I took my pants off while delivering the closing keynote for IABC Canada in Calgary. You guessed it — a case study about the LuLu Lemon crisis of yoga pants wearing thin on the inner thighs. Does this make my butt look big?
As we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S. I’d like to express my gratitude to all of you with whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with in recent weeks and months. At each conference where I’ve been a speaker since September, I’ve promised various free resources to help you become an expert in crisis communications plans, crisis drills, or media interviews.
So here are some free resources for all of you who attended those programs, as well as for all of you who follow along here on this blog:
1) If you’d like a copy of the First Critical Statement I use in my crisis communication plan, use this link. It takes you to the Learning Store where you can select the correct item.
Enter the coupon code CRISISCOMM
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Nasdaq sponsored me for a crisis communications program at the PRSA International Conference in Atlanta. We blew up PRSA’s social media with this interactive crisis scenario that the audience blasted out to the world.
2) If you’d like my 29-day Media Training course, use this link. It takes you to the Learning Store where you can select the correct item.
Enter the coupon code BRAUD
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If you are asked for credit card info, you’ve done it wrong. Try again.
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3) If you’d like my 23 part i-Report tutorial, use this link for an index of the course on this blog. If you would like to subscribe to this blog, enter your e-mail address in the upper right-hand corner.
4) If you’d like my assistance to write your crisis communications plan, to train your spokespeople, or to speak at an upcoming conference, please call me at 985-624-9976 or send an e-mail to email@example.com
5) Finally, if you are a public relations expert with ideas to share, please subscribe to The BraudCast YouTube Channel. Each week we pose a new question as we seek your bite-size bits of best practices, which we share with the world later that week. This is your chance to share with each other.
If I’m a good fit to speak at one of your favorite conferences, I always welcome an introduction to the meeting planner. Thank you.
Once again, thank you to all of you who have invited me to speak at your corporate meetings and association conferences. Thank you to all of you who attended. I hope our paths cross again soon.
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Crisis Communications, a working Crisis Communication Plan as well as good media training skills will be critical in the next few days as bad weather moves across the United States.
Before the weather gets to you, now is the time to begin managing the expectations of your customers and employees. Many of you will experience power outages that may last up to two weeks. Let your customers and employees know this through effective communications today.
In your communications to them, be very clear about the pain, problems and predicaments they will face.
#1 Do Not Sugar Coat the News
Tell people exactly how bad things may get. Make sure your messaging is direct and simple. Deliver the headline, give a good synopsis, and then give the details. Write your communications the same way a reporter would write a news story. Don’t overload your communications with corporate jargon, acronyms and politically correct phrases that may confuse your audience.
#2 Do Not Hedge Your Bets With Optimism
You are better off to tell audiences what the worst will be and then be happy if the worst does not come to pass. It is easier to celebrate good news than to apologize for a situation that drags on and gets worse.
#3 Be Ready to Use Every Means of Communications Available to You
Traditional media will be overwhelmed with many stories. If you want to get their attention and get coverage as a way to reach your audiences, do these things now:
Be ready to post updates to your primary website starting now.
Use iPad and iPhone video to record each update and post it to YouTube.
Send e-mails to employees with links to your website and video.
Post that same video to CNN iReports.
Add links to Facebook and Twitter that send your audiences to your website and your video.
#4 Media Training for Spokespeople
Anyone who records a video or does an interview with the media should have gone through extensive media training prior to this crisis. Additionally, do role-playing and practice with them before each interview in the coming days.
#5 Be Skype Ready
In a winter storm type crisis, media may ask you to do live interviews via Skype. Download Skype to your mobile devices now and practice using Skype. Additionally, all spokespeople on a Skype interview must be properly media trained in a Skype interview setting. Use my online tutorials to help you prepare spokespersons.
#6 Expect a Spike in Social Media Communications
Keep in mind that organizations that often have very little following on social media will see a spike in social media during power outages. As audiences have no computer access they will turn to their mobile devices. Your team needs to be prepared to monitor social media and reply to posts only when it is absolutely necessary. Too many replies to negative comments only lead to more negative comments and those comments keep re-posting more frequently in everyone’s news feed.
#7 Direct Tweets to Reporters
Increasingly, reporters respond quickly to Tweets. I find that in a weather crisis you can get a reporter’s attention faster with a Tweet than with an e-mail, phone call or text message.
#8 Be a Resource
Don’t confine your social media posts to only information about your organization. Post resource information that your audience needs, such as locations to shelters, information about emergency supplies, and any other creature comforts they need.
#9 Don’t Be Left in the Dark
Now is the time to review your list of emergency supplies and gather all of the devices you need to power your mobile devices. Devices like Mophies can charge your phones and tablets. Make sure you have batteries and flashlights. If you can, get a generator and ample supplies of gasoline. Gather extra food, water and blankets. Make sure you can heat your work environment.
