Crisis Communication for West Texas Fertilizer Plant in Waco: Why PIOs, Emergency Managers and PR People Should be Using CNN iReports

By, Gerard Braud

{Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 iReporters. This is part of a series of articles about how you can be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.}

IReport Voting pageAs I write this article, the media are reporting on the crisis in Waco, Texas at the West Texas Fertilizer Plant, which blew up.

In a news conference I’m watching on television, the Sheriff is admonishing the media that he has received their request to take video at the scene, but that he cannot yet accommodate them. This is exactly the kind of case that lends itself to the training and lessons I’ve been discussing in this series of articles about CNN iReports.  Companies, Public Information Officers (PIO), public relations practitioners, Emergency Managers, and government officials have the ability to use iReports to get critical information and pictures to the media.

As we watch this news cycle, the video we see the most, was captured by a citizen sitting in his truck with is daughter. He was video taping the initial fire, and then accidentally captures the horrific explosion. There are many other online images, as well as video on iReports and YouTube.

This one, specific video that captures the explosion will continue to run until someone provides new, updated video.

Isaac Flooding Gerard BraudIn most cases like this, Emergency Responders are so overwhelmed with the damage, dead and injured, that no one in the community is designated as the person who will provide new information and images to the media. The media crave images. The media crave new information. The media on the scene are bombarded by producers and editors back in their offices who are screaming, “Get me something new!” This is true in small towns and large communities alike. I’ve watched this happen repeatedly when I was a television reporter.

Every community, every company, every responding agency, needs to have either a trained public relations person on staff or a public relations and crisis communications expert that can be brought in quickly to manage the media and get the media new information. A modern media relations expert needs to know how to use an iPhone, iPad or other smart device to shoot short 30-second videos that can be uploaded as a CNN iReport, uploaded to YouTube, and uploaded to local media sites, so the media can download and use that video.

Gerard Braud Media Training and Crisis Communication with IPad IPhoneUsing your smart device you can shoot and upload images of the damage in areas currently not accessible to the media, but open to investigators and responders. You don’t have to take the media in physically, when you can take the media in virtually.

Please read the other articles that I’ve written on this topic for more tips. We’ll have more coming as voting continues for this year’s nomination of CNN’s top iReporter.

If you have questions, please reach out to me at

Here are links to previous articles on this topic:

iReports for Public Relations and Crisis Communications: Why Your Company or Government Organization Should Create a CNN iReport Account Today

Compare and Contrast News Stories: Secrets of the Media

Get the Right tools to be a good iReporter

Set Up Your CNN iReport Account on a Sunny Day

Hurricane Isaac: iReports Before, During and After. Is This Guy Crazy?

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