is changing and four things you can do to adjust to these changes. If you are not adjusting to these changes, you will be in big trouble.

To learn about the three major changes and four ways to adjust, read on…

To communicate effectively at a 2014 level, you need these four things:

1) Your co-op must have the most extensive crisis communications plan ever written.

2) Your crisis communications plan must have a library of at least 100 pre-written news releases.

3) Your CEO/manager, operations director, customer service director, and public relations director must agree to all train at least once a year for media interviews.

4) Your co-op must conduct a crisis communications drill at least once a year to test your crisis communications plan, your pre-written news releases, and the media interview skills of your spokespeople.

Why is this suddenly so critical in 2014? Here are the three reasons:

#1 Urban Sprawl

Time was, when city media seldom reported on rural electric co-op issues. Today, as cities like Houston, Atlanta, and others have turned pastures and forests into neighborhoods, the media aggressively covers stories in these areas. New residents in new houses represent a young, emerging audience with disposable income that appeals to advertisers, especially for television news. Those same new residents are likely to be the quickest to call a television news investigative reporter and they will be the first to comment online about a negative news report.

#2 The Rural Weekly Paper is Online

Time was, when rural news was only reported by the local weekly newspaper. Today, the internet has allowed the weekly paper to publish online 24/7. No longer can you take days to respond to a co-op controversy. The weekly paper may still print just one day a week, but they need an interview, facts and quotes from you just as fast as the big city media.

#3 Social Media

An angry member can quickly escalate any issue to the crisis level. They can escalate an issue into an online controversy and a mainstream media controversy. While many co-op managers and board members continue to wrangle with, question, and oppose a social media presence, members are creating their own anti-cooperative Facebook pages. Your extensive crisis communications plan must have a social media strategy.

Conclusion

Co-op communications is changing rapidly. If you, like so many cooperative communicators, find yourself with too many other tasks and too few people or hours in the day, please call me. I have fast, easy and affordable solutions to your communication challenges, including a world class crisis communications plan that can be customized in just two days.

Click here to LISTEN to what other cooperative communicators have to say about this fast, cost effective way to implement a crisis communications plan customized for your cooperative. You can also call me at 985-624-9976 to learn more.

Did Lululemon’s Crisis Communication Efforts on Social Media Create a Bigger Crisis?

By Gerard Braud

A bad media interview caused by insufficient media training is creating a crisis communication problem on social media. Experts will weigh in on this, but I don’t think any one expert has the answer as to the best way to handle this.

reax Lululemon FBI really want to know what you think.

The founder of Lululemon has posted a video to the company Facebook apologizing for comments he made in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Read the full details on my blog from last week.

As I write this, nearly 500 people have clicked “Like” on this particular Facebook post while more than 700 comments are posted. The vast majority of these comments are negative.

I have several crisis communication questions for you:

1) Do you think the founder, Chip Wilson, has made the situation better or worse by attempting to apologize on Facebook for comments he made on television?

2) Do you think the situation is getting better or worse on the Facebook brand page as the company’s public relations and social media teams try to engage in a conversation with those who post comments?

Without providing an answer to those questions, here is something to consider — Each time the public relations and social media team replies to a comment on the Facebook post, it moves the discussion higher in the news feed of the page followers, increasing the odds that someone new will jump into the conversation.

Was this a big mistake to take this discussion to Facebook?

Could this apology have found a better home in the company’s newsroom?

Was the apology itself poorly worded, leading to more negative comments?

Was the apology made only to employees and not to customers?

If the apology was to employees only, should it not have been posted where only employees would see it?

Could all of this crisis on the back end been eliminated by doing things differently on the front end?

As a father, I’ll tell you that my wife and I had a couple of basic rules when we were raising our two daughters. One rule was that you never have to fix the big things if you fix the little things. In this case, the lesson for all PR people, CEOs, and executive spokespeople, is to understand that the apology would never have been needed if the CEO had not said a foolish ad lib in the interview.  The foolishness would have been eliminated if executive media training had been done prior to the original interview.

I’m amazed on a daily basis at how under valued media training is among executives and public relations teams.

In every media training class that I teach, I challenge the CEO or spokesperson with this question, “If you could attach a dollar to every word that you say, would you make money or lose money?”

StopSpending LuluLemmon FBOf the more than 700 comments on the Lululemon Athletica Facebook page about this issue, many clearly say they will no longer buy the company’s product. Need I say more to prove my point? I think not.

