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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.

 

4 Tips to Avoid the Worst Sentence in a News Release

wall-1312336_1920By Gerard Braud

The worst sentence to begin a news release is, “We are excited to announce…”

If you hire a so-called public relations expert to write your news release and they write this, you should fire them. If you have written this yourself because you’ve seen others do the same thing, please stop.

Nothing says you value yourself more than your audience or customers than the dreaded, “We are excited” sentence.

In the world of customer satisfaction, your goal should be to celebrate the joy and benefits that you bring to your customers.

Here are 4 tips to avoid the worst sentence in the world:

1. Stop writing it.

2. Begin your news release with a customer-focused sentence, such as, “If you need XYZ, your life is about to get easier because of a new product/gadget being introduced today.”

3. Measure your “I”/”we”/”you”/”them” use. Your news release should contain more sentences that focus on the customer than the company.

4. Measure your “how” to “why” use. Stop focusing on how your product works and focus on why it improves the lives of your customers.

There is no doubt that the internal decision makers are excited. But the key to better sales is to make the consumer excited. When the customer gets excited they buy. When they buy then you can really get excited.

 

 

 

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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.

4 Media Training Tips from Marco Rubio’s Interview with Chris Wallace

Marco rubio interviewBy Gerard Braud

I’m irritated by how Chris Wallace conducted his interview with Marco Rubio on Fox News Sunday. The media interview is generating a barrage of news stories about where Rubio stands on the issue of whether the U.S. should have invaded Iraq.

For the full context of this article, watch this clip being used by Rubio’s political opponents. It is an edited three-minute exchange with Chris Wallace, which amounts to a verbal tug of war.

This type of media interview could happen to anyone from a CEO, to a corporate spokesperson, to a political candidate like Rubio. Lightweight media training can never prepare a spokesperson for this type of an interview. High profile people need intense media training at a high level, which requires the trainer to be combative at a high level.

Here are 4 tips for dealing with a tough interview:

Tip 1: Study interviews from others like you who have been asked the same question. Just last week Jeb Bush stumbled on the same question. It appears Rubio studied the Bush interviews and was for the most part prepared to answer the question.

Tip 2: Challenge the reporter’s question when you don’t understand the question. I suggested this in my Jeb Bush article, and to his credit, Rubio did this, saying to Wallace at one point, “I don’t understand the question you are asking.”

Tip 3: Shut up and listen. When a reporter gets combative, as Wallace did, you have to decide when you are going to talk and when you are going to listen. At some point you must realize that when two people are talking over each other a lot of valuable airtime is being wasted on the verbal tug of war. As the guest, sometimes you need to listen to the reporter’s question and wait for him or her to finish before refining your answer. Wallace kept asking the vague question, “Was it a mistake to go to war in Iraq?” Rubio kept arguing over the semantics of the question.

Tip 4: When you’ve practiced your answers, as it appears Rubio has done, deliver the answer perfectly without feeling compelled to insert a spontaneous thought or verbal ad lib. My review of the interview shows that Rubio has a consistent set of answers to this question. In a nutshell, he has said that he would have invaded if he had been handed flawed information and that it would have been a mistake to invade if he had known the true facts. But in an attempt to end the verbal tug of war with Wallace, Rubio adlibs, “Based on what we know now I wouldn’t have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to get beat in that fight a few weeks ago…”

Ultimately, because of Wallace’s constant interruptions, Rubio would have needed to let Wallace finish and then answer with his rehearsed answer stated clearly, with parsed words, and delivered with as few words as possible. Such an answer sometimes requires the spokesperson to include their version of the question and answer for context, such as:

If the question is. ‘Do I support the decision to invade Iraq?’ my answer comes in two parts:

Part 1 – “If I had been given the same flawed information as President, I might have made the same flawed decision to invade.”

Part 2 – “If I had been given accurate information based on what we know now, I suspect that no president would have invaded at that time for those reasons.”

In conclusion, preparation for a potentially combative interview requires a high level of preparation and perfection, which requires extra training and practice.

