Can You Answer These Critical Questions About Crisis Communications, Social Media, and Expert Executive Skills?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

 

Here are two crisis communications and social media questions I’d like you to answer about your executive leaders:

1. Are your senior leaders active on social media?

2. If yes, which channels and platforms do they use?

Social Media Tweetable Quote - Gerard Braud

Why is this critical for you to know?

If you consider yourself an expert in social media or an expert in crisis communications, your senior leaders will reject your expert suggestions if they do not understand the nuances of social media, especially during a crisis.

 

Whenever I’m invited to give a conference keynote speech to senior leaders and executives, I survey the room to find out who is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. From conference to conference, LinkedIn is most popular. Very few executives seem to even have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Those who do are mostly non-active.

 

Why should this disturb you?

Every crisis in the world is amplified by social media. We are at a crossroads in crisis communications. [On June 4, 2018 I will discuss this in depth with the International Association of Business Communications at their conference in Montreal, Canada. My presentation is called Social Media at the Crossroads.]  Specifically, we are standing at the intersection of crisis communications and social media. How you, or your corporation, respond to the crisis on social media can mean the difference between successfully managing the crisis versus pouring gasoline on a fire.

 

The decision to engage on social media in a crisis should not be considered a forgone conclusion, as many people in public relations believe. The decision to engage must be part of a well thought out strategy that, like a game of chess, envisions all of the various moves by various respondents in the future. The wrong response makes your crisis worse in ways you cannot imagine until it all comes crashing down upon you.

 

An executive who is not active on social media will not understand the nuances of each strategic post, and may contribute an opinion or directive that is seriously flawed.

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How should you address this?

Simply issue the same challenge to your leaders as I do when I’m on stage speaking to those audiences of 500 or more executives. I challenge them to open a Facebook account and spend 30 minutes a night on Facebook, interacting with people, reading posts, and exploring what bizarre opinions exist in this social media cyber cluster of chaos.

 

Don’t be caught in a war room dealing with a crisis, only to have to fight an internal battle over how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube work. Do it now. Do it before the crisis.

 

 

 

Rethink Social Media Crisis Communications

By Gerard Braud

Do you follow the herd or do you set your own course?

The “herd” mentality of social media is finally changing.

  • Which herd were you originally in?
  • Which herd are you in now?
Vimeo Gerard Braud

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In public relations and marketing, the headline could have read, “Gerard Braud Is the Social Media Lone Wolf.

It started in 2008 with a conference presentation called, “Social Media When ‘It’ Hits the Fan.

Facebook had opened to the public in 2006 and the herd didn’t want to hear about the negative side of social media. Booking agents and meeting planners would ask me to speak about how to use social media as a wonderful marketing tool. Being the lone wolf, I’d explain how social media would lead to an online crisis and that no expert worth his salt should talk about social media marketing without combining it with a crisis communications element.smart-watch-821559_1920

I turned down a lot of paid speaking engagements because the herd only wanted to hear about the pretty online world where customers would beat a path to your door on Facebook. Being the maverick, I saw the potential for those same customers to become an angry mob at your door, using social media as their virtual torches and pitchforks.

Today, demand for knowledge about social media and crisis communications as a combined topic is going through the roof. “Social Media When ‘It’ Hits the Fan” is the most requested topic I’m asked to speak about at conferences and conventions.

Here are some takeaways you should consider if your employer uses social media:

1. Replying to a negative online post might make things worse. Conventional wisdom says to show your concern for a customer by posting a reply. But taking a negative discussion offline is a better option. A direct message that is less public can be more personal. A public online reply on Facebook raises the negative comment to the top of everyone’s newsfeed. This opens the door for more negative comments from those with a similar negative point of view who missed the original post.

2. Tried and true still beats shiny and new. In other words, a tried and true crisis communications plan and response strategy is still needed. It should define all of your audiences and the best communication strategies for reaching your audiences. A social media crisis will likely still require you to talk with the media, communicate to your employees, and to publish a news release statement on your corporate website. A Tweet might get you into a crisis, but it takes more than 140 characters to message your way out of a crisis.