#10 Rest When You Can
Rest and sleep well before the crisis. Work strategically in shifts during the crisis. Everyone doesn’t have to be awake all of the time. Naps are allowed in the middle of the day.
#11 Victory from Preparedness
Don’t judge your public relations skills by how well you were able to wing it during and after the crisis. Victory is measured by how much you did on a clear sunny day to prepare for your darkest day.
#12 Update Your Crisis Communication Plan
When this crisis is over, evaluate whether your crisis communication plan worked. It should be so thorough that nothing slips through the cracks, yet easy enough to read and follow during your crisis so that it tells you everything to do with a precise timetable for achieving each task. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, evaluate it during and after your crisis, then prepare for a substantial re-write or re-design as soon as this crisis is over.
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By Gerard Braud Navigating the waters of a crisis requires a good crisis communication plan before the waters ever begin to rise. Clear sunny day planning, long before your darkest day, is the secretBy Gerard Braud
Navigating the waters of a crisis requires a good crisis communication plan before the waters ever begin to rise. Clear sunny day planning, long before your darkest day, is the secret. In today’s social media filled world, this has never been more true.
Sadly, in our social media world some public relations people expect to Tweet their way out of a crisis or repair damage using Facebook. Neither is true. While “shiny and new” social media can be part of an effect communications strategy, you must first have the foundation of tried and true media relations, crisis communications, employee communications and stakeholder communications.
Here is a sure fire 5 step approach that must be your foundation.
Step 1: Vulnerability assessment
Before “it” hits the fan, you have to identify everything that could go wrong, including potential sudden crises and smoldering crises. Hire a facilitator to take your organization through the process of a deep examination of the things that could go wrong that would damage the reputation and revenues of the company.
Step 2: Write your pre-written news releases, web posts, and e-mails
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “when you are up to your ass in alligators it is hard to think about draining the swamp.” This applies to crisis communications. One of the biggest mistakes public relations people make is that as the crisis is unfolding, they open a blank document on their computer and start writing a news release, which then goes through hours of unnecessary re-writes before it is release. Consider this: on a clear sunny day you should write as many of these potential news releases as possible, leaving blanks that you’ll fill in when you know the details of the actual event. These documents can be pre-approved by leaders, speeding up your ability to release them to the public. I’ve facilitated many crisis communication writing retreats that produced more than 150 pre-written news releases in one day. That kind of productivity rocks!
Step 3: Write your crisis communications plan
Very few documents that public relations people refer to as a crisis communication plan would pass my test for what a plan should be. Most are worthless 6 to 12 page documents that state standard operating procedure and serve absolutely no purpose on the day of your crisis. Yet to be fair, this is what most PR people were taught in school or at some PR seminar. Frustrated by what I kept finding, I invented something new.
My approach is to write a document that is intended to be read and followed during the crisis. It dictates specific, sequential tasks in a very fast moving time frame. It captures all of the perfect behaviors of the most senior communicator, yet is so easy to follow than any one who can read can execute the plan flawlessly. I’ve invested about 2,500 hours of development in my base plan, which is about 50 pages long, which I am now able to customize for my clients during a single afternoon workshop.
Step 4: Annual media training for a crisis
Despite all of the buzz about social media, holding a live news conference within both the first and second hour of a crisis is vital if the media are standing at your door. Many organizations damage their revenues and reputations when untrained spokespeople say dumb things during a crisis.
It is important for every potential spokesperson to recognize that media training is not a bucket list item that you do once in life. Talking to the media is a skill that requires regular practice. I recommend media training for all spokespeople at least once a year, with an expert coach. Then, before every media interview, in-house staff should do a fast refresher course.
Think of it this way – the best athletes achieve great success because they practice often and partner with a great coach. Great spokespeople practice often and partner with a great coach, protecting their reputation and revenues through what they say, and just importantly, what they don’t say.
Step 5: An annual crisis communications drill
Realistic crisis communications drills are the best way to test your communications team and the decision making process of your leaders. A drill once a year allows colleagues to establish trust and good working relationships. A crisis drill allows ample time for leaders to pause and discuss decisions they must make during a real crisis. This helps them avoid decision paralysis during a crisis.
Your crisis communications drill should include at least two mock news conferences during the drill. Hire mock media and never use real media. Your facilitator must write a complicated, yet realistic scenario. It must include a likely crisis, plus all of the social media, employee and media buzz that would surround a real crisis. The facilitator should also hire a team of people to flood your phone lines with constant calls, replicating the calls you would receive from media, customers, and concerned citizens in a real crisis.
All of this takes time. None of it is easy or fast. But, it is much easier to prepare on a clear sunny day than to struggle and fail on your darkest day. Your reputation and revenues depend upon it.
About the author: Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) has helped leaders and organizations on 5 continents write their crisis communications plans, using his one-of-a-kind writing retreat that completes one years worth of work in 2 days. He is regarded as an expert in media training and crisis communications plans and is the author of Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter. Contact him at www.braudcommunications.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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A bad media interview caused by insufficient media training is creating a crisis communication problem on social media. Experts will weigh in on this, but I don’t think any one expert has the answer as to the best way to handle this.
