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Covid Crisis Communications: Sample Press Release

by Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Your COVID crisis communications plan and your COVID crisis communication pre-written news releases need to be modified immediately if your organization is being attacked over policies related to COVID-19 mask requirements or vaccine mandates.

Daily we see news reports of school boards, city councils, and county governments being attacked for their position. Likewise, companies, restaurants, bars, and retail businesses are also in crisis mode as they deal with the Delta Variant.

So what do you do?

I’ve used a crisis communications secret for decades to harness the power of a written and spoken preamble. (One of the things that I love about the SituationHub.com crisis communications app is that every crisis statement has a preamble already written and baked into the crisis news releases that the app writes.)

If you are responsible for making an opening statement in a public meeting or if you have to issue a written news release, the preamble states the organization’s 1) noble purpose and 2) goals.

For example, the president of the school board might make the following statement:

“At the Harris County School Board, our goal is to educate children in a safe and nurturing environment. Effective learning is best accomplished when we are able to have in-person learning, and when our population of both students and faculty are healthy.”

Such a preamble must also be true. You want everyone in the audience to nod their head in agreement.

Admittedly, you will never win over everyone, but your goal should be to win over two-thirds of your intended audience.

Your next sentence must state your action while using the preamble to justify your action. For example:

“In order for us to have in-person learning and in order for the learning environment to be safe for all of our students, staff and faculty, we are establishing the following requirements.”

(Example)

“All children over the age of (X) and all staff and faculty will be required to wear a mask.

All children over the age of (X) and all staff and faculty will be required to have a vaccination.”

If this were your official position, you would then be attacked by those who think masks and/or vaccinations should not be required. Your job in crisis communications is to know that such an attack represents a vulnerability that needs to be researched in advance. (See our past articles on Vulnerability Assessments and the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. You can even watch the SituationHub.com Master Class on this topic.)

A Vulnerability Assessment will tell you what the objections are of those in opposition to your position, such as:

  • A violation of personal liberty
  • Religious exemptions
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Medical conditions

Therefore, your next statement should acknowledge those objections, in a way that allows those in opposition to nod their heads in agreement that you understand them, such as:

“We recognize that some members of our community may be opposed to this. Some people feel that this violates their personal liberties and freedoms. Some people may say it affects breathing, medical conditions, or religious beliefs. We understand this and we respect that you have strong feelings on this issue.”

Next comes your alternatives to the opposition:

“If your child is not vaccinated and if you prohibit your child from wearing a mask, you will have several options. We will offer remote learning options and parents also have the option to homeschool their children.”

Next, tie everything back to your preamble:

“Ultimately, our goal is to educate children in a safe and nurturing environment. Effective learning is best accomplished when we can have in-person learning, and when our population of both students and faculty are healthy. Health experts tell us that the two most effective tools at our disposal are masks and vaccinations.”

Now address the objections directly, while reinforcing your stand, credit third-party experts, and tie your position back to your preamble.

“We know some people may question the effectiveness of masks. We know some people may question the safety of vaccines. However, experts tell us that masking and vaccinations are the two most effective tools at our disposal. And in order to keep our children safe, experts tell us that the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Next, dispel any beliefs in the audience that have not been addressed previously, for example:

“Some may question whether this infringes on your liberties and personal freedoms. Some may question if this is an overreach by the government or businesses. Here are examples of similar rules already in place in our society:

  • If you go to a restaurant, you’ve likely seen a sign that says, ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service.’ This is an example of the rights granted to a business, for the safety, comfort, and respect of all of the other patrons.
  • If you drive, you must wear a seat belt.
  • If you drive, you cannot be drunk.
  • If you go into an industrial facility, you must follow safety requirements, such as wearing safety glasses or perhaps a bright, reflective vest, or other safety garments and apparatuses.
  • In school, vaccination requirements already exists.

Our society is full of requirements designed to keep the vast majority of people safe. These rules are in place for the safety of each individual and the safety of society at large.”

Now, reinforce the above statement with a tie to your preamble:

“If our goal is to provide education in a safe environment for our students, we must keep them from getting COVID and we must keep them from spreading COVID to their parents and grandparents.”

