5-Day Crisis Communications Challenge Synopsis

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

In January 2019, you were issued a dare to participate in the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications Video Course. Some of you have taken the challenge and you’ve become expert communicators. Some of you kicked the can down the road. No worries can-kickers. You can become a crisis communications expert in the four remaining months of 2019.

Last week, we issued a 5-Day Crisis Communications Challenge. With only four months left in 2019, you are being challenged to focus on your crisis communications plan with crisis preparation, crisis practice, and ultimately, a focus on how you can be the expert who achieves crisis perfection. Just take one day, one step at a time, viewing these five brief videos and articles to help you get moving in the right direction.

On Monday, we discussed what a Vulnerability Assessment is, and why you need to start writing down every sort of situation that could become a crisis that would cause you to generate a possible crisis response for your organization.

Crisis Plans, Crisis Preparation, Crisis Practice & Crisis Perfections = Crisis Communications Expert

On Tuesday, we talked about how to begin managing your communications with a crisis communications plan, and the differences of those crisis plans that don’t work (think checklists), versus ones that really work.

How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan That Works?

On Wednesday, we discussed the importance of writing pre-written news releases and how to write the perfect news release to address every item listed on your Vulnerability Assessment.

How to Write News Releases for Your Crisis Communications Plan?

On Thursday, we discussed what happens when you do not send out a spokesperson to release a public statement within the first hour of a crisis, and media training tips for the spokesperson you select.

How to Media Train a Spokesperson for a Crisis?

Finally, on Friday we explained what a Crisis Communications Drill is and how to conduct a realistic, effective drill for your organization, in order to practice on a sunny day, what your organization might face on their darkest day.

How to Do a Crisis Simulation Exercise?

There they are. The steps you need to take to move in the RIGHT direction. The steps you need to be BOLD and start the conversation in your organization no one is willing to have. Watch the videos, share the videos, share the articles with your colleagues who could benefit from them.

Oh, and the dare to complete the 5-step video course still stands. I challenge you to take 10 minutes a day for five days to watch, learn, then implement the five steps. Register with this link.

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 Tips: How Long Should a Crisis Plan Be?

By Gerard Braud

This week we asked corporate communicators and public relations professionals, “How long should a crisis communication plan be?” They have weighed in with their best tips on our social media accounts.

Interestingly enough, not one contributor shared a certain number of pages that a crisis plan should be. Others emphasized that it doesn’t need to be “long,” but just long enough to cover the “who, what, where, when, and how?”  Some contributors explained that crisis plans need to cover all potential crises and present potential positive outcomes.

So, how long does a crisis communications plan need to be? I’m sharing your answers as well as my best advice in today’s video.

Please comment and join our weekly discussions by posting here on the blog, on social media or on today’s YouTube video. Next week I’m posting another question for you to answer. Don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly question on the BraudCast YouTube Channel to participate.

Click here to watch video & Subscribe to the BraudCast

This question is one of a series of discussion questions about media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices each week. 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.

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.

Hurricane Katrina Truth #3– Stop Repeating the Problems

Katrina BraudBy Gerard Braud

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, and coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, I’m reflecting on the old adage that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results.”

New Orleans can easily flood from another hurricane. I wrote about that in yesterday’s blog. Experts admit that the new fortified levee system is not high enough to keep tidal surge from topping the levees.

There are three areas where I see the potential for the insanity of prior sins and mistakes to be repeated.

1) The first sin is allowing people in low lying areas, in coastal regions, and in flood planes anywhere in America, to build a house on a foundation that is not elevated above recognized flood levels. Whether in New Orleans or a flood river plane in North Dakota, houses in flood zones should be built on stilts higher than predicted flood waters. Some home owners in New Orleans have started doing this. This is how traditional homes here were constructed here. Some homeowners, strapped for cash, have not raised their homes. It is time for building codes in all coastal towns south of I-10 and I-12 along to change. Many homes in Katrina had no wind damage, but were a complete loss because storm surge overpowered levees, flooding everything. In a nation where all flood insurance comes from the government, as do most of the emergency recovery funds, mitigating flooding with more grants to raise existing houses is a far better financial bet than paying out claims after the fact. Establishing better building codes for new construction in flood zones saves money in the long run for everyone.

