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Media Training for Covid-19 Key Messages: Rule of Threes

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The brain remembers three things better than five. That is why the Rule of Threes is a foundation of media training. So when key medical experts testified before Congress recently, the nit-picker in me appreciated their five tips for preventing the spread of Covid-19, yet I know that a minor shift to three tips could result in more effective crisis communications.

The doctors all suggested:

  1. Wear a mask
  2. Wash your hands frequently
  3. Practice social distancing
  4. Avoid crowds at businesses, bars, and social gatherings
  5. Avoid large family gatherings

Although their advice seems fairly straightforward, as a professional media trainer and crisis communications expert, I am always examining how to communicate more effectively in a crisis.

Watch the video to learn how you can convert these five points into three key messages to clearly explain the guidelines in a way that the spokesperson can easily remember, and listeners can easily remember, using the Rule of Threes, and our Key Message Tree mind-mapping model.

This media training model can be applied to every event for every spokesperson. When you apply the Rule of Threes, your media training will be far more effective.

If you’d like to learn more, schedule a no-obligation conversation with me using this link: https://calendly.com/braud/15min

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

“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

How to Do a Remote Media Interview: COVID-19 Media Training Tips

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The number of remote media interviews, online interviews, Zoom interviews, and the like have skyrocketed in the past few weeks. In last week’s video, I asked you, who is doing them well? How is the quality of the videos?

Well, today I am providing you with expert media training strategies to help you look professional, organized, and credible as a source for your media interview.

If lighting, camera angles, technology, and wardrobe stress you out (and rightfully so), this video can help you be a video producer in your own home office or other remote location.

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

COVID-19 Media Interviews: Share Your Thoughts

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has spawned new aspects of crisis communications and media interviews. Behold, the social distancing media interview done from your computer in your home.

What do you think about these interviews?

Your assignment for the day is to:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Take a photo of an interview being done from home
  3. Critique how the interview looks
  4. Send your image and your critique to me at any of my platforms, and feel free to include the hashtag #TVInterviews

Here are some criteria to look for and to comment on:

  1. Camera angle
  2. Lighting
  3. Background
  4. Glare
  5. Distractions
  6. Posture
  7. …plus anything else that you observe that your professional colleagues should either duplicate or avoid.

Share them via:

@gbraud on Twitter

Gerard Braud on LinkedIn

The BraudCast on YouTube

Braud Communications on Facebook

After you share your observations, I’ll share them back with our community so you’ll be better prepared if you or one of your team members is called upon to do a television interview via your computer from home.

Should you need in-depth training, we can provide you with remote media training for remote interviews as well as train-the-trainer remote training so you can coach your executives and subject matter experts. To learn more, schedule a call: https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Many of the techniques you have learned in traditional media training still apply. Yet, at the same time, there are some clear distinctions and additional burdens. Think of it this way: In a traditional television interview, the news crew is responsible for things you never need to think about, such as:

  • lighting
  • audio quality
  • the background view
  • background noise
  • the camera angle
  • and more

Whereas you traditionally needed to focus on:

  • what you were going to say
  • your wardrobe
  • your body language
  • and more

Suddenly, you have to do both your job and their job.

It isn’t easy. I’ll work on a checklist for all of you, but by all means, if you need professional training we’re here to be your training partner.

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 Sam McGhee on Unsplash

You’re Ruining Your Reputation on Social Media: Use 5 Basic Rules

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The ability for the global community to post online comments in countless ways and forums makes the world even more frightening for those trying to manage their reputation. For the sake of discussion here, when I use the term social media, I’m talking about all postings to the internet that allow your reputation to be improved or destroyed, as well as the gadgets that make it all possible. There are

3 ways you can get hurt in the world of social media:

  1. When your public actions are photographed or video taped, then posted to the web
  2. When your reputation is attacked on social sites and blogs
  3. When you willingly participate in on-line discussions and do a poor job communicating

For example, there is a video posted to the web of a county commissioner being hounded by a television reporter. When asked after a public meeting to justify the delay in opening a new county juvenile justice center, the commissioner asks the reporter, “Elliot, do you know that Jesus loves you?” The commissioner then dodges every one of the reporter’s subsequent questions by trying to engage in a discussion about why the reporter should accept Jesus as his personal savior. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the answer is inappropriate because it is not germane to the news report, and by repeating a variation of it as the answer to every question, it only makes the official look more like he is guilty of hiding something.