3. Establish a clear social media policy for your employees. Have each employee sign the agreement and place it in their personnel file. Be ready to enforce it. Some of the policies I write for clients prohibit employees from listing their place of employment on their personal social media profiles. You’d be surprised to learn all of things I can’t share with you because of the confidentiality agreements that I’ve signed. But, an ounce of prevention on social media is more than a pound of cure.

The herd is giving you permission to acknowledge that what was once the shiny and new world of social media is now tarnished. If you are not prepared, it will also tarnish the reputation of your company.

 

 

 

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You answered: Should social media be a part of your crisis communications strategy?

By Gerard Braud

Social media has changed the way that corporate communicators must react to effectively manage a crisis. This week public relations and media relations professionals from all over the world shared their advice on whether or not social media should be part of their crisis communication strategy. Their expert opinion is featured today and every week on the BraudCast.   Listen to the video to hear what your colleague’s had to say.

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Click image to watch and subscribe to The BraudCast

This question is one of a series of discussions about media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices each week. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

BraudCast Answer: How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?

By Gerard Braud

Some communicators are still trying to make a case to their executives to use social media for their organization.  They may be trying to persuade their senior level executives or their board members that social media is not just a form of outbound marketing, but it can be used strategically for crisis communications and media relations. This week the BraudCast question was, “How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?” Watch the video to hear how your colleagues answered.

 

Click image to watch

Click image to watch

 

This question is one of a series of debates in the media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media industries where you and your colleagues can share observations with each other. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

BraudCast Question: How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?

By Gerard Braud

This week the BraudCast question is, “How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?” Your executives may be more traditional in their communication skills. They may be hesitant about opening their organization up to harsh criticism online, or they may not quite understand the purpose of social media. How do you persuade them about the communications and media relations opportunities that social media can provide for them?

execs social media gerard braud

Click image to watch

 

 

This question is one of a series of debates in the media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media industries where you and your colleagues can share observations with each other. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

Hurricane Katrina Truth #3– Stop Repeating the Problems

Katrina BraudBy Gerard Braud

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, and coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, I’m reflecting on the old adage that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results.”

New Orleans can easily flood from another hurricane. I wrote about that in yesterday’s blog. Experts admit that the new fortified levee system is not high enough to keep tidal surge from topping the levees.

There are three areas where I see the potential for the insanity of prior sins and mistakes to be repeated.

1) The first sin is allowing people in low lying areas, in coastal regions, and in flood planes anywhere in America, to build a house on a foundation that is not elevated above recognized flood levels. Whether in New Orleans or a flood river plane in North Dakota, houses in flood zones should be built on stilts higher than predicted flood waters. Some home owners in New Orleans have started doing this. This is how traditional homes here were constructed here. Some homeowners, strapped for cash, have not raised their homes. It is time for building codes in all coastal towns south of I-10 and I-12 along to change. Many homes in Katrina had no wind damage, but were a complete loss because storm surge overpowered levees, flooding everything. In a nation where all flood insurance comes from the government, as do most of the emergency recovery funds, mitigating flooding with more grants to raise existing houses is a far better financial bet than paying out claims after the fact. Establishing better building codes for new construction in flood zones saves money in the long run for everyone.

2) The second is human denial among citizens and elected officials. Citizens first — A hurricane may kill you. If it doesn’t kill you, it can leave you without creature comforts like food, water and electricity for days, weeks, or months. Failing to heed an evacuation order leads to expensive and complicated rescues. I’ve been a storm chaser and journalist in many natural disasters in which people tell me they don’t plan to evacuate because they’ve stayed for other storms and survived. What I’ve learned covering these storms is that no two are alike. No two hurricanes come from exactly the same direction. No two hurricanes have exactly the same wind speeds. In Hurricane Katrina, for example, while the devastation and flooding was astounding, if the eye of the hurricane had passed only five to ten miles further to the West, the urban flooding up to rooftops would have been doubled. It is costly to evacuate, but it is far more costly for communities when residents fail to heed evacuation orders.