Now give a real-life example of the tragedy that you wish to avoid while conveying emotion and empathy, which are critical in effective crisis communications.

“How would you feel if one of our students died from COVID? How would you feel if one of our parents died of COVID because a child brought the infection home from school? How empty would the holidays be if a grandparent had died of COVID because they received a loving hug from a child who got COVID at school?”

Now put a bow on it.

“Every decision this board makes, must always focus on two things: the education of your child and the safety of your child.”

If you structure your crisis communications statement, news release, policy, or letter in this way, every objection that you get simply requires you to retreat and repeat, i.e. retreat to a previous statement and repeat it.

As a society, I’ve never witnessed a crisis in which there are opposing points of view. For example, if a house is burning, everyone is in agreement that those inside should be rescued and that the fire should be put out.

But the reality is, we live in polarizing times where anger and outrage are weaponized, fueled by politics and social media.

  1. Identify your position.
  2. Take your stand.
  3. Write your crisis communications statement.
  4. Use your statement to defend your position and answer all objections.
  5. Stand by your stand.

If we can assist you, please contact us at gerard@braudcommunications.com

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

4 Crisis Communications Considerations About Current Events

By Gerard Braud

What do you think about the riots, protests, political unrest, all during the pandemic?

Before you verbalize your answer, think not just about your answer to the question, but also the impact your answer could have on the reputation and revenue of your business. This is especially true for those of you who are in businesses that involve face to face contact with customers. While it is true that society needs to have discussions about the important issues of the day, what degree of caution should you consider in voicing a strong opinion to a customer who strikes up a conversation with you? And, what should be the guidelines for you or your employees when you consider whether it is appropriate to strike up a conversation with a customer?

Years ago, I proposed a similar question, “What do you think of the protests going on in Baltimore?” The same crisis communications principles, and this same video interview recorded with a colleague rings true years later.

Anastasia Turchetta is a Registered Dental Hygienist and host of Hump Day Happenings, a video blog for the dental industry. Here is our conversation regarding how to handle talking about such crises in the workplace:

Small business owners, such as her dental clients are faced with two situations when top news breaks. Situation one is that a customer may initiate a discussion about the controversial issues of the day. Situation two is that the business owner or their employees initiate a discussion.

This raises four questions you must consider:

1) Is this the right time and place to talk about these important issues?

2) Could the conversation result in the customer getting angry and taking their business somewhere else?

3) Is that a risk you are willing to take?

4) What advice should be given to business owners and their employees?

If an event affects your reputation and revenue, a crisis exists, in some degree. If customers elect to buy goods or services from someone else because they feel slighted by your business, then you have an emerging crisis.

In the video blog, Anastasia reminds us of what many of us were taught by our parents, which is to never talk about religion and politics.

In addition to the decision you make about having controversial conversations with your customers in person, you must also think about the personal opinions a business owner and their employees post to social media. Be especially aware of those employees who have accepted friend requests from customers.

Each employer, whenever there are hot button issues in the news, should consider what they should say to their employees face to face, as well as on social media.

If you are passionate about the issues of the day, seek out the proper venue or community group to enact change. But consider carefully how your personal opinions and those of your employees will affect your livelihood, revenue, and business.

I personally know of many case studies in which entertainers, celebrities and business owners have been put out of business and lost all they owned because of how and where they voiced their opinions. Consider what price you are willing to pay.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash

How is Gardening Like Crisis Communications Planning?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

How does your personal life reflect who you are in your professional life? In my life it is easy. All you have to do is look at my backyard garden. It personifies my professional life in crisis communications planning.

Two things about this garden should catch your attention.

First: I use boxes instead of rows, which means I’m making a long-term commitment as a yard-to-table gardener.

Secondly: I have already tilled the soil and begun planting my garden in February, which means 60 days from now, I might be eating the first big, juicy Louisiana Creole tomato, if I don’t get an artic blast or a freeze.

What happens in my garden now, affects what happens 60, 90, and 180 days from now.

