Leadership and Crisis Communications – Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010

This is our 5th and final day of looking back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem ourselves for 2010.

Today we’ll look at what leaders don’t know.

In 2009 I launched a new keynote called, Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan. It has placed me on the stage in front of a growing list of associations and audiences of CEOs, VPs and managers.

And as much as I bashed Social Media yesterday for being a shiny new object, the fact is, that shiny new object can have serious negative consequences for a company, especially when things go wrong.

It always disturbs me during my keynote, as I enter a dialogue with the leaders, to learn exactly what they know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t know they don’t know.

During a crisis I live by a cardinal rule to communicate quickly with the media, your employees and other key stakeholders. My goal is to make sure a company issues a public statement within the first hour that a crisis has gone public.

Leaders, meanwhile, often fall into decision paralysis. As a result, they make no decision because they fear they will make the wrong decision. They wait to have all the facts before they say anything at all.

The biggest thing leaders don’t know, going into 2010, is how fast the world of Social Media moves. Leaders are oblivious to the fact that while they are in their crisis command center, deciding if they should issue a statement, their employees, customers and the public are posting comments, pictures and videos to the web at lightening fast speed.

During my keynote, I ask the leaders how many of them have used the most popular forms of social media.

• When asked how many use LinkedIn.com, 10% – 20% usually say yes. Read more

Social Media Crisis Communications & Shiny New Objects – Sins of 2009

Today we’re going to look at one of the biggest sins of 2009… shiny new objects syndrome.

When I look back at 2009, I’ll remember it as the year that people became obsessed with Twitter and Facebook. Seems everywhere I turned, people were clamoring over these shinny new objects… like aborigines who have seen themselves in a mirror for the first time.

The obsession with these tools is perplexing for me, because I know some people truly enjoy them… while others have jumped on the bandwagon because they fear being left behind. It’s a classic version of trying to keep up with the Jones.

The sad reality, is that while many people were chasing after the shinny new objects, they took their eye off the ball; they lost track of priorities, especially in the field of communications.

All communications is about what you want the other person to know and how you want them to respond to that communications. There are many tools that can help you achieve this goal, but too many people in communications have tried to force fit Social Media not only into their tool kit, but to make it paramount as a communications tools.

I think that is a bad idea. Social media reflects a huge generational gap between those under 30 who use it often and those older than 30 who have never used or seen a social media site.

While they tools have their benefits for maintaining certain relationships, they are often a force fit in a corporate culture. Sure, frantic fans of a movie star may want to track their every move on Twitter, but do customers of a chemical company really need to follow your Tweets…and do you really think that I want to follow your Facebook fan page? Not likely.

The reality is, as a communications platform, Social Media sites are unreliable and vulnerable to hacking. There are still many other forms of communications in your tool chest that are more reliable and are better for reaching your loyal audience.

So if shiny new object syndrome was your sin in 2009, as we enter 2010, your redemption would be to make an effort to not get distracted by what is shinny and new, but to use it only when it is a good fit and the right fit…not a force fit.

I get asked about using Social Media a lot as a crisis communications tool, so on January 19th at 11 a.m. CST, I’ll host a special telemseminar called, Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan. If this is a topic that impacts your and your team, I invite you to sign up. We’ll look at examples of when Social Media has worked well and when it has been a huge failure.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the week with a look at what leaders don’t know and how it impacts your job.


1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link

Gerard Braud – Being Opportunistic – PR Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010

As we look back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem yourself in 2010, today’s lesson is about how to be opportunistic.

Opportunistic means you take advantage of a situation to get what you want. Maybe it is because I grew up in a large family and had to fight my 3 older brothers and a younger sister for everything I got, but being opportunistic has served me well in life.

Being opportunistic means that when you observe a situation, you use the power of persuasion, supported by a business case, to convince your boss to let you do what needs to be done, even if you’ve previously been told “no,” as we discussed yesterday.

You can apply this technique to many of your communications needs, but since I write crisis communications plans and teach media training, I’ll share with you a real life example of a HUGE opportunity that passed many people by in 2009.

Every year I get a wave of inquiries from people who want me to help them write their crisis communications plan, and most want a package, complete with a crisis communications drill and train their spokespeople. Many of the inquiries come this time of year because so many people these items on a list of goals and tasks to complete for the coming years. But many of those plans didn’t get written in 2009 because people were told “no, there’s no money in the budget.”

Then in April 2009, the Swine Flu epidemic began. This crisis presented a huge opportunity for you to go back to your boss, paint a grim picture, explain the potential negative impact the Swine Flu could have on your businesses, and get the funding you need.

Another way to be opportunistic is to get help from other departments. Pandemics are a huge concern for risk managers and human resource managers. In every risk management and human resources seminar, there are classes that focus on dealing with pandemics. This is a big issue for them. That means that if you are opportunistic, you can partner with those other managers to convince leadership that a crisis communications plan is an important element of risk management and employee communications.

Most of you who subscribe to the BraudCast are in internal communications, external communications, media relations, PR and marketing. And many folks in these fields are, by their very nature timid, and often take “no” as a final answer. I’d suggest that for 2010 you set as one of your goals to become opportunistic.

Look at it this way… In the case of the Swine Flu, workers would get sick, workers might die, productivity, production and sales could suffer… and you’d be called upon, likely at the last minute, to start crafting both a strategy and messages to deal with the impending crisis. That’s not really fair to you, is it? Especially if there is a solution, namely a pre-written crisis communications plan with pre-written templates. And if you already have a plan, you know it needs to update and tested. I have one client who is so opportunistic that I help him conduct 4 crisis communications drills every year.

