Social Media Collides With Mainstream Media: The Changing Landscape of Media Interviews in Good Times & Bad

By Gerard Braud

InterviewsAs social media and smart phones expand their reach, we are seeing a seismic shift that is sending tremors through the mainstream media landscape. This is creating both new challenges, as well as new opportunities for media spokespeople. Capitalizing on the opportunities requires you to adopt new approaches, learn new skills and be open to new realities.

If you are bold enough and brave enough to try something drastically new, then I’d love to meet you at the upcoming World Conference for the International Association of Business Communications in San Francisco. I’ve prepared an all-new special presentation for Monday, June 15 from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Club Room. It only seats 100 people, so make plans to get their early.

This is not a lecture or a class but a do-and-learn workshop. You should come ready to write in the first hour, as well as to discuss the challenges you and/or your spokespeople have faced in previous media training classes or in previous interviews. If there is a problem, the first hour is dedicated to solving those problems so they never happen again. In fact, I’m ready for you to contact me outlining problems you’ve faced that you’d like to solve. Send an e-mail to me at with the subject line IABC Question.

Our focus in the first hour will include:

  • Discovering why the media landscape is changing
  • Learning the 4 things you must be ready to say in every interview
  • Rethinking your approach to media training

In the second hour you will be up on your feet unlocking the futuristic power of your smartphone, learning how to do remote interviews. Please make sure to bring either your smartphone or your iPad.

While many spokespeople complain about how the media operate, the reality is that you can learn to be an expert every time either you or an executive within your business speaks to the media.

Social media is one of the biggest trends changing the media. Free content is competing with professional content. The reality is news stories are being told by eyewitnesses with a smartphone faster than the story can be told by the mainstream media and faster than a corporation might be willing to tell the story of their own crisis.

As social media grabs more of the media’s audience, the media are watching their profits disappear. That means there are fewer reporters and photographers employed to tell your corporate story in good times and in times of crisis.

Where problems exist in the media we hope you see opportunities.

The greatest opportunity for someone who is a professional business communicator or public relations expert is, on one hand, to improve your own interview skills, and at the same time, learn new skills for doing interviews and creating videos that are as good as or better than the ones being supplied by eyewitnesses.

If you crave a chance to walk away with new skills that you can immediately use as soon as you are back at work, I look forward to meeting you at this workshop.



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.


6 PR Questions: Are You a Rug or a Flying Carpet?

Gerard Braud * 15By Gerard Braud

In your public relations and communications role, which are you? Are you a rug or a flying carpet?

My dream is for you to soar as a PR expert, being both a thought leader and a brilliant, innovative, practitioner of your craft. My fear is that you let the so-called leaders in your company walk all over you, dictating what you can and can’t do.

Here are 6 questions to help you determine the answer, if you don’t know it already:

#1 Do your corporate leaders comprehend the monetary benefit of what you do OR do they see you as a financial burden?

#2 Do you hear “no” so often that you are feeling defeated and underappreciated? OR do you get summoned on a regular basis to serve as strategic council?

#3 Is it hard to focus on your tasks and know what your goals are because your leaders spontaneously throw new tasks at you? OR Do your leaders give you room to develop a communications plan with strategic goals and editorial calendars?

#4 Are you in constant reactive mode to emerging issues and crisis communications? OR do your leaders encourage preparation by having a crisis communications plan tested with crisis communications drills?

#5 When it is time to do a media interview, do you hold your breath fearing what your leaders may blurt out to a reporter? OR do your leaders willingly participate in media training and actively prepare for an interview?

#6 Do your leaders lump together tasks such as marketing, graphic design, internal communications, public relations and social media? OR do they recognize that unique talents and skills are needed to properly master each task?

If you are agreeing with the negative premises above, then you are a rug. You allow your employer to walk all over you. You are in a low place. You probably hate your job. Chances are you need to hire a headhunter and find a new job.

If you are agreeing with the positive premises above, then you are a flying carpet who can soar in your career. The sky is the limit. Life is good and rewards will follow.

Life is too short to be unhappy. The decision to control your happiness should be in your hands and not the hands of someone else.

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: Effective Crisis Communication for the Chemical Industry

Williams ExplosionBy Gerard Braud –

It’s an honor to be invited to deliver the morning keynote presentation today to the Chemistry Council of New Jersey at their 2015 Conference. 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.

Now is also a good time to compare your traditional approach to crisis communications with what should be your new normal. The emphasis in that sentence is the word NEW combined with NORMAL.Williams FB page

What got ‘ya here won’t get ‘ya there could be the best advice I can share. Yet many industries have traditionally failed to successfully get to the old normal, much less embrace the new normal.

Traditionally, many chemical and heavy manufacturing companies operate without a public relations employee or team. Some have one public relations person while others have several. It really depends upon the size of the  geismarcompany. But regardless of the whether you have a public relations staff or not, corporate crisis communications often takes a back seat to emergency response. Furthermore, news releases are often delayed by executives who excessively scrutinize each word and comma. Sometimes delays are caused by lawyers who oppose the concept of the news release.

Many chemical companies also make the mistake of delegating all of their crisis communications to law enforcement, following the guidelines of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). While police can be effective in communicating precautions or evacuations from a chemical crisis, the flaw with NIMS is that law enforcement spokespeople are not able to communicate empathy on behalf of the company.

The most frightening case study I’ve observed regarding the chemical industry, involves the media, social media, and crisis communications.  On the morning of June 13, 2013 there was a tragic explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins Chemical plant in Geismar, LA, about 50 miles from my home, which killed 2 workers and injured more than 100. Before the company had a single news release issued, or before they provided any images or videos posted to the web, someone published a Facebook page with more details than the chemical company ever gave.