Your approach to crisis communications should be the same way in 2019. You should be putting dates on the calendar now for the fruit you want to harvest later this year.

This year, you can easily execute all 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. If you’d like more details, just sign up for my free 5-day video class.

  • Under the 5-Steps process, right now in cold February, you should be working on your 2019 Vulnerability Assessment.
  • By late March and early April you should be working on your crisis communications plan and it should be ready to harvest 60 days from now.
  • In May, June, and July, you should be creating a library of pre-written news releases.
  • Next, you will schedule Media Training for your spokespeople, followed by a Crisis Communications Drill.

Can it be done? Yes, it takes planning. Do It Now!

Can you do it yourself or should you hire someone like me? Well, you can plant your own garden and harvest your own vegetables – which takes a lot of time and work. Or, you can go to the store and buy what you need for immediate gratification.

I’ve invested 4,000 hours into the crisis communications plans and the library of pre-written news releases that I license to companies all around the word. The entire system is delivered in just two days. Think about it – 4,000 hours means you would have to work 40 hours a week on nothing but crisis communications for two entire years to have what I’ve created… or you can call me at 985-624-9976 and in two days, you are feasting on the fruits of my labor.

Whether you do it yourself or ask me to be your strategic partner, if you have questions, please give me a call.

 Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

2019 January Forgiveness for Your Crisis Communications Planning

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Here we are in late January and guess what? You are already falling behind.

You set PR and crisis communications goals and BOOM! You have already failed to do what you said you would do two weeks ago.

Solution?

January Forgiveness.

I forgive you. Now forgive yourself.

One of my mentors and coaches taught me long ago to simply reset my goals when I fail to achieve them. Now I’m passing that wisdom on to you.

Your next step is to sign up for the 5-Steps to Effective Crisis Communications strategy, offered in my free 5-part video series and to schedule your free crisis accountability buddy phone call.

If you signed up, but you have not watched all of the videos, forgive yourself. Then dig through your emails to find the links to the five video lessons. Next, schedule your free call so we can spread out your five steps over each of the four quarters of 2019.

Big goals and big challenges are hard. They get easier when you have a date of completion assigned to the task, along with an accountability buddy who acts as your motivator.

Call me. Let’s get you motivated and on track.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

2019 Crisis Communications Goal Setting: 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

January is the time to plan your crisis communications strategy for 2019.

Start by learning about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications and spreading the task out over the four quarters of the year. A free 5-part video series is online here to get you started:

  • Quarter 1 is the time to conduct your Vulnerability Assessment, which is Step 1. Mid-Quarter 1 is the time to write your Crisis Communications Plan, which is Step 2.
  • Quarter 2 is the time to write Pre-written News Releases as Step 3, based on your Vulnerability Assessment.
  • Quarter 3 is when you should conduct Media Training as Step 4, based on the pre-written news releases you have written.
  • Quarter 4 is when you should conduct your Crisis Communications Drill, which is Step 5, based on completion of all of the previous steps.

To help you achieve your goals, I’m standing by to be your accountability buddy. When you sign up for the free 5-part video series, you’ll be given a chance to schedule a free 15-minute phone call with me to help you set your goals.

Plus, if you are ready to put things on the fast track, Steps 1, 2 and 3 can be completed in as few as two days with my fully customizable crisis communications plan system.

3 #MeToo Sexual Misconduct Considerations for CBS: Lessons in Crisis Communications & Public Relations

MoonvesBy Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Variety magazine is writing about the CBS public relations crisis surrounding the sexual misconduct allegations against CEO Les Moonves. Many of you reading this blog could be faced with similar allegations against one of your executives and wondering what you should do and how you should handle such a potential crisis. This requires both expert crisis management and expert crisis communication.

Variety asked for my thoughts as a crisis communication expert. My quote to Variety is identical to expert crisis management and crisis communication advice I would share with all of my clients. It begins with deciding a proper course of action and then sharing a sincere statement that explains what you are doing and why. CBS has said they will leave Moonves in his position while they investigate. I would have gone one step further and asked Moonves to take a leave of absence during the investigation. Trust me, he won’t really be doing his job well with the weight of the accusations and the negative publicity of the crisis. This is the crisis management phase.

