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Your October Assignment: The Truth About Vulnerability Assessments During COVID-19

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Sexiest, teasing headline you’ve ever read, huh? Makes you want to put on your old t-shirt that says, “Only Real Men & Women Do Regular Vulnerability Assessments.”

Joking aside, you need to get on this. Here is the how and why…

We’re 8-9 months into a crisis that should have ended somewhere in the 90 to 120 day range.

Early on, it was your only crisis to manage and for which you had to communicate. I’m proud of you. After the first surge of communications, many organizations fell into COVID fatigue. That was followed by COVID limbo.

But now COVID-19 is part of a compound crisis and it is your responsibility to assess the threats and vulnerabilities that your organization could face next.

Here’s What’s Changed

Generally in the world of public relations and crisis communications, an expert would say the first and the best thing you should do as part of the crisis communication process is to assess every vulnerability that could affect the revenue, reputation, and brand of your organization.

Your initial Vulnerability Assessment is Step 1, and it becomes your roadmap for your next four steps, which include:

  • Step 2: Writing your crisis communications plan
  • Step 3: Writing a library of pre-written statements for your employees, media, customers, community, and other stakeholders.
  • Step 4: Media training your spokespeople (including virtual training)
  • Step 5: Crisis communications drills (including virtual drills)

Traditionally you would do an initial Vulnerability Assessment, followed by quarterly meetings with managers to identify and prepare for new or emerging vulnerabilities. For example, COVID-19 was not really on anyone’s Vulnerability Assessment one year ago. Nine months ago at your quarterly meeting, COVID-19 and all of the issues around it should have been added to your list.

Once on the list, you would update your crisis communications plan if necessary, adding pre-written news releases for COVID-19 protocol, response, outbreaks, and potential fatalities.

More is Better

We’re now recommending to our clients that the frequency should be increased from quarterly to monthly, because most organizations are facing compound crises, such as COVID + hurricane, COVID + wildfires, COVID + you name it.

Would you like some additional resources?

  1. Watch today’s video. It has a clip from a crisis communications Master Class I recently taught for SituationHub.com
  2. Watch the entire Master Class
  3. Watch our 5-part video series on the five steps to effective crisis communications.
  4. Get help with your Vulnerability Assessment by scheduling a free, confidential phone call with us.

COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. Please prepare for what comes next. Please step up the frequency of your Vulnerability Assessments.

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

Do Mass Shootings Inspire Better Crisis Communications Plans? Five Steps You Can and Should Take Today

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Amid three mass shootings in two weeks, it was surprising to get a call from the public information officer (PIO) of a city, asking what it would cost them to implement my crisis communications plan system for their town.

“We have lots of festivals and I think we are vulnerable to a mass shooting like they had at the Garlic Festival in California,” she said. In that shooting, four people died, including the gunman, and 13 others were injured.

Why is it surprising that a city wants a crisis communications plan? The reality is, every community and business should have a crisis communications plan with pre-written news releases for mass shootings and workplace shootings. But history tells us that a crisis seldom generates a discussion along the lines of, “What would we do if that happened here?” as it relates to communications and specifically crisis communications.

Hats off to this PIO for wanting to open a discussion with her city leaders. She admits that she’s been rebuffed before when she has tried to generate interest for having a robust crisis communications plan. The city’s elected officials seem to think it is a waste of time and money. They expect the PIO can just magically respond.

This flawed thinking is common among elected officials and corporate leaders. Many are in denial or ignorant about how fast news travels on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels. This is due in part to the fact that many of these decision makers don’t like or use social media, so they know of it… but they don’t understand the nuance of how fast bad news travels.

Time was when each shooting used to generate an article from me, urging people to evaluate how each school, community or business responded. We would examine whether news conferences were done correctly, whether the first news release was issued in less than one hour, and we would examine how media filled the void of news with mindless speculation. Those articles usually led to rebuffs alleging that it was “too soon to talk about it” or that it was “too opportunistic to talk about it.”

Experts in crisis communications would advise you that each crisis, whether it is a mass shooting, workplace violence, natural disaster, or sexual misconduct allegation, creates an opportunity to have a conversation and ask, “What would we do?” and “Are we prepared for something like this?”

If you want to be the crisis expert in your school, community, or company, here are 5 Steps that you can take immediately:

1) Conduct a Vulnerability Assessment to determine all of the potential crises that could befall your community or your company. This becomes your road map for your crisis communications plan and the number of pre-written statements you will want to have in your crisis communications plan.