2) The second is human denial among citizens and elected officials. Citizens first — A hurricane may kill you. If it doesn’t kill you, it can leave you without creature comforts like food, water and electricity for days, weeks, or months. Failing to heed an evacuation order leads to expensive and complicated rescues. I’ve been a storm chaser and journalist in many natural disasters in which people tell me they don’t plan to evacuate because they’ve stayed for other storms and survived. What I’ve learned covering these storms is that no two are alike. No two hurricanes come from exactly the same direction. No two hurricanes have exactly the same wind speeds. In Hurricane Katrina, for example, while the devastation and flooding was astounding, if the eye of the hurricane had passed only five to ten miles further to the West, the urban flooding up to rooftops would have been doubled. It is costly to evacuate, but it is far more costly for communities when residents fail to heed evacuation orders.


As for human denial among elected officials, then Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans is the poster child of human denial. Even when the head of the National Hurricane Center called to tell Nagin that a disaster was eminent, the mayor still waited too long to order evacuations. Evacuations that should have been called 48 hours before the storm were delayed until it was too late to logistically move people. While officials in other communities successfully followed plans and called for timely evacuations, one weak link was pivotal in causing tens of thousands to be trapped by flood waters and leading to hundreds of deaths, mostly by drowning. Those trapped in the flood then led to a massive human rescue effort that costs untold millions of dollars, when it reality there was time and there were resources sufficient enough to most of those people out of harm’s way.


3) The third sin falls in the area of communications. While many communities have emergency and disaster plans in place, they often fail to take the next step of having a crisis communications plan that effectively communicates urgency, peril, and evacuation options to constituents. Pre-written communications documents and properly trained spokespeople are the combination needed to motivate people to leave the their communities until it is safe to return. The proliferation of social media has created new ways to reach people and new ways to gather information about the unfolding crisis, but it also has created more opportunities for rumors and misinformation to spread.

Disasters create living classrooms in which people can learn what was done wrong and what was done right. The goal is to learn so the wrongs are never repeated and so that the rights are done perfectly.

To learn more, read previous posts about Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina Truth #1 – Silver Linings in Muddy Waters – Thank You

Hurricane Katrina Truth #2 – New Orleans Will Flood Again – Find Out Why & How to Stop It


Tutorial #20 “Crap is King” How to Report on the Not-So-Serious, but Fascinating Topics with Your Smartphone

Tutorial #20 By Gerard Braud

Although this series teaches public information officers (PIOs), emergency managers, and corporate spokespeople to upload videos to the web as an effective crisis communications strategy, it’s also important to note that “crap is king.”   In this tutorial, I encourage you to report on not just the serious crisis stories, but report on fascinating side stories about your events as well. The media love a great side story and social media users are more likely to share the side story.

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

In his song Dirty Laundry, singer Don Henley says, “crap is king,” referring to the fact that television news often gives more attention to silly things, rather than the serious. Likewise, the audience also likes those silly things, like the water skiing squirrel story on the news. You may have seen that video clip in the movie Anchorman.

Watch today’s tutorial as it features an iReport I filed called Rare Frigate Birds Tropical Storm Lee.

During Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, I filed numerous serious reports, which each received several hundred views. But the side story about the Rare Frigate Birds received more than 99,000 views in about 12 hours. I find that amazing.

Often there are stories of human victories that are sweet and need to be told to the media and the media’s audience. Keep your eyes and ears open for these stories.

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 that outlines the program, Social Media iReports.pdf, so you can share it with your meeting planner or training manager.


ESPN – The Clock is Ticking #FireBrittMcHenry: It’s Not About Forgiveness, But About Character

britt mchenryBy Gerard Braud

The clock is ticking for ESPN. Will they put Britt McHenry back on the air after a 7-day suspension due to her viral video rant?

In many crisis situations, an expert might counsel both the offender and her employee on ways to 1) say I’m sorry and 2) to make amends. In many crisis situations the public is willing to 1) forgive and 2) give a person a second chance.

This crisis is different. This is a crisis of character that speaks to the core of who 1) Britt McHenry is and 2) the character of the ESPN sports network and its executive staff.

Character is doing the right thing, regardless of whether anyone sees you; regardless of whether you are in public or private.