First, you should consider the perspective of the crisis. People believe they were hurt and want justice, while someone has been accused. Without a confession, it becomes a situation that requires a third-party investigation. This is the personification of “she said; he said.”

Secondly, consider that this is a highly volatile topic and that the #MeToo movement evokes strong opinions. There will never be a 100% agreement on how to handle such matters.

Thirdly, in business, the decision makers must remember the saying, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Hence, when multiple accusers come forth with similar allegations, it is logical to assume the accused person is likely guilty. But lost in many sexual misconduct cases is the basic American principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. CBS, however, is following that principle.

My crisis management advice to any company facing allegations against an executive would be to ask the executive to take a leave of absence with pay while an investigation is conducted. My crisis communications advice would be that such a move must be accompanied by a thoughtful and sincere statement, such as:

“Because of the sensitivity of the allegations being made, we feel the best course of action is to conduct a thorough investigation. Because such investigations can prove disruptive to the day-to-day operations of the organization, we have asked the accused individual to take a leave of absence until the investigation is completed. Once the investigation is completed, we will share our findings with you.”

Of note in this modern age of frequent sexual misconduct allegations, employers would be well served to work out the logistics of such a leave agreement, during the hiring and contract phase of onboarding any new executive. Take your cue from police departments, who take an officer off of the street after a shooting, while an investigation is conducted. Some police officers are put on desk duty while others are put on paid leave. The police departments know that a distracted officer should not be on the street with a gun. Likewise, a distracted CEO should not be making decisions that affect the reputation and revenue of the company.

Finally, remember that the time to address your crisis management and crisis communication plan of action is to make these hard decisions on a clear, sunny day, when you have clarity of thought. The best time to deal with a crisis is before the crisis happens.

 

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

3 Lessons the Melania Trump Coat Can Teach All Public Relations People

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

 

 

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

 

Crisis communications Plans Gerard BraudBy Gerard Braud

Regarding crisis communications and crisis communications plans, does this adage apply?

“The person who says something can’t be done is always right.”

In so many crises, public relations professionals and the media proclaim phrases such as, “This is unprecedented. You can’t prepare for this.”

Pardon me, but that’s bull$h*t.

As a defiant, non-conformist, contrarian, nothing inspires me to do something more than doing something they said couldn’t be done.

If you want to prepare and you are willing to put forth the effort, you can write a crisis communications plan and a library of pre-written news releases that will serve you in any crisis. Public relations people without the expertise, who are unwilling to put forth the effort, take the easy way out by saying, “It can’t be done.”

Here is the backstory of how defiance turned into a process that allowed public relations teams to put an effective crisis communications plan in place in as few as two days.

In 1996, I begin doing extensive research on crisis communications plans and found each plan repeated the same flaws as the ones before it. All conformed to public relations standards of then and today. Being a contrarian, I researched the common communications mistakes made in each crisis. I poured over case studies from when I was a member of the media. I analyzed why spokespeople said dumb things to me in most crises when I was a television reporter. I analyzed why corporations were slow to communicate about each crisis.

Crisis Communication movie gerard braudThe pain, problems, and predicaments of the communicator and the corporation were scrutinized. Once this was done, I began to work backwards, with the end in mind. Multiple end points were identified, which consisted of the intervals at which a statement would need to be made by a company to the media, a company’s employees, and the stakeholders most affected by the crisis.

From 1996 – 2004, I wrote crisis communications plans for a wide variety of businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. The process often took a year of collaboration, which for me was too long. Dealing with the slow pace of corporate collaboration didn’t fit my personality.

In 2004, while recovering from a near-death-illness, I began looking for the fastest way to deliver a crisis communications plan. I had so many plans written that I was able to condense the crisis communications plan writing process down to two intense days of a group writing retreat. I provided the expertise and base documents, while the public relations team provided a workforce to modify the documents.

Ten years later, the plan still works in every crisis. Granted, the base crisis communications plan is a living document that undergoes constant modification to incorporate the ever-growing list of communications outlets, such as social media.