 

 

3 Key Human Resources Considerations & 5 Strategies for Employee Communications in a Crisis

Gerard Braud Crisis Plan VideoBy Gerard Braud –

You’ve heard HR leaders and executives say it many times, “Our employees are our number one asset.” If this is true, should those same employees also become your most important audience when a crisis strikes?

An increasing number of HR departments are taking the lead in crisis communications planning to make sure employee engagement is maintained in crisis communications plans.

Public relations teams traditionally wrote and executed a corporate crisis communication plan. In most plans, communications were targeted toward the media.

But the time has come for human resource professionals to forge a stronger partnership with each public relations team. Corporate crisis communications plans must ensure proper and equal communications to the media, employees and social media audiences.

Here are three considerations:

Consideration #1: Employees use social media apps on their personal smart phones. This means they can quickly disseminate facts or rumors about your company’s crisis.

Consideration #2: Haters love to spread rumors on social media, which if read by your employees, can cause employees to doubt whether the corporation is communicating the truth to them.

Consideration #3: With each minute that you fail to communicate to your employees and the outside world, your corporate reputation and revenue are being damaged.

Years ago the media were the most important audience in a crisis communications plan.  They were the pathway to get your message to the masses, including your employees. But that has changed, beginning with the advent of e-mail, the web and Intranet sites. Each created a direct pathway for effective employee communications. HR and PR were able to share the responsibility for daily employee engagement.

These same tools should be your primary crisis communications tool.

HR and PR should want employees to get their news, especially about a crisis, from the company, rather than the mainstream media or social media.

Sadly, the norm seems to be that corporate executives make the mistake of thinking that when a crisis strikes they can gather critical executives in a room and hash out a strategy and write a statement. This doesn’t work and it is a recipe for disaster. When time is of the essence there is no time for impending disagreements, personality conflicts, and fights over commas and semantics in news releases. But that is exactly what happens when executives are arrogant enough to think they can “wing it” on the day of their crisis.

It is far wiser to spend a few dollars to prepare, than to watch large sums of money disappear because of falling stock prices and dropping sales, precipitated by a void in timely communications during a crisis.

While your company likely cannot communicate at the speed of Twitter, a reasonable goal is to issue your first statement to the media, employees and other stakeholders within one hour of any crisis going public.

What should you do if you are in HR?

1) Meet with your public relations team and make sure the company has written a crisis communications plan.

2) If there is no plan, partner with PR to write a plan that provides specific steps to communicate with the media, employees and key stakeholders.

3) Ensure that your plan is built for speed, by writing a library of pre-written news releases, constructed with a fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice format, in order to speed up your communications.

4) Establish a policy that states your employees and the media will get identical information at the same time. Never give employees information that is not provided to the media. Also, never give employees any information before giving it to the media.

Posting your official statement on your corporate website lets you provide links by e-mail to all employees and media with the click of a button. The same link can be posted to social media.

5) To perform flawlessly during your crisis you must practice when there is no crisis. Test your crisis communications plan at least once a year with a crisis communications drill.

Surprisingly, many companies do not see a need for a crisis communications plan until it is too late. Of the companies wise enough to have plans, many have failed to update their plans to emphasize the speed, urgency, and importance of communicating with employees.

If your employees are your greatest priority, you should provide them timely and honest information when a crisis strikes.

 

 

Media Interview Mistakes of Jeb Bush: The Sequel

jebbushrenoBy Gerard Braud

In yesterday’s blog we talked about the impact a bad media interview can have on a spokesperson, whether it is a candidate running for office or a corporate executive. In the article, we examined presidential candidate Jeb Bush and his interview with Fox News.

One additional aspect of a bad interview is our lesson today, as it plays out in the current news cycle. University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich challenged Jeb Bush in Reno, asserting that his brother George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq has given birth to ISIS.