The interesting twist to the Britt McHenry saga can be found by reading the comments section on any website that has run a story about her rant. The overwhelming consensus is that this could never be a one-time situation. The consensus is that the words McHenry used shows she has an ego and superiority complex that is difficult for most humans to fathom.

britt mchenry2In case you don’t remember the words she said to the clerk at the towing company that towed her car include:

“I’m in the news sweetheart and I will fu*&ing sue this place.”

“That’s why I have a degree and you don’t.”

“With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that.”

“Do you feel good about your job? So I could be a college drop out and do the same thing.”

“Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me huh?”

“Oh, like yours cause they look so stunning. Cause I’m on television and you’re in a fu*King trailer honey. Lose some weight baby girl.”

There is room the collective hearts of viewers to forgive someone who has committed a wrong. But forgiveness does not have to go hand in hand with employing someone with such a flawed character, especially when there are many other people with more talent and a nicer personality who can do the job the McHenry was blessed to have.

ESPN – Your character is on the line as much as McHenry’s character is on the line.

ESPN – I hope you set an example for your viewers and your employees by not keeping McHenry on the air or on your payroll.

To keep her on the air sends a message that, “This was a close call and I’ll have to be careful not to get caught again.” To terminate her sends a message that it is time for her to reflect on who she is and whether she can truly change her ways.





When “It” Hits the Fan: A Crisis Communication Lesson on Speediness


By Gerard Braud

It’s an honor to be invited to deliver the morning keynote presentation today to the SynGas 2015 Conference in Tulsa. You can view today’s handout here.

The crisis communications lessons being discussed on stage serve as a reminder to everyone in the C-Suite, in emergency response, and in public relations, that news travels fast. The faster the news travels, the faster a corporation must respond. Smart phone technology and social media are changing the rules for both corporations and the media.

A good case study is last week’s natural gas explosion and fire in Fresno, California. Crews digging with a backhoe struck a natural gas line owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

YouTube was filled with videos shot on smart phones as motorists passed the scene.

youtube 2 fresno

Twitter also lit up, as eyewitnesses shared their videos. Take a look at these screen grabs taken from Twitter user @shroom0021. Notice how many media outlets are asking to use the video he posted on Twitter.




These are just some of many Twitter posts the media have found. I did not find a single example of video used on television news that was captured by an official news photographer. It may have happened, but every one that I saw used on television was from an eyewitness and not an official media source, nor from an official corporate source. This is critical for leaders to understand.

These days, information about any news event is captured on video and shared in moments, hastening the need for official information. The First Critical Statement document that I mentioned in the keynote presentation is available for download. (To get a free download use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.)

PG&E posted a news release to their official website and then shared it via a link on their Facebook page. I’m unable to tell from the web news release exactly how long it took for the company to get their official release out to the world. My goal is for a company to always post their initial release within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. It doesn’t have to include every detail, only the facts known at that time. A second news release can be posted as soon as more details are known.



In the news release initially posted by the utility company, PG&E points out that the incident was not their fault, but the fault of contract work crews digging in the area. They also emphasized in their message the need for all contractors to dial 811 before digging and noted that the contractor had not called 811 before digging.

My suggestion to all companies is to have a library of pre-written news releases written and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’ve not found any companion videos or images shot by PG&E employees, but posting your own official photos and videos is always a good idea. Ultimately, you want to control the flow of accurate information in as many ways as you can.

Ultimately, someone is going to tell your story. It can be people like @shroomy0021 or it can be your official version of the story. Ultimately the media will use someone’s version of the facts as well as someone’s images and videos. It can either come from the “shroomys” of the world or it can be your official photos and videos.

The time to plan your crisis communications strategy should always be long before you need it. Take these five steps:

1) Hold a Vulnerability Assessment round table.

2) Write pre-written news releases for as many of your vulnerabilities as possible.

3) Write a crisis communications plan with very specific details and instructions for gathering details from the scene of your crisis. Then write details for specific ways you plan to share your news releases with your core audiences and most important stakeholders.

4) Conduct media training at least once a year with subject matter experts who could do media interviews during a crisis. As a supplement to an actual on-site training program you can visit this blog post for a FREE 29-day media training tutorial. You may also want to supplement that by reading my book, Don’t Talk to the Media Until…

5) Conduct at least one crisis communications drill each year to test the ability of your teams to work together during a crisis.