Prior to the advent of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook.com and YouTube.com, such buffoonery would have been seen once or twice on the local evening news, the commissioner would have become the butt of some brief local mockery and embarrassment, but within a few days it would all pass.

But in the age of social media, millions of people around the world are able to watch the video and laugh at its absurdity on a daily basis. Some will post a link to their own website, or forward a link via e-mails to friends. This is what viral and social media is all about. This video lives forever on the world wide web and so does the commissioner’s embarrassment, mockery and humiliation, as people perpetually forward the video to their network of real friends and online acquaintances.

Issues like this are one of the reasons you should consider Social Media Training. Social Media Training is a program I pioneered to teach communicators and executives the realities and how their reputations can be damaged by public actions that are either voluntarily, or involuntarily captured, and posted to the web.

Numerous reputations and careers have been destroyed because of what someone says in a presentation to what is perceived as a friendly group. Inevitably, an audience member records the speech or presentation, then either posts a portion of it to the web or gives it directly to the media.

Cloaked with an audience of perceived friends, speakers often “cross the line” by their comments, only to face humiliation, embarrassment, and in many cases a long list of apologies and even the loss of their jobs because they thought their comments were made in private and off the record. If you are hosting a social media training class, you may wish to combine it with a presentation skills class.

Social Media Training is also needed before communicators and executives voluntarily attempt to participate in online communities. This is true whether one is responding to a posting made by someone else, or whether you are the one posting to a personal or corporate blog for your organization.

For instance, I found a random blog entry one day as I prepared to teach a Social Media Seminar. The blog entry was from a top executive from General Motors. The blog entry, posted on an official GM site, featured a photo of the executive. The guy in the photo looked like he was delivering an angry rant on stage at a corporate meeting. His blog entry, likewise, took an angry, rant style with a tone that personified, “I know better than you.”

His comment was a reply to a blog posting critical of GM’s poor gasoline mileage in its SUV’s. Because of how the executive worded his rather pompous response, many more participants in the blog criticized his parsed words and reply, which reflected the official corporate line.

In short, the executive’s poor choice of words was like throwing gasoline on a small fire, turning it into a bigger fire. It didn’t need to be that way.

CEO’s and executives need to think carefully before they participate in social media and corporate communicators need to think carefully before asking or allowing executives to actively participate in social media.

There are a few basic things communicators and executives should consider in the world of social media:

1. Are you good with traditional media? If you are not good with traditional media, what makes you think you can handle social media?

2. How do you behave in public? Do you realize that every public moment of your life is potentially being photographed or recorded? Your public behavior, what you do and say, who you associate with, and where you are seen in public, can all be posted to the web for the entire world to see.

My 5 basic rules for social media:

1) Every rule of media training applies to social media. Every word and how those words are phrased will be carefully scrutinized.

2) Edit what you say constantly to avoid having your comments taken out of context.

3) The rule of ethics is to ask whether you behavior in private is the same as the way you would behave if people were watching you. Congruency of behavior is important.

4) Before jumping into an online blog type discussion, you need to be prepared to use key messages and making sure those key messages have been run through the cynic filter. Bloggers are cynical and brutal.

5) Sometimes the best response to a blog posting is to ask a question. Rather than attacking a blogger for their point of view, simply ask them to further explain their point of view. Sometimes a blogger will back down as they are unable to defend their position. Sometimes other bloggers will come to your rescue with responses that match your point of view.

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 Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

How to Media Train a Spokesperson for a Crisis?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In the world of media training and media interviews, there are some serious flaws that you should avoid. These are especially true when you have to do a media interview during a crisis.

Here are a few:

  • Media training is not about how to be fast on your feet; it is about how to be prepared so there are no surprise questions.
  • Your goal is not to answer every question. Your goal should be to control the questions you get asked, the answers you give, and ultimately, to control the final edit of the news stories about your crisis.
  • Three key messages based on bullet points is an asinine concept and needs to be eradicated. Well-worded, internalized, verbatim sentences and quotes must be your spokesperson’s secret weapon.