The reality is, you don’t know how every crisis will unfold.

The secret is to understand the intervals at which you must communicate to key audiences. You must make sure your crisis communications plan has a system in place to gather information, confirm information, then release that information.

The biggest breakthrough for me was unlocking the secret to creating a library of pre-written news releases. Starting with the end in mind, I was able to analyze the questions that get asked in every news conference by the media. Based on those questions and a clear understanding of how journalists will write their news reports, I was able to create a series of statements that include multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank options.

Some of my pre-written news releases have as few as five paragraphs while others have more than 30 paragraphs. Some pre-written news releases are for an event that can be handled with a single press release. Others are three-part releases that can be used to issue advisories before, during, and after an event, such as for an electric company dealing with a winter storm. Still others must exceed three parts, to use during ongoing crises. These pre-written news releases can usually be edited and released in as few as ten minutes. This is in stark contrast to the typical problem of a public relations person sitting before a blank computer screen and writing from scratch, then facing hours of revisions and hours of delayed communications.

What are the constant realities for the company you work for? Virtually every set of scenarios can be broken down into fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice options.

A crisis communications plan can be structured to identify your key audiences, the various ways you must communicate to those audiences, and the frequency of your communications.

Is writing this type of crisis communications plan easy? My original plan took about 1,000 hours to develop – that’s six months. Since then, it has evolved with many more hours.

Today, it is ready to launch and implement in as few as two days. If you would like to know more, call me.

If you think it can’t be done, you are correct for yourself. You are not, however, correct for everyone.

 

Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC (Jared Bro) is an international expert, coach, trainer, author and professional speaker, who has worked with organizations on five continents. Known as the guy to call when it hits the fan, he is widely regarded as an expert in crisis communications and media issues.

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Crisis Communications Tips on: The Best Piece of Advice on Writing News Releases


In order to engage and interact with corporate communications professionals, and share best practices with our online public relations community, this week’s crisis communications discussion question was, “What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given for writing a news release?” What is that one tip that someone once shared with you that you remember each time you write a news release?

Our social media followers and crisis communications influencers shared their thoughts this week on LinkedIn, the blog, Twitter, and YouTube. Many commented on what is actually considered news and how real news should be the focus of a news release. Some commented on the importance of incorporating great media interview quotes into the news release. What would you add to the conversation? Comment here and on our social media pages to join the discussion.

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.

Step 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.

What’s the Best Piece of Crisis Communication Advice You Were Ever Given?

Crisis communications skills are often studied as a “niche” within the public relations industry. Maybe you have been educated before on crisis communication, attending presentations, sitting in classrooms, joining professional PR associations like PRSA or PRSSA, hearing from advisors, professors, instructors, and professional speakers. Maybe you have heard some expert crisis management tips from your colleagues, or an influential boss. Maybe you have had some expert crisis communications or media relations consultants help you strategize your crisis plan for your company, school, hospital, or organization.

To inspire discussion, crisis communications expert Gerard Braud asks his social media followers, public relations professionals, and media relations experts, “What’s the best piece of crisis communications advice you were ever given?”

Whatever your resources may be, we want you to comment here and on our social media pages to share your answers. You and your colleagues can benefit from this online discussion.Your answers may be featured in our follow-up video!

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.

Step 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.

PR Tips on: Which is more important in a media interview – emotion or details?

It is crucial for your business, company, school, or organization to have effective media relations, effective media interviews, and to express the right emotions at the right times to your audience members. It is also important for you to tell the story of your crisis to your audience and include necessary information, rather than allowing reporters to tell your story and potentially speculate. Should your CEO, public relations professional, or spokesperson be more focused on expressing those emotions, or should they be more focused on delivering the news, the facts, and the details of your crisis? On Monday, crisis communications expert Gerard Braud asked his social media followers, public relations professionals, and media relations experts, “Which is more important in a media interview – emotion or details?”

Our followers have joined in on the discussion this week, sharing their tips on social media. Comment here and on our social media pages to join the discussion. Do you agree with their opinion? Do you disagree?

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.

Step 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.