In every crisis you should consider my “Crisis Rule of Thirds,” which states that one-third of the people love your company/brand, one-third will hate your company/brand, and the third in the middle will swing like a pendulum, based on what is popular at the moment.

In a social media crisis, in a world that is already filled with negative comments, I think many companies will lose the battle, lose the war, lose customers, and lose money.

Consider this: Delete the video, delete the Facebook post, and stop talking about it.

What do you think?

Media Trainer Gives Advice to Chip Wilson, Lululemon Founder

By Gerard Braud

Chip Wilson Bloomberg

Watch the full interview

Media training, media trainers and the executives and spokespeople who go through media training need to understand the importance of practicing before every media interview.

Chip Wilson, Lululemon Founder is being criticized today for comments about how Lululemon pants only fit some women and the ongoing crisis or controversy over allegations that Lululemon pants are “see through.”

Media training requires the spokesperson, executive or CEO to recognize that every word you say can have a positive or negative impact on your corporate sales and revenue. Sales, revenue and the words you say are part of the reputation package you develop over time. As a spokesperson, you either enhance or degrade your reputation and revenues during a media interview.

Media training and the expert who serves as the media trainer, requires us to recognize that while the spokesperson, executive or CEO is invited into a media interview for one topic, other topics may be brought up. This is especially true if the interview is within a reasonable time period of a recent crisis or controversy. This is true for Lululemon and founder Chip Wilson.

Wilson is making headlines because of an interview he did on the Street Smart program on Bloomberg TV with anchor Trish Regan. Wilson appeared on Bloomberg with wife Shannon, who was being interviewed about Whil, a 60 second meditation she was promoting.

Instead of Whil and meditation being the headline in news reports today, the trending headline is “If your thighs rub together, Lululemon’s pants may not be for you.”

Regan asked Chip Wilson, “What’s going on with the pants?”

Wilson replies, “I think everything’s blown up. There is no doubt about it we made a mistake. The thing is we’re a technology company, and when you push technology, something is going to happen every now and then.”

He goes on in his confession to say, “There are a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric and when three of those things go wrong at the same time something is going to happen and it is almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.”

Regan responds, “It’s tough and it continues to be a problem, because now there are complaints of pilling in the fabric.”

Wilson responds with an attempt at an analogy by saying, “There has always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work, or they will wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.”

“They don’t work for the pants?” Regan asks.

Wilson replies, “They don’t work for some women’s bodies.”

“So it’s more likely they will be more see through on some women’s bodies than others?” Regan follows.

“No, I don’t think that way, because even our small size would fit a woman who is an extra large,” says Wilson. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs and how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it…”

Regan injects, “Not every woman can wear Lululemon yoga pants…”

“No, I think they can. It’s just how you use it,” Wilson concludes.

Media training before the interview should have prepared Chip Wilson for a better answer. Media training in the midst of the initial controversy over the alleged “see through” yoga pants should have established a dialogue of carefully parsed, verbatim sentences. With training, Chip Wilson would have been able to say these sentences in an instant if I were to wake him from a dead sleep.

If Gerard Braud, a media trainer from New Orleans, were brought in to provide expert council and media training advice to help the 10th-richest man in Canada and his Vancouver based company, this is how he would have been taught to handle this exchange.

Regan’s initial question was open ended and neither positive nor negative. She asked, “What’s going on with the pants?”

Chip Wilson, like many CEOs, because there is a negative in his mind, focuses on the negative issue, rather than focusing on the positive solution. Remember, Regan implied no negative. Chip Wilson voluntarily went negative.

(By the way Chip Wilson, many CEOs learn this the hard way. My wealthiest  CEO client is worth $2.4 Billion and knows that spending a few dollars on media training and a few minutes on practice protects his company, his brand, and his wealth. My number is 985-624-9976. Call me and I’ll let you talk with him directly as one CEO to another.)

If I were in a private executive media training with Chip Wilson, he would be coached to respond with honest truth about the Lululemon yoga pants and not the negative truth about the Lululemon yoga pants. His answer would be, “The popularity of our yoga pants continues to grow. It is humbling to see that we were able to follow our passion and create a form of sports apparel that continues to grow in popularity with men and women.”

Trish ReganSince Regan appears to be fit, I might even instruct Wilson to ask the Bloomberg news anchor, “Trish, do you have a regular exercise routine and are you a Lululemon customer?”  This is also something Wilson could have learned prior to the interview. If Wilson had employed this technique of asking Regan a question, chances are the discussion would have turned to Regan and her exercise routine.