 

As for human denial among elected officials, then Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans is the poster child of human denial. Even when the head of the National Hurricane Center called to tell Nagin that a disaster was eminent, the mayor still waited too long to order evacuations. Evacuations that should have been called 48 hours before the storm were delayed until it was too late to logistically move people. While officials in other communities successfully followed plans and called for timely evacuations, one weak link was pivotal in causing tens of thousands to be trapped by flood waters and leading to hundreds of deaths, mostly by drowning. Those trapped in the flood then led to a massive human rescue effort that costs untold millions of dollars, when it reality there was time and there were resources sufficient enough to most of those people out of harm’s way.

 

3) The third sin falls in the area of communications. While many communities have emergency and disaster plans in place, they often fail to take the next step of having a crisis communications plan that effectively communicates urgency, peril, and evacuation options to constituents. Pre-written communications documents and properly trained spokespeople are the combination needed to motivate people to leave the their communities until it is safe to return. The proliferation of social media has created new ways to reach people and new ways to gather information about the unfolding crisis, but it also has created more opportunities for rumors and misinformation to spread.

Disasters create living classrooms in which people can learn what was done wrong and what was done right. The goal is to learn so the wrongs are never repeated and so that the rights are done perfectly.

To learn more, read previous posts about Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina Truth #1 – Silver Linings in Muddy Waters – Thank You

Hurricane Katrina Truth #2 – New Orleans Will Flood Again – Find Out Why & How to Stop It

 

Hurricane Season Crisis & Emergency Communications: Why You Should be a CNN iReporter

By Gerard Braud

Click here to watch video

Click here to watch video

The future of crisis and emergency communications in hurricanes, natural disasters and other weather related events,  is in creating CNN iReports. It is a brilliant way to add to your crisis communications and media relations strategy. This strategy is perfect for public information officers (PIOs), emergency managers, and any corporate communications experts. Best of all, what you do for your iReport can be re-purposed and posted to YouTube, shared with The Weather Channel, and in many cases, uploaded through links with your local media outlets.

I started pioneering these reports as an experiment during Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 and then took it up a notch during Hurricane Isaac in 2012. You can do what I have done, provided you are willing to train and practice before the event is upon you. Since many of you will never have the chance to attend one of the live training sessions I teach at emergency management and public relations conferences, I thought you might benefit from this online tutorial.

I’ve created 23 online videos with associated articles on how and why you should be a CNN iReporter. When your organization faces a major crisis or news event that gets significant attention from your local news media, and has the ability be get national news attention, these will be useful.

I have extensive experience as an iReporter. In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters, for my in-depth coverage of Hurricane Isaac near New Orleans on August 28, 2012.

Most iReports are eyewitness accounts of events. They are filed by the average person on the street who sends photos, video and narration directly to CNN, in the very same way that they can send videos to YouTube. What you will learn in these 23 lessons also applies to placing videos on YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter and your official website.

Who would you rather have posting photos, videos and narration? Should it be someone speculating about what they see? Would it be better if it came from an official source, with real knowledge of the event? Shouldn’t the media have official information from someone like you?

A CNN iReport is a direct path to one of the world’s premier news networks.

This link will take you to my tutorials on the CNN iReporter website. I hope you take the time to view, study, and share all 23 videos and articles.

This link will take you to the index for all of the articles and videos.

If you, like many others, think this information would be valuable as a workshop at a conference or corporate meeting, please call me at 985-624-9976. You can also download a PDF with a description of the program: Social Media iReports.pdf, so you can share it with your meeting planner or training manager.

 

Crisis Communications Through Technology and Social Media: The Earthquake Video

nepalearthquake2By Gerard Braud

The day is coming when you will need to be an expert in crisis communication using smart phone technology and social media. Actually, you should already be an expert and it is just a matter of time before we discover if you are prepared.

Saturday morning I turned on the Today Show and learned of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. As I flipped through the channels to CNN, Fox, Good Morning America, and to CBS, I was disappointed to once again watch a global crisis covered by reporters stationed in places such as London. Trust me when I tell you the reporter in London knows as much about the crisis as the reporter in New Orleans or New York. Only a person on the ground in that location can provide us with real details.