Your best bet for your spokesperson? Read from a script.

(Get more details when you download our free video course on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications)

The pre-written news release we spoke of in yesterday’s blog should be your script for your news conference.

In addition to the tips we offered on how to write a great crisis news release, here is one more: Your news release, and ultimately that news release as the script you will read, should pro-actively answer every question you are going to be asked in the news conference.

“That’s impossible,” you say?

“How can that be done,” you ask?

I bet you are thinking, “No one knows every question you are going to be asked in a news conference.”

Surprise. There are only two types of questions that get asked in a news conference.

  • News conference question type #1: Factual based questions, such as who, what, when, where.
  • News conference question type #2: Speculation based questions, such as how and why.

Put the facts in your news release.  Read the facts in your news conference from your script. Next, deflect speculative questions with pre-written answers such as,

Regarding the exact cause of the explosion, at this time it would be inappropriate for us to speculate on the cause. We will have to wait for an investigation to tell us what happened, how it happened, and how we might keep it from happening again.

In media training for a crisis, your spokesperson must be trained to internalize the sentence that deflects speculations. In media training, your spokesperson must be given permission to say that line multiple times, until the reporters understand that despite rephrasing the question many times, the answer is still the same.

Also in media training for a crisis, your spokesperson needs to internalize the above sentence so that it sounds thoughtful and spontaneous. You don’t want your spokesperson delivering the line with anger or frustration.

As for reading from a script, recognize that it isn’t easy. Remember:

  • There is an art to reading slow.
  • There is an art to being able to read and look up to make eye contact with the audience.
  • There is an art to being able to look back at your script when the questions start coming, so you can repeat an answer that you’ve used before.

Lastly, media training for a crisis is something that every spokesperson should do at least once a year. Media training is not a bucket-list item that you do once in life. Media training is a skill-set that requires regular practice with a great coach who will be brutally honest with you and perpetually challenge you to be a crisis communications expert.

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

There’s No Room for Your Facts in a Media Interview

When I was a reporter, I was always joking around in the newsroom. One day, I declared,

“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

We all laughed. A colleague was pushing for a story to make the evening news, but there were lots of holes in the story and I wanted my story to be the lead story. I won and got the lead story. The colleague’s story was killed.

Over the years we used the joke here and there, but then we began to realize that way too much of what made the news at our TV station and at those of our competitors, made the news regardless of the facts. In the end, it was one of the reasons I left the news business after a great 15-year ride.

But let’s be honest. How many news stories are filled with facts? The truth is, not a lot. Newspaper stories will always have more details than TV and radio news reports. But TV stories, especially, are driven by visual images. The example that I always use is that if the story is about a brown cow, I need video of a brown cow. If I have no video of a brown cow, I can’t put the story on the evening news.

Another example I always use is the mixed metaphor that says,

“If a tree falls in the woods and it is not on video, is it news?”

When I used to cover hurricanes in the ‘80s and ‘90s I was always upset when I didn’t have video of something blowing away. I needed the visual on video to tell the story.

A print reporter will likely write only a 12-20 sentence synopsis, a radio reporter is only writing 6-8 sentences and a TV reporter is only writing 10-12 sentences.

The average person tries to give way, way, way too many facts in a news interview.

Take this comment with a grain of salt, but the reporter doesn’t really care about you or the facts. Sure, they seem interested in you, but their report is more important to them personally than your facts.

A news report is a puzzle. Certain pieces must fit exactly together. In a TV report, quotes make up one-third of the story. The lead and the conclusion together make up one-third of the story. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but can you guess how much room we have in the story for your facts? In a TV news report, that equals 4 sentences. In a print report that equals 8-12 sentences.

If there is no room in the story for a bunch of facts, why would you spend so much time giving lots of facts to the reporter? Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Crisis Communication Question: What Would You Do?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC


Today’s crisis communication question is, what would you do if there was a fire and explosion where you work?

How long would it take before someone in your company could gather the facts, write a crisis communications news release, get the news release approved by the crisis management team, then released to the media, your employees, your customers, and your community?

One hour? Two hours? Three hours, or more?

