NACD Crisis Communications: Manage Your Messaging

I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by Roselle Foley for an article for the National Association of Chemical Distributors. Here is the article and my message about communicating effectively in a crisis:

Knowing what to say and how to say it in a time of crisis is critically important. But all too often,  companies don’t react quickly enough and instead let the story spiral out of control, says Gerard Braud, communication expert and Founder of Situation Hub LLC.

A misplaced word or delayed statement can be hugely damaging for business, paving the way for media outlets and social media channels to run with their own narrative and agenda.

Braud says it’s vital that chemical distributors are not only adequately prepared for any eventuality but that they respond appropriately should the unexpected occur.

At NACD’s ChemEdge conference, Braud pointed to a recent real-world scenario where a major corporation with a burning warehouse took more than three hours to release a seven-sentence statement about the incident. At that time, social media had already told the story in a much better and more visual way. But social media was also spreading misinformation about toxic debris landing in people’s yards.

To avoid situations like this, Braud demonstrated how software he’s developed speeds up the process, taking what is often a complicated three-hour task and condensing it into three minutes.

SituationHub is the result of four years of development – a unique application that complements the media communication component of Responsible Distribution Code VII and helps members take back control of their messaging.

“For the price of a cup of coffee per day, you can protect your company,” he says. “Preparing for crisis response isn’t always the highest priority at companies. Companies ‘kick the can down the road’ and then regret their delays when they are suddenly thrust into the media and public spotlight.”

Braud adds,

“With the pressures of social media, every company has the ability to have their revenue, reputation, and brand damaged or destroyed by a failure to communicate rapidly when an event is unfolding.”

In his past career as a TV reporter, he explained how he used to attend incidents such as these and start a live report with eyewitness interviews within 30 minutes of arrival. In today’s fast-moving world, the media landscape has changed significantly. The reality now, he says, is that anyone with a cell phone can become a reporter, immediately taking pictures or recording video footage and posting it online. The media then pulls that information to create the narrative before the company has had the chance to issue any official information.

It’s therefore critical that a business is in control in a situation such as this and can provide accurate information with context as fast as humanly possible, he says.

SituationHub’s cloud-based software draws from a database of thousands of questions spanning hundreds of different scenarios to quickly build a robust response statement that can be shared amongst employees, distributed to the media, and shared with other stakeholders, such as customers or the community. These include events such as an explosion or chemical spill, bomb threats, or a transportation accident. It also covers natural disasters, weather events, arrests, workplace shootings, cyber-attacks, and issues such as sexual harassment complaints.

More are being added all the time to address the ever-changing chemical distribution landscape. He adds, “When COVID-19 first appeared on the horizon at the start of 2020, the platform was quickly updated to help subscribers explain to their customers and wider communities the precautions they were taking.”

Braud then added another series of questions to address the reporting of COVID-19-related illnesses and fatalities and later the introduction of mandates and the vaccination rollout.

“I was tracking a real-time crisis and, at no extra cost to my users, updated everyone’s subscription for the latest variables affecting their businesses and employees.”

Braud has been working with chemical companies and distributors for years and supplying many of them with pre-written news releases as paper documents. The downside was they were carrying around a huge binder with hundreds of pages.

“I wanted to make everything move faster and make these complicated tasks even easier, so I built SituationHub to automate the process,” he says.

“With SituationHub, you can have a statement written and distributed to your employees, customers, the media, and the local community within minutes.”

As one of NACD’s strategic partners, members can subscribe to SituationHub for a discounted price on monthly/annual subscriptions based on the number of locations your company operates. This includes a free one-hour training and onboarding session.

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