What we see in this example is that a bad answer that makes headlines one day extends into more news cycles the next day. Rather than being able to focus on current issues and moving the conversation forward, Bush has to repeatedly focus on his past statement. This is a problem that many political candidates fall into. Bush is not the first and he will not be the last.

When your goal is to drive forward as a CEO, an executive, or a businessman or woman, it is difficult to see the road ahead when you have to deal with what is in your rear view mirror. Don’t let one misplaced statement harm your reputation or revenue.

5 Crisis Communications Lessons from Dr. Oz

droz 2By Gerard Braud

Dr. Mehmet Oz is in crisis communications mode. He has been making headlines in the media as medical colleagues criticize him for advice he gives and things he says on his syndicated television program.

His hometown newspaper, the New Jersey Register, asked for my opinion on how Oz has begun to attack his critics. You can read the full article here:

When a crisis comes, you can communicate or remain silent. My advice is that if the crisis is the result of criticism and you feel the criticism is unfair, then defending yourself by attacking your critics is a strong tactic. Oz has been on the attack against his critics, sighting that they have ulterior motives.

booklesson gerard braud

If the media tell the story of your critics, you must reach out to the media to tell your story. Too many executives caught up in a crisis or controversy in the media, believe in the flawed old adage that, “You should never get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” (I address this in Lesson 7 of my book Don’t Talk to the Media Until…).

Here are 5 ways to address critics:

1) Call a news conference and point out the flaws in their statements.

2) Write letters to the editor to all publications that publish erroneous criticism from your opponents. Keep the letter to about 150 – 200 words.

3) Post a longer version of your letter to your own website.

4) Think carefully before taking your fight to social media. The haters can get ugly fast and make the problem worse.

5) Never underestimate the power of taking out ads in major publications so you can print your full letter.

Don’t let a critic hurt your brand, your reputation or your revenue.

4 Media Training & Interview Tips Courtesy of Jeb Bush & Megyn Kelly

Fox-Jeb-Bush

By Gerard Braud

Media training is not just about being an expert when it comes to answering a question. Media interview skills also require you to know how to ask questions of the reporter. The fuss about presidential candidate Jeb Bush is a case in point, based on an answer he gave to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly when asked about the Iraq War. What happened to Bush, can just as easily happen to you or an executive who serves as your spokesperson.

Here are some tips that will help you in your next interview:

Lesson 1: Listen to the question.

Lesson 2: Discern whether there is a question behind the question.

Lesson 3: Anticipate how your answer might trigger a dangerous follow up question.

Lesson 4: If you don’t truly understand the question or where the question might take you, ask the reporter to clarify. It is okay to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t fully understand your questions. Can you restate it?”

Bush’s failure to do this is costly. It can cost him in the polls as well as in financial contributions. In business, it can cause you to lose customers and sales because it damages both your reputation and your revenue.

Book quote(For those of you who rely on my book Don’t Talk to the Media Until as your executive media training guide book, this lesson relates directly to Lesson 2: The Big If on page 3, in which I ask the question, “If you could attach a dollar to every word that comes out of your mouth, would you make money or lose money?”)

Here is how the interview went down:

Kelly: “On the subject of Iraq, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

Bush: “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind every body and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

But Kelly’s question is not about going to war based on the intelligence provided at the time, yet Bush’s answer is. Essentially Kelly’s question is, “If you were president and you were told there are no large supplies of chemical weapons in Iraq, would you still invade?”

That isn’t the question Bush was answering. Bush thought he was being asked, “If you had been presented with the same intelligence your brother was presented with as President, would you have made the same decision to go to war that he did?”

The presidential campaign season is just getting started and the media are looking for every little flaw in every sentence that is spoken by a candidate. They do the same in interviews with you or your executives who serve as a spokesperson.

Bush’s faux pas is proof that even media interview veterans have to keep their skills sharp by listening to each question carefully, clarifying the intent of the question, and parsing every word of your answer.

It is amazing how many people create negative headlines for themselves because of something they said in a media interview that wasn’t perfect.