The crisis communication case studies I’ve reviewed indicates many companies still take in excess of three hours to issue a statement. That is far too long and frankly, unacceptable.

If your company can’t release at least a basic statement in less than one hour of the onset of the crisis, you are failing.

Let me add a layer of crisis communications reality. There is a chance that a member of the public is instantly posting pictures and videos to social media within minutes of the explosion.

Let me increase your crisis anxiety by pointing out that the eyewitness could be broadcasting the fire and disaster live with Twitter’s PeriscopeFacebook LiveYouTube LiveInstagram Live, and LinkedIn Live, as well as other emerging apps.

With each passing minute that social media is telling your story, you are losing control of the narrative and increasing the potential damage to your company’s reputation and revenue.

The best way to communicate quickly is to

Follow the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications

To learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communication, use this link to get access to a free 5-part video series that explores best practices in crisis communication. This series takes you into a deeper dive than we have time for here.

Step 1 Conduct a vulnerability assessment

The assessment, done on a clear sunny day, identifies everything that could potentially damage your company’s reputation and revenue. This must include sudden crises such as fires and explosions, as well as smoldering crises such as sexual harassment or a social media post gone wrong.

Step 2 Write an effective crisis communications plan

This should not be just a checklist of standard operating procedures. It should be specific, sequential instructions for gathering information, confirming it with your crisis management team, then disseminating one message to all audiences. Those audiences must include the media, your employees, your customers, and your community. The plans I license to my clients have a provision that they must communicate to their audiences within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. You can learn more details by signing up for the 5-part video series. You’ll also be given an option to download a PDF of a First Critical Statement that is perfect for every crisis.

Step 3 Have a library of pre-written news releases

Each of my clients receives a base set of 100 pre-written news releases with their crisis communications plan. Each news release is methodically written to have multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank options that allow the statement to be modified in about 10 minutes. The statements read less like a traditional news release and more like a well-written news story. This one statement goes to all audiences and stakeholders.

Step 4 Provide Media Training

In crisis communication media training, all of your potential spokespeople learn to deliver their statements by using the pre-written news releases in Step 3. They also learn the secrets to answering tough follow-up questions. A primary purpose of media training is to allow your spokespeople to make mistakes in private so that they do not make mistakes in public. In media training, it is also critical that each participant gets videotaped and evaluated multiple times during the day.

Step 5 Hold a Crisis Communication Drill

Like media training, the drill is designed to allow participants to make mistakes in private so that they do not make mistakes during a real crisis. A good crisis communications drill must have misdirection, injections of social media and mainstream media activities, plus at least two full-blown mock news conferences. Generally, the drills I conduct last about three hours, followed by a 90-minute evaluation. Team members can know the day of the drill and the time, but the drill scenario should be a secret.

The bottom line is that the traditional speed of communications from companies is far too slow in the age of social media. Many executives seem oblivious to the speed of social media, in part, because so many executives are not personally on social media. That must change if you want to protect your organization’s reputation and revenue in a crisis.

If you need to know more, please contact us. For a deeper dive, make sure you sign up for the free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

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

HSE & Crisis Communication Best Practices

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Health, safety, and environmental (HSE) best practices are expanding beyond emergency management and disaster recovery. An increasing number of occupational safety experts are recognizing that their crisis management duties must now include best practices in crisis communications.

Many HSE experts work in smaller companies without a public relations professional, so CEO’s and managers are tasking their HSE experts with managing communications during a crisis event.

To learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communication, use this link to get access to a free 5-part video series that explores best practices in crisis communication. This series takes you into a deeper dive than we have time for here.

Among the things HSE professionals must be aware of is that your emergency response activities are often captured on social media by eyewitnesses. As of this writing, eyewitnesses can broadcast your emergency with Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Instagram Live, and LinkedIn Live, as well as other emerging apps.

Not only are members of your community getting information from social media eyewitnesses, but so are the mainstream media who often republish and rebroadcast social media pictures and videos. We have some great crisis communication social media case studies in the 5-part video series.

Respectable companies are seeing their reputation and revenue destroyed because of negative publicity on both social media and mainstream media.

How do you deal with social media in a crisis?