So if you know in your heart that being prepared is the right thing to do professionally… then the answer is, being opportunistic is also the right thing to do professionally. If you achieve your goal and still do it legally and ethically, there is nothing wrong with being opportunistic.

Timing is critical when you are trying to be opportunistic. You have to be ready build a business case immediately after a crisis begins and present it to leadership while the crisis is still fresh in their minds. It doesn’t matter if the crisis is where you work or if it is a high profile crisis in the news. I can tell you from experience that each day that you get further from the crisis, the more likely leadership is to forget the trauma and devalue your proposal.

If your 2009 sin was a missed opportunity, your redemption in 2010 is setting a goal to be more opportunistic.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Shinny New Objects.


1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link.

3) Sign up for the upcoming teleseminar “Social Media When It Hits the Fan.”

Gerard Braud – The Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010 – Tuesday

This week we’re looking at the Sins of 2009 and how to redeem yourself in 2010.

Today’s topic is “No” Doesn’t Mean “No!”

2009 was a year when we heard “no” a lot at work. Request for new projects, new training, new budgets, were often greeted with a big fat, flat out “no.”

A colleague told me she got in trouble recently because something important fell through the cracks in the communications department. Her boss chewed her out. The executed wanted to know why she was ill prepared to address the situation. The employee replied, “I gave you a budget request for that in January and you personally told me there was no money an not to ask again until 2010.”

Upon reflection, the executive said, “for something this critical, we can find the money.”

In other word, “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” No simply means that you haven’t built a good enough business case in order to get your boss to say yes. No means that you have not been able to demonstrate that spending money in one area can increase profits, productivity and sales in another area. It means other people and other departments have done a better job of explaining why their spending needs deserve a higher priority.

Monday we talked about scarcity mentality. This example certain relates to that category. Many of have put major projects and training on hold because you were told no previously and you haven’t gone back to get your Yes. And the only way to get your yes is with a business case that is built around protecting and building the company’s profits.

Sometimes getting the yes requires being clever or creative.

Several of my clients who really want me to do their media training or help with their crisis communications plans never got the training they wanted in 2009, because their bosses said there was no money for travel? They heard “no” and stopped dead in their tracks. Really, you have training dollars but no dollars for travel? I’m pretty sure I can come up with a creative way to mitigate or eliminate the travel costs. Maybe the answer is that we do the program by Skype with web cameras. I can probably even find a creative way to squeeze another executive into the training class at no charge. That way, you can look like you struck a good deal. With creativity, I could make them look good… but they never asked. They heard “no” and thought it meant no.

If your sin in 2009 was taking “no” for an answer, your redemption in 2010 is to ask again until you get a yes. The path to yes is by building a business case.

One other way to get around “no” is by being opportunistic. We’ll look at that lesson on Wednesday.

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Top Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself for 2010 – Monday

For the next 5 days we’ll be looking at the sins of 2009… and what you can do to redeem yourself in 2010.

Each year when I look back and look ahead for this program, I generally focus on crisis communications, media training and public relations. But this year, we need to take some time to talk about you, the person…

The best thing you can do to start the year and improve your life is flush 2009 for the economically depressing year that it was. Either your life has personally suffered or you know people who have. Many of us have friends who have lost jobs. Maybe you are one of them.

You all faced budget cuts at work, so 2009 was a tough year to manage.

Part of the backlash is that 2009 has led to scarcity thinking and a scarcity mentality among too many of my professional colleagues. You hear negatives at work all day; you get told no all day; you hear there’s no money in the budget. Then you take all those “no’s” and all that negative money talk home into your personal life. All that funk from work pollutes your own life. Hence, you start thinking small; you start focusing on what you can’t do, rather than what you can do and what you should do.

How do you fix this? What is your redemption for 2010? As an entrepreneur, I have to be success minded and positive 24/7. After I serve my clients all day, I spend the next 8 hours running the business side of my business. The best and brightest minds I’ve ever met have taught me to flush out any negatives in my life with positive information. I began this back in the days when I had jobs I hated. So at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, my best tip for redemption in 2010 is to start reading from positive attitude books, and to do it for 15 minutes every night before you lay your head on the pillow.

The first book I suggest you put on your reading list is “Think & Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. This 1934 classic has been a favorite of the world’s most successful people. The principles in the book will help reshape your outlook and help flush away some of the negative crud from 2009. Please be willing to forgive some of the 80-year-old cultural references to race and gender and look into the success principles that you should apply at home and at work. If you work in a company where there have been layoffs, I’d add to your reading list, “Who Moved My Cheese.” Also on this list I would place Dale Carnegie’s classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Even if you’ve read them before, read them again because I promise you’ll get new inspiration and wisdom. You might also want to subscribe to Success Magazine. I love it because it is so current and it comes with an audio CD that I can listen to while I drive.

You never improve your life unless you constantly make changes. If you keep doing the same things every day, don’t expect different results. And remember, what got you here, won’t get you there.

So if your 2009 sin was being sucked into all the negative thinking of the year, your redemption for 2010 is to change the way the think. I think reading 15 minutes before bed in these books will start to give you’re a brighter outlook in your personal and professional life; 15 minutes before bed makes for a much brighter morning.

When you start, please send me an e-mail and tell me how it’s going. I really want to know that you are OK and that together we can flush out the crud.

Now, enough about the that… Tomorrow turn our attention back to the workplace as we look at why “No” doesn’t mean “No!”

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