My advice is that regardless of how powerful you are and how busy you might be, to do a solid interview you should:

1) Have a media training coach that you love to work with

2) Set time aside at least once a year to allow that trainer to grill you on camera with an honest evaluation

3) Roll play with a coach or colleague before every interview with every reporter, so that you get your head in the game moments before the real questions begin.

Never allow yourself to get complacent. Don’t think because you’ve done so many interviews that you can eliminate the training that keeps your skills sharp. One misplaced word can cause serious harm to your reputation and your revenue. Can you afford that?

The Crisis Management Wake-up Call for Communities, Government, Law Enforcement and Business

baltimore policeBy Gerard Braud

Generally we talk about crisis communications. But sometimes, we need to talk about crisis management. If we manage a crisis to keep it from happening, then we don’t need to communicate about it. Often, crisis management can begin by looking at case studies.

The crisis in Ferguson, Missouri should have been a wake-up call that should have prevented the Baltimore riots from happening. The Baltimore crisis should be the wake-up call that prevents the next community crisis from happening. These are only two community crises that should warn us all that more will follow, if crisis management action isn’t taken.

Most amazing to me is how frequently police officers are caught on video these days doing something wrong. A law enforcement agency can have 1,000 perfect officers, but they only need one rogue police officer to bring an entire department and community to its knees. The number of unjustified shootings and arrests being captured on video is astounding. Each becomes a high profile example of a growing problem, regardless of all of the many justified arrests made by officers.

The margin for error is small. Wake up. Video cameras are everywhere. This is not a suggestion that officers need to learn how to avoid being recorded and caught. This is a suggestion that crisis management in communities must begin with self correction of bad behavior. Good cops need to weed out the bad cops. Police departments need to establish new integrity standards to weed out the bad officers before their behavior paralyzes another department and community.

Likewise, elected officials and police chiefs in every community need to enact crisis management techniques designed to aggressively weed out the rogue individuals who wear a badge. The high cost of human life and community destruction demand it.

As part of a crisis management strategy, elected officials need to start managing the crisis of poverty, under-performing schools, unemployment, and other community problems. No small task, but again, the high cost of human life and community destruction demand it. Aggressive policing in a high crime area doesn’t correct the problem, it only treats the symptom.

Preventing a crisis is economically more affective that dealing with the crisis and the aftermath.

Those of you in business, likewise, need to exercise your own crisis management by meeting with elected officials and law enforcement to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they are taking action. Their failings hurt you financially.

Businesses and business groups can also take direct action in communities to improve the quality of life, without waiting for government to lift the heavy load alone. Business groups can circumvent government to establish community centers, youth mentorship programs, and job training programs.

As we’ve seen in Baltimore, Ferguson and other communities, businesses are incapacitated and often destroyed when the crisis gets out of hand. Business pays a heavy price.

As it stands now, Ferguson and Baltimore have ignited the fires of frustration. Each serves as a model for the next community to follow. Now that the die is cast, you can expect each sequential crisis to be bigger than those before it.

The task of proactively changing a community is difficult. Failure to tackle the difficult task is costly.

What will you do?

When “It” Hits the Fan – Hurricane Season Readiness & Effective Communications

hurricane seasonBy Gerard Braud

Forecasters are watching for what might be the development of the first hurricane of 2015.  This happens just as the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association (LEPA) meets in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in advance of the official hurricane season.

I’m delivering the opening keynote presentation to LEPA emergency managers this morning as we look at how effective communications is changing. Emergency managers are being called upon to not only use all of their traditional crisis communications methods, but how to also incorporate social media and mobile technology.

Whether you are part of this group or not, you can take advantage of the lessons being shared using the resources below.

I’ve prepared two handouts for the group, which can be downloaded here:

Weathering the Storm

Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan

If you’d like to perfect your skills for creating effective videos to communicate with your audiences during a disaster, I encourage you to watch this 23 lesson tutorial.

Also, when a crisis strikes you you need to hold a fast news conference or issue a fast statement, 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.