Eventually, one of the networks showed a smart phone video report filed by Arjun Vajpal, from a base camp on Mt. Everest, where we learned that there were avalanches on the mountain and climbers killed in base camps one and two. The selfie style video nepal earthquakewas posted to social media, where the mainstream media found it and began using it.

How well are you prepared to do what that climber did? Are you able to pick up your phone and in one take, record a narration with video that takes television viewers directly to the scene of your crisis? My experience while teaching workshops to public relations professionals is that most are shocked to learn just how hard it is to produce an effective video. My 15 years as a television reporter doing live shots daily have prepared me to use this technology. But people without live shot experience struggle to find the words to tell a story in one minute, without messing up the narration and defaulting to 10 to 20 tries to get one good take, if they can ever get one.

Tropical Storm Lee iReportMy fascination with smart phone and social media news coverage began with my reporting for CNN and The Weather Channel during Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. I took it to a whole new level during Hurricane Isaac in 2012. I reported for both networks for five days, while living without electricity and being surrounded by seven feet of flood waters, four ten foot alligators, thousands of snakes, and more than 50 dead animals killed in the storm.

Often video of a crisis is provided by an eyewitness, who usually provides poor quality video that is often laced with f-bombs or crazy comments. Imagine how much better it would be when a crisis happens at your company if quality video and a quality narration were provided in expert fashion? Imagine if that video was narrated by a well trained spokesperson with real facts, rather than the crazy speculating eyewitness?

The report from atop Mt. Everest was better and more accurate than the on-camera narration from the reporter in London. Likewise, my reports in Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Isaac were more visual and informative than the reports being provided by network correspondents. Those reporters were much farther from the storm than I was, leading the networks to lead each newscast with my reports.

If you don’t know how to do a great video, please take time to view a free tutorial I built on the CNN iReport website. If you’d like to take your skills up a notch and do the same for your colleagues, please contact me about setting up in-person training at a future conference or workshop.

Effective communications is in your hands. The reality is that you can be the expert who provides effective crisis communication or you can take your chances by relegating your responsibility to the reporter in London or the random eyewitness with a smart phone.

Experience tells us that trying to perfect this skill in the midst of your crisis is the wrong time. The best time to prepare for your effective crisis communications is on a clear, sunny day when you have all the time in the world to practice. Practice until you can call yourself a crisis communication expert who can effectively use a smart phone to file stories to social media and with the mainstream media.

When “It” Hits the Fan: A Crisis Communication Lesson on Speediness

YOUTUBE FRESNO

By Gerard Braud

It’s an honor to be invited to deliver the morning keynote presentation today to the SynGas 2015 Conference in Tulsa. You can view today’s handout here.

The crisis communications lessons being discussed on stage serve as a reminder to everyone in the C-Suite, in emergency response, and in public relations, that news travels fast. The faster the news travels, the faster a corporation must respond. Smart phone technology and social media are changing the rules for both corporations and the media.

A good case study is last week’s natural gas explosion and fire in Fresno, California. Crews digging with a backhoe struck a natural gas line owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

YouTube was filled with videos shot on smart phones as motorists passed the scene.

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Twitter also lit up, as eyewitnesses shared their videos. Take a look at these screen grabs taken from Twitter user @shroom0021. Notice how many media outlets are asking to use the video he posted on Twitter.

Shroomy0021-PGE

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Twitter-media1

These are just some of many Twitter posts the media have found. I did not find a single example of video used on television news that was captured by an official news photographer. It may have happened, but every one that I saw used on television was from an eyewitness and not an official media source, nor from an official corporate source. This is critical for leaders to understand.

These days, information about any news event is captured on video and shared in moments, hastening the need for official information. The First Critical Statement document that I mentioned in the keynote presentation is available for download. (To get a free download use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.)

PG&E posted a news release to their official website and then shared it via a link on their Facebook page. I’m unable to tell from the web news release exactly how long it took for the company to get their official release out to the world. My goal is for a company to always post their initial release within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. It doesn’t have to include every detail, only the facts known at that time. A second news release can be posted as soon as more details are known.