As I write this, nearly 500 people have clicked “Like” on this particular Facebook post while more than 700 comments are posted. The vast majority of these comments are negative.
I have several crisis communication questions for you:
1) Do you think the founder, Chip Wilson, has made the situation better or worse by attempting to apologize on Facebook for comments he made on television?
2) Do you think the situation is getting better or worse on the Facebook brand page as the company’s public relations and social media teams try to engage in a conversation with those who post comments?
Without providing an answer to those questions, here is something to consider — Each time the public relations and social media team replies to a comment on the Facebook post, it moves the discussion higher in the news feed of the page followers, increasing the odds that someone new will jump into the conversation.
Was this a big mistake to take this discussion to Facebook?
Could this apology have found a better home in the company’s newsroom?
Was the apology itself poorly worded, leading to more negative comments?
Was the apology made only to employees and not to customers?
If the apology was to employees only, should it not have been posted where only employees would see it?
Could all of this crisis on the back end been eliminated by doing things differently on the front end?
As a father, I’ll tell you that my wife and I had a couple of basic rules when we were raising our two daughters. One rule was that you never have to fix the big things if you fix the little things. In this case, the lesson for all PR people, CEOs, and executive spokespeople, is to understand that the apology would never have been needed if the CEO had not said a foolish ad lib in the interview. The foolishness would have been eliminated if executive media training had been done prior to the original interview.
I’m amazed on a daily basis at how under valued media training is among executives and public relations teams.
In every media training class that I teach, I challenge the CEO or spokesperson with this question, “If you could attach a dollar to every word that you say, would you make money or lose money?”
Of the more than 700 comments on the Lululemon Athletica Facebook page about this issue, many clearly say they will no longer buy the company’s product. Need I say more to prove my point? I think not.
In every crisis you should consider my “Crisis Rule of Thirds,” which states that one-third of the people love your company/brand, one-third will hate your company/brand, and the third in the middle will swing like a pendulum, based on what is popular at the moment.
In a social media crisis, in a world that is already filled with negative comments, I think many companies will lose the battle, lose the war, lose customers, and lose money.
Consider this: Delete the video, delete the Facebook post, and stop talking about it.
What do you think?
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Experts in crisis communication know social media in corporate communications is highly likely to lead to a crisis. I would say more brands are likely to be harmed than helped by a social media brand page.
Home Depot leaders acted swiftly to fire an outside agency and an employee who posted a picture on Twitter that depicted two black drummers and a third drummer with a monkey mask, with the tweet, “Which drummer is not like the others?”
Good job Home Depot for acting swiftly. Good job Home Depot for terminating the agency and personnel who clearly don’t understand the need to think before Tweeting.
Immediately there were cries of racism. The drummers were beating on Home Depot plastic buckets and sitting in front of a promotional banner for Home Depot’s sponsorship of College Game Day.
To their credit, Home Depot used the same offending brand Twitter page to post an apology that said, “We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. Deeply sorry. We terminated agency and individual who posted it.”
I love that in a world where lawyers don’t let public relations employees say “sorry,” that Home Depot uses the word “sorry.” I love that they use the word “stupid.” The tweet apology is well written and conveys the anger the company feels toward the offending agency and employee.
Home Depot uses a Facebook and YouTube brand page, but nothing is posted there relating to the Tweet. The Home Depot home page and Media Center also have no news releases or apologies.
From a crisis communication perspective, in this case I think I agree with the Home Depot public relations and crisis communication strategy to confine the crisis to only the offending branch of social media and not bring it over to Facebook or YouTube. However, now that the story is making headlines in newspapers and morning television, I think an apology in the corporate Media Center newsroom on their primary website would be in order. In fact, I would have put up a news release apology in the corporate site newsroom within minutes of issuing the apology tweet. By the way, in the crisis communication plan system that I suggest you have, such an apology would be pre-written and pre-approved on a clear sunny day… written months ago and waiting in the addendum of your crisis communication plan.
In a crisis, it is important to tell the story from your perspective and to own the search engine optimization (SEO) for your brand and your story. Posting in your corporate newsroom helps with this. Failure to do so sends anyone searching for information to other pontifications, reports and blogs… like this one.
What should you do in your brand?
1) Review your social media policy and make it tough. The social media policies that we write at Braud Communications on behalf of our clients are brutally tough.
2) Terminate those who post recklessly.
3) Pre-determine whether a social media crisis requires response on all social media channels or only the offending channel.
4) Pre-determine if your home page newsroom will be used for an apology. I think it should be used.
5) Consider establishing a rule that two to three internal eyes need to review every social media post before anyone hits send. Make sure those 2 to 3 people represent the cultural and age diversity of your audience. In the case of Home Depot, it was clear that the age or cultural background of the person who posted this tweet was such that it likely never crossed their mind that this tweet might be considered racist.
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