You must adopt new best practices for crisis communications so that you can be communicating with the media, your employees, your customers, and your community faster than ever before. Faster crisis communications helps you control the narrative of the story. Fast and accurate crisis communications also ends speculation found on both social media and mainstream media.

How do you master fast and accurate crisis communications?

Step 2 of the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to have a library of pre-written news releases that can be edited in record time and distributed to all audiences, including the media, your employees, your customers, and your community. Each of my clients receives a base set of 100 pre-written news releases with their crisis communications plan. Each news release is methodically written to have multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank options that allow the statement to be modified in about ten minutes.

Step 3 of the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to have a crisis communications plan that sequentially guides the HSE professional through gathering facts about the incident, confirming it with the crisis management team, then using a pre-written news release to communicate with all of your stakeholders. A good crisis communication plan must take into account that the HSE team is not necessarily schooled in the best practices of public relations. Therefore, the best PR and crisis communication practices must be baked into the sequential instructions of the crisis communications plan.

HSE professionals are often becoming the spokesperson in a crisis. Hence, Step 4 in the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to schedule crisis media training. A pre-written news release makes a perfect news conference script to read. Media training helps you learn to deliver the statement well. It also helps you respond to difficult questions.

To go deeper, register for the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. If you are ready to move forward, phone us at 985-624-9976.

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 Tip: Don’t Let Bubba Be Your De facto Spokesperson  

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

You are going to learn about Bubba in today’s BraudCast video. But first, put yourself in this situation and then answer the questions below:

Imagine there is an explosion where you work. The community is rattled by the blast. The community can see black smoke billowing. Police, firefighters, and EMS are responding. Now answer these three questions:

1) How long will it be before eyewitnesses begin posting pictures, video, or comments about the incident to social media?

2) How long will it take before the media either arrive to report on your event or how long before the media begin to tell the story with social media accounts from eyewitnesses?

3) How long will it take before you are able to draft a news release, get it approved, and get it released?

Please post your answer below or Tweet it to me @gbraud

So who is Bubba and why should you care? Bubba was the guy who stood outside of his house trailer and told me, “It blow’d up real good,” when I was a TV reporter and asked him about an explosion at a nearby chemical plant. I then put Bubba on the news. You can get the fun, juicy version of the story by watching the video featured above.

By default, Bubba inadvertently became the company’s de facto spokesperson because the company was slow to issue a media statement to me as the television reporter covering this breaking news story.

Bubba was both a spokesperson’s worst nightmare, as well as one of my greatest inspirations for the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications  system that I have followed for more than 20 years. To get the juicy version of the Bubba story, and to meet Bubba’s modern day social media counterparts, please watch the video. I promise you’ll love it and you’ll want to share the lesson with co-workers and colleagues.

With every passing minute that there is no official statement from your organization, the narrative of the story is controlled by eyewitness accounts, as well as by speculation from the media. You and the company you work for are unintentionally making eyewitnesses your de facto spokespeople if you fail to issue at least a very basic statement within one hour of the onset of the crisis. (You can get a free copy of a basic statement by registering for my free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications here.)

As you watch the video, you will learn that Bubba set the narrative for my news report about the explosion and fire. His soundbite controlled the narrative of the news story because the paid spokesperson for the company failed to respond to my request for an interview. The public relations spokesperson had a chance to be on live reports at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. Bubba would have never had a chance to say, “It blow’d up real good,” nearly two and a half hours into this crisis, if an official spokesperson agreed to do an interview. I only interviewed Bubba because I needed a soundbite to complete the aesthetics for my noon news report.

Bubba was made the de facto spokesperson not by me, but technically by the company and its paid spokesperson, when the spokesperson elected not to give me an interview.

According to Step 2 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company’s crisis communications plan should dictate that a spokesperson and statement should be available to the media, employees, the community, and other stakeholders, within one hour of the onset of the crisis.

According to Step 3 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company spokesperson should be able to meet that deadline by using a fill-in-the-blank pre-written news release.

According to Step 4 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company spokesperson should have undergone sufficient media training, such that they can effectively deliver the pre-written news release to reporters, without fearing that the interview will go badly.

The takeaway: Don’t let Bubba be your de facto spokesperson.

Learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications by watching our free 5-Part video tutorial. Register here.

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…”

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