My research indicates it took nearly three hours for the company to put up an official news release on their website. The goal I would ask any corporation to aim for is to have an official news release on your website within one hour or less.

One hour is a reasonable goal if you recognize that you don’t have to know everything or state all of the facts in your initial release. It is perfectly acceptable for you to publish a few facts at a time as you get them. That is why in my presentation today I strongly recommended that people use my first critical statement as a fast alternative to writing a formal press release. To get a free download use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.

Industry leaders and executives should keep in mind that eye witnesses to an event are posting images, rumors or details to social media as soon as a crisis happens. This means that your one hour news release may still be 59 minutes behind the first eyewitness account. However, it is much better than a three hour delay as seen in the case study above.

Don’t let a similar situation be your demise.

ESPN – The Clock is Ticking #FireBrittMcHenry: It’s Not About Forgiveness, But About Character

britt mchenryBy Gerard Braud

The clock is ticking for ESPN. Will they put Britt McHenry back on the air after a 7-day suspension due to her viral video rant?

In many crisis situations, an expert might counsel both the offender and her employee on ways to 1) say I’m sorry and 2) to make amends. In many crisis situations the public is willing to 1) forgive and 2) give a person a second chance.

This crisis is different. This is a crisis of character that speaks to the core of who 1) Britt McHenry is and 2) the character of the ESPN sports network and its executive staff.

Character is doing the right thing, regardless of whether anyone sees you; regardless of whether you are in public or private.

The interesting twist to the Britt McHenry saga can be found by reading the comments section on any website that has run a story about her rant. The overwhelming consensus is that this could never be a one-time situation. The consensus is that the words McHenry used shows she has an ego and superiority complex that is difficult for most humans to fathom.

britt mchenry2In case you don’t remember the words she said to the clerk at the towing company that towed her car include:

“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.”

There is room the collective hearts of viewers to forgive someone who has committed a wrong. But forgiveness does not have to go hand in hand with employing someone with such a flawed character, especially when there are many other people with more talent and a nicer personality who can do the job the McHenry was blessed to have.

ESPN – Your character is on the line as much as McHenry’s character is on the line.

ESPN – I hope you set an example for your viewers and your employees by not keeping McHenry on the air or on your payroll.

To keep her on the air sends a message that, “This was a close call and I’ll have to be careful not to get caught again.” To terminate her sends a message that it is time for her to reflect on who she is and whether she can truly change her ways.





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


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.

youtube 2 fresno

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.




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.



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.



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



In Defense of Social Media

InstagramBy Greg Davis –

[Editors Note from Gerard Braud – Today we have a guest blog from Greg Davis of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative. Greg wrote this as a follow up to my March 5, 2015 blog about utility companies avoiding a crisis by communicating with customers who take their complaints about high electric bills to Facebook. Thank you Greg.]

For electric cooperatives, consumer engagement remains critical to continued success. Social media allows you to be involved with members on a personal level. Many people view smartphones and other mobile devices as an extension of themselves. They’re connected—and they expect you to be connected, too.

To toss up a social media presence without proper management or trained communications people to guide content is a recipe for disaster; however choosing to avoid social media can prove to be as catastrophic.

The need for electric utility social media presence is best demonstrated during Crisis communication. Social media allows for fast, fact driven, controlled communication. During a major outage the worst thing a utility company can do is not provide regular up to date information with customers. Getting information from traditional media outlets alone is no longer acceptable.

facebook-like-buttonWhen customers see that they are one of thousands currently without power or can see pictures of miles of downed poles and lines that information can greatly influence their expectations for restoration. It can also greatly influence traditional media expectations.  Social media communication during prolonged outages has also been proven successful in deflecting inquiries to the call center and helping improve call center response time. Social media outage information gets shared by other organizations, the media and individuals, all helping your information reach a greater number of people in a timely fashion.

Not to be forgotten are the marketing opportunities, corporate branding and general community outreach.

The social media conversation will take place with or without you. “Doing nothing” has never been the answer to managing your brand. Being actively involved puts you in the conversation. It lets you tell your story with facts and better control of the message.

No matter what you do you will never create 100% customer satisfaction. Someone will make a negative comment on one of your channels. Some negative comments turn out to be a positive, offering the chance to transform an angry customer into a brand ambassador. More often than not your engaged fans will defend you if someone is bashing without a reason. If you opt not to establish a social media presence, your members can still post unflattering things about you online. What’s the advantage of providing a place for your members to talk about you online? It puts you in the conversation. They will establish a reputation for you even if you aren’t out there to share the facts. Your story will be told even if you “do nothing.”

Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan

schock2By Gerard Braud

Why are so many powerful people oblivious to the potent, negative power of social media? Every day there is a new crisis communication case study and today it is from Aaron Schock, who has resigned as Congressman from Illinois.

Schock created his own crisis with excessive selfies and posts on social media, showing him engaged in a rather lavished lifestyle of travel. This raised questions about whether taxpayers were footing the bill for his fun.

Tip 1: Establish guidelines for what should be posted and what should not be posted as an official representation of the corporation and the leadership of that organization.

schock1Tip 2: Review your current social media policy for all employees to make sure best practices are being followed. If you don’t have a social media policy for employees, make it a priority to write one.

Tip 3: In a corporate environment, require that three people concur about an image or post before it is shared on social media. Get feedback from one another to measure positive and negative reaction before anything goes online.

If you have a great social media policy that you’d like to share with your public relations colleagues please send it to me at gerard (at)

If you’d like guidance on setting up a system that works for your corporate culture just give me a call at 985-624-9976.schock3