2) Write a Crisis Communications Plan that precisely guides the organization through the process of gathering information quickly, confirming that information with leaders, then quickly issuing a series of statements to the public, the media, employees, and other key stakeholders.

3) Write a Library of Pre-written Statements that can be edited and customized quickly for distribution. That same statement should go to all employees, the public, to your website, and to your social media channels.

4) Conduct Media Training for all potential spokespeople and teach them how to conduct a news conference using the pre-written statements. The statements must be written for the spoken word and they must proactively answer every question that reporters will ask in a news conference. Never send a spokesperson out to ad-lib a news conference. It gets ugly fast.

5) Once you have completed the above four tasks, conduct a Crisis Communications Drill so that you can test your plan, your pre-written statements, and your spokespeople. Pepper your drill with misdirection, mock social media posts, and add at least two mock news conferences to your drill.

Be bold. Start a conversation that others may not be willing to have.

Be bold. Take action.

If you’d like to dig deeper into these five steps, request your free access to the 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Use this link to register.

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

Crisis Communications Planning: Q4 Use It or Lose It

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

If you operate on a fiscal budget calendar, May can be a great time for your crisis communications planning. Read more

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

A public relations professional reached out to me to acquire a license to my Crisis Communications Plan. The company was all set to make the purchase to use my plan. Then the CEO asked, “Why do we need a crisis communications plan? Can’t we just figure this out on the day that something happens?”

The PR team asked me, “How do we make a strong case for crisis planning with our boss?” I created an entire web page to help them make the case. It may help you.

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss?

1) Identify the industry you are in.

2) Identify something in that industry that has policies and standard operating procedures that are written and designed to be followed.

Make your case that just as other teams have written, standard operating procedures that need to be followed, so too must the public relations and communications team have a written set of standard operating procedures.

For example, in a chemical plant, if a specific chemical is released there are written policies and procedures that the Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) teams in the field and in the control room follow in order to stop the leak and recover from the situation.

Just as those teams have a policy and procedure, so should the communications team.

3) Another way to make a strong case for crisis planning with your boss is to conduct a Vulnerability Assessment. You can learn more about this in my free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, by registering here.

A Vulnerability Assessment is the first of 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Spend time with your boss and the executive leadership team listing all of the things that could go wrong in your business that would require communications with employees, the media, customers, and stakeholders.

If you define a crisis as any event that can damage your reputation and revenue, your Vulnerability Assessment should list all of those things.

Next, pick any one of those things and put a price tag on the amount of revenue a company might lose if that event happened. Take that single dollar amount, and budget it toward a Crisis Communications Plan and the entire 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

In other words, taking the steps to prepare on a clear sunny day for the crisis that might befall you on your darkest day should more than pay for itself.

One final note: Your boss might simply say, “Why don’t you do this? Why do we need to hire someone else? That’s what we pay you for.”

Your answer should begin with an outline of how much time it takes to write a crisis communications plan and a library of pre-written news releases. The plan that I license to clients along with more than 100 news pre-written news releases took me 4,000 hours to perfect. To break that down in a 40-hour work week, it would take you 100 weeks – two years of work – to do it on your own.

So the response to your boss should be, “Sure, we can do that. Would you like me to put everything else on hold for two years to complete this, would you like me to hire a new employee for two years to do this, or would you like me to call Gerard Braud and we can have this done in two days?” (Shameless plug)

How to Make a Strong Case for Crisis Planning to Your Boss? Look at the dollars and cents in order to make sense.

 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

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Crisis Communications: Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In the world of crisis communications, May should be a pivotal time for crisis communications plans, spokesperson media training, crisis drills, and vulnerability assessments.

Why?

The phrase “Mayday, Mayday” is the international distress call.

Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923. Reportedly, it was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer in London. The phrase was selected in part because it sounded like the French word “m’aider,” which means “help me.”

May isn’t an official time for crisis communications planning and preparations, but we can start. Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

Need help?

There are five steps to effective crisis communications. In January I issued a dare to all of my followers to spread those five steps out over the year. (If you want a deeper dive on the five steps, sign up for my free five part video series on The Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.)

The 5 Steps To Effective Crisis Communications Include:

  1. Conducting an initial Vulnerability Assessment
  2. Writing your Crisis Communications Plan
  3. Writing a library of pre-written news releases
  4. Conducting annual media training for your spokespeople
  5. Conducting an annual crisis communications drill

Many people have taken the challenge and moved forward. I’m thrilled at the response.

Not surprisingly, many have done nothing. As predicted when I issued the challenge in January, many people get trapped in a winter funk and delay decisions and actions until spring.