There is a chance the interview would have never gone negative. If Regan followed up by saying, “A while back you had issues with women complaining that the pants were see through. Have you fixed that problem?”

Wilson could have replied, “Yes, as we investigated we found that many of these issues were caused by customers loving their pants so much they wore them often and in some cases they sat on rough surfaces, such as concrete. So, while we love the fact that customers want to wear our product a lot, like any fabric… including your favorite pair of jeans…  get thinner and you need to buy a new pair.”

There is a good chance the negative tone of the interview would have ended there.

Additionally, in a politically correct, hyper-sensitive world, a CEO, a spokesperson or executive cannot say anything that could be implied as criticism of a woman’s body and shape. Regan baits Wilson with her question, “So it’s more likely they will be more see through on some women’s bodies than others?” This follow up question might never have been voiced if Wilson had used my positive, pre-planned and practiced answer, rather than his bad ad-lib.

Wilson steps in a big pile of “do-do” when he says, “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it.”

What my experience as a media trainer also picks up on here is that Wilson is likely an analytical person. Many CEOs are analytical, which causes them to answer with technical facts and confessions, in an effort to be honest. Often a stronger form of honesty can be found in a less technical and more positive answer.

Surely, the entire Lululemon public relations team gave out a loud cry when Wilson mentioned thighs? Or did they? I don’t know.

I do know that I have watched many PR teams simply tell a rich CEO what a great job they did in an interview, rather than providing honest feed back and more media training before then next interview. If you are in public relations, it is your job to provide executive council to the CEO and not be a wimp who is afraid to speak.

(For all of you who have asked, “How do I get a seat at the table?”, the answer is to have the nerve and professionalism to speak up rather than being fearful that you will lose your job.)

Trish Regan 2

Read the article

In the spirit of avoiding negatives, Wilson never needed to use words such as, “There are a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric and when three of those things go wrong at the same time something is going to happen and it is almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.” This, once again, indicates an analytical engineering type mind is answering the question.

Finally, the analogy used by Wilson about seat belts not fitting and purses not being right represents what happens when a media spokesperson does not develop and practice their analogies during their media training class.

The bottom line: Headlines on the internet and headlines in the media focus on words such as, “Chip Wilson, Lululemon Founder: ‘Some Women’s Bodies’ Not Right For Our Pants.”

This didn’t need to be the headline. The CEO is at fault. All CEOs need to recognize the importance of media training and public relations teams must not gloss over media training prior to every interview.

 

Lesson 6: Who Should Participate in Your Crisis Communications Drill?

By Gerard Braud

Trainwreck CEOVarious teams within your organization can organize crisis drills. If no one else within your company, government agency or non-profit is organizing an annual crisis drill, then individuals within the communications department can take the lead to organize a drill.

Ideally, to get a well rounded drill you want to test your public relations team and their ability to craft and disseminate effective communications in a timely manner. Additionally, Emergency Managers and Incident Commanders may be called upon to participate in any type of drill designed to test emergency response to a rapidly evolving crisis such as a workplace shooting or fire. If the crisis drill scenario involves the disruption of production or disruption to the supply chain or any upset at a facility, the risk management team should also be part of the planning and execution of the crisis drill.

Together, these three teams must work to each perform their assigned task in a prescribed amount of time.  They must work to support one another with shared information and shared decision-making, all under the supervision of the Crisis Management Team.

A drill is designed to replicate an actual event. Held on a clear sunny day, a crisis drill prepares you and your organization for your darkest day. If you discover on a sunny day that members of the various teams are not functioning well together, you have time to correct the bad behavior or bad decision making before a real crisis happens.

9thWard-KatrinaVersary-Media_0406There are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes it is possible to test just the crisis communications team and the leadership team during a drill that simulates a smoldering crisis, rather than a sudden crisis. For example, instead of simulating a workplace shooting, build a scenario centered around a smoldering issue like executive behavior or discrimination. Such a drill will test the ethical decision making of your leaders. It will test their commitment to communicate pro-actively about such an event, and it will test the communications team for their ability to word-smith a perfect communiqué for what is often the most difficult of all crises.

Keep in mind that a smoldering crisis does not trigger the incident command plan or the risk management plan. This also proves once again that a crisis communications plan is always an important tool and document to have because it must guide your communications activity with other teams and also independent of other teams and their plans.