PG&E-NewsRelease

FB-PG&E

In the news release initially posted by the utility company, PG&E points out that the incident was not their fault, but the fault of contract work crews digging in the area. They also emphasized in their message the need for all contractors to dial 811 before digging and noted that the contractor had not called 811 before digging.

My suggestion to all companies is to have a library of pre-written news releases written and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’ve not found any companion videos or images shot by PG&E employees, but posting your own official photos and videos is always a good idea. Ultimately, you want to control the flow of accurate information in as many ways as you can.

Ultimately, someone is going to tell your story. It can be people like @shroomy0021 or it can be your official version of the story. Ultimately the media will use someone’s version of the facts as well as someone’s images and videos. It can either come from the “shroomys” of the world or it can be your official photos and videos.

The time to plan your crisis communications strategy should always be long before you need it. Take these five steps:

1) Hold a Vulnerability Assessment round table.

2) Write pre-written news releases for as many of your vulnerabilities as possible.

3) Write a crisis communications plan with very specific details and instructions for gathering details from the scene of your crisis. Then write details for specific ways you plan to share your news releases with your core audiences and most important stakeholders.

4) Conduct media training at least once a year with subject matter experts who could do media interviews during a crisis. As a supplement to an actual on-site training program you can visit this blog post for a FREE 29-day media training tutorial. You may also want to supplement that by reading my book, Don’t Talk to the Media Until…

5) Conduct at least one crisis communications drill each year to test the ability of your teams to work together during a crisis.

A good leader should never be in denial about the need to prepare for a crisis. The sign of a good leader is someone who does their duty and takes action on a clear sunny day so that all parties will be responsible when “it” hits the fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#FireBrittMcHenry: The ESPN Media & Social Media Crisis

britt mchenryBy Gerard Braud

How would you or your company handle the situation if one of your employees did what ESPN reporter Britt McHenry did?

A media and social media crisis has been created for ESPN and McHenry when a video was posted that showed McHenry berating an employee of an auto towing company.

At this moment, ESPN has suspended McHenry for one week. How would you handle this situation?

C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” We could paraphrase that to say, “Character is doing the right thing, regardless of whether you are in public or private.”

McHenry was at a business, thinking she was having a private conversation with the clerk. But in a world where cameras record everything, McHenry’s encounter became public.

On the line right now is the character of ESPN and McHenry. The hashtag #FireBrittMcHenry began trending shortly after the video was posted.

Here are some of the things McHenry said on the video that was posted:

britt mchenry2“I’m in the news sweetheart and I will fu*&ing sue this place.”

“That’s why I have a degree and you don’t.”

“With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that.”

“Do you feel good about your job? So I could be a college drop out and do the same thing.”

“Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me huh?”

“Oh, like yours cause they look so stunning. Cause I’m on television and you’re in a fu*King trailer honey. Lose some weight baby girl.”

I spent 15 years on television and worked very hard never to be or be perceived as a celebrity. My wife used to go crazy because people would ask, “Where do I know you from?” I’d always shake their hand and say, “I don’t know. I’m Gerard Braud. And your name is…?” Never did I identify myself with my television station.

Conversely, I also knew some really mean reporters and anchors with huge egos who thought they were better than everyone else. Many were notorious for throwing temper tantrums.

In McHenry’s case, being angry that your car got towed is understandable. But when your anger turns to personal attacks about the appearance of other people, indicating that you clearly believe you are better looking and a better person than everyone else, you’ve crossed the line and you deserve to be fired.

In television, ratings often drive decision making more than a network simply doing what is morally and ethically the right thing. That’s sad. This should be a no brainer for ESPN to fire McHenry. Sure, she gets ratings because of her looks. But there are many other talented young women with nicer personalities and smaller egos who are ready to take her place.

And here’s the kicker to the on camera rant – when McHenry says on video, “Why, cause I have a brain and you don’t.” If McHenry had a brain she would be smart enough never to say what she said or treat a person the way she did.

#FireBrittMcHenry

 

Editor’s note: Left Jab Radio interviewed media and crisis expert Gerard Braud about Britt McHenry. Listen to the interview here.