Spring has sprung. Get to work if you haven’t done so yet. But, pretty soon, people will disappear for summer vacation and projects, training, and decisions will get once again get delayed.

Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!

No one can rescue you if you keep waiting for the most perfect time to take the first step or the next step in your crisis communications planning. Just as a disaster or crisis doesn’t wait for the most perfect time, neither should you wait for the most perfect time.

Be a leader and lead. If you are a good leader, others will want to follow. Pick a step; pick a date; invite people to participate.

If you feel the need to shout “Mayday! Mayday! Help Me! Help Me!” do it. I’m standing by to answer your distress 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

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

Crisis Communications Plan for 2019: January Resources

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In the month of January, we have reviewed a ton of crisis communications tips, public relations strategies, and we outlined effective crisis communication planning. Whether you enjoy a good read of an article, or you prefer to watch an informative video, these resources are readily available to you.

Even though we covered so much material, from 5 Steps to Crisis Communications in 4 Quarters, to the case studies on current crises involving the Covington Catholic Highschool Students, the topics all boil down to one point. You can plan for effective crisis communications year round. You can learn, not just observe the mistakes of other companies and organizations. You can knock items off your to-do list each quarter, and I am here to be your accountability buddy whenever you need me or have a question.

Feel free to review this month’s resources, share them, re-tweet them, show them to your colleagues who won’t put anything on the books. But if you want to get right on track for the year, use this link to get access to a free 5-part video series that explores best practices in crisis communication.

January Resources:

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

2019 Crisis Communications Planning Based on 2018 Trends

Crisis Communications Planning: Fill Your 2019 Calendar Now

2019 January Forgiveness for Your Crisis Communications Planning

Case Studies:

Bird Box Challenge + 2019 Crisis Communications Plan Challenge

Covington, KY Student vs. Native American Drummer Crisis Case Study

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

Crisis Communications Planning: Fill Your 2019 Calendar Now

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

We’ve been trying to help you prepare for 2019 using the 5-Steps to Effective Crisis Communications strategy, offered in my free 5-Part video series.

But critical to your crisis communications plan, planning, and process, is to get the steps booked on your calendar now. You also have to reach out to colleagues who need to be part of the process to lock in dates on their calendar.

Why?

Too many people start and stop throughout the year in ways that impede productivity. Many people do nothing in January and February because it is so cold. Everyone seems ready to work when spring arrives in March, April, and May. Summer brings everything to a grinding halt as people go on vacation. September is spent trying to get everyone working again. October might be productive. November and December are consumed by holidays.

Stop it. Break the cycle. Schedule events in every quarter of the year.

Send out calendar invitations now so that you can productively work on your 5-Steps to Effective Crisis Communications throughout the entire year by planning.

Send out calendar invitations. Locking in dates.

Don’t let your year get ruined by other people’s calendars.

If you’d like me to be your crisis communications accountability buddy, take advantage of the free phone call offer when you take the 5-Steps to Effective Crisis Communications Challenge.

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

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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.

Crisis Communications Best Practices: 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communication

By Gerard Braud Fail to plan Crisis Expert Gerard Braud Blog

Many crisis communication experts have one goal – they want YOU to have a crisis so that you call THEM to repair your reputation so that THEY make a lot of money.

That is such Bull$&*t.

But then again, that’s why I am a maverick and a contrarian when it comes to crisis communications. That’s also why I’m giving you The 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

With that said, let me DARE YOU. I dare you, within the next week… or even within the next 30 days, to take one step to examine your crisis communications strategy.

To get you started, I’m giving you a 5-part video series on The 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. In it, you will learn actionable best practices in crisis communications.

Want to know what the catch is?

1) I want YOU to NOT have a crisis.

2) I want YOU to have the best crisis communication plan possible, so that you can recognize a potential crisis early, and either eliminate the crisis or prepare to respond to the crisis.

3) I want YOU to have your own toolkit that allows you to communicate quickly, so that you control the narrative, rather than having the narrative defined by rumors on social media.

Each video is only eight to ten minutes long, so you can quickly steal time each day to watch them five days in a row. I dare you to commit to watch all five. That means you will get 50 to 60 minutes of the content I share when I’m delivering keynote presentations to various associations around the world.

And the choice is yours – after each lesson you can ask me questions or you can watch all five and then schedule a call to ask questions.

And the choice is yours – you can take all five steps or you can take my dare to do just one.

And the choice is yours – you can be a do-it-yourselfer DIY style and use my lessons as your outline for success, or you can ask me about some of my turnkey options that will have you up and running in one to two days.

The choice is yours. I dare you to get started.