A good leader should never be in denial about the need to prepare for a crisis. The sign of a good leader is someone who does their duty and takes action on a clear sunny day so that all parties will be responsible when “it” hits the fan.







5 Crisis Communication Tips to Prevent Secret Service Style Delays

clancyBy Gerard Braud

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy said it took five days before he was informed that a car carrying two agents struck a security barrier outside the White House.

How long does it take in your company for you to find out about an event that could be a potential crisis that requires you to implement your crisis communications plan and begin communicating with the media, employees, customers and other stakeholders?

Most public relations people tell me it is a constant challenge for the home office, leadership, and PR staff to find out what is going on in the field. Often, you find out only because the rest of the world has already found out and the issue is getting negative attention on social media or with the mainstream media.

How do you change this? It begins with new policies and procedures, supported by employee training, as outlined in the five tips below.

The reality is that the average employee, supervisor or manager is mostly afraid that they will get in trouble if they report a problem, large or small.

But an unreported problem creates problems for those of you who are the company expert in public relations, crisis communications and media relations.

Ultimately, you need to know about events that could damage the company’s reputation and revenue.

What are your solutions?

Tip 1: Conduct training programs that inform employees about the need to protect the company’s reputation and revenue through good reporting. Many employees and leaders never really make the full connection to the bottom line. Help them.

Tip 2: Establish an easy way for employees to notify the home office of a potential problem.

Tip 3: Train employees to get in the habit of using that notification method.

Tip 4: Provide positive recognition for employees who use the reporting mechanism and appropriate repercussions for employees who fail to report an event that could damage either reputation or revenue.

Tip 5: Do your part to speed communications by spending time on a clear sunny day to write a library of pre-written, fill-in-the-blank news releases so that you are not responsible for delaying crisis communications.

Crisis communications is a team effort and the team needs to be built for speed, both in the field and in the public relations office. One way to address this is to use the current Secret Service headlines to open a discussion with your executive staff.

If you have a great system you’d like to share with your public relations colleagues, please send me your thoughts in a guest blog post. gerard (at)

If you would like to discuss best practices for a public relations and crisis communications team built for speed, feel free to call me at 985-624-9976.

Crisis Communication & Media Hide and Seek: The ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery Explosion

By Gerard Braud

Where is the ExxonMobil news release for the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery explosion? An explosion is a crisis, which requires expert crisis communications. The media would expect information on the corporate news release page. Media want it fast and easy to find.

But look what you find on the ExxonMobil news release page – A fluff release about a summer jobs program.

ExxonMobile-#1-No ReleaseReally ExxonMobil?

Oil may have come from the age of the dinosaurs, but public relations in 2015 shouldn’t be prehistoric in nature.

Is ExxonMobil playing hide and seek with their news release?

At the bottom of the ExxonMobil page I found three social media links. I clicked on Twitter and found a statement that I’ve written about before – the dreaded and preposterous, “Our top priority statement.” The Tweet says, “Our top priority is the safety of our employees, contractors and neighbors in Torrance.” Obviously it isn’t your top priority, otherwise you would not have had an explosion with four people sent to the hospital, right?


Come on PR people: Enough with the bad clichés that you can’t defend. My top priority is to get public relations people to stop saying, “Our top priority.”

The link on Twitter sends me to this news release page, which did not appear in my initial search. Note the time stamp on the hidden news release – 10 a.m. ET on February 19, 2015. Now note the first sentence of the news release – it indicates the explosion happened at 8:50 a.m. PST on February 18, 2015. If there is an earlier release, it is hidden from me.ExxonMobil-2-release

I have to question, why does it take nearly a day for a news release to be posted? This is absurd. This is 2015 and we live in the age of Twitter. No corporation should go more than one hour before a news release is posted. And don’t blame it on your lawyers or your executives. An expert public relations leader must learn to deal with lawyers and executives before a crisis so that your crisis communications can move with haste and professionalism. Your crisis communication plan should be filled with pre-written and pre-approved news releases. Geez!

Even on Twitter on the day of the explosion there is no ExxonMobil Twitter post related to the explosion, yet citizens are posting images and details about the crisis trending on #torranceexplosion.

Now let us examine the news release as ExxonMobil plays hide the facts and details. Compare the ExxonMobil release that mentions an “incident,” to the headlines on Google, which uses words such as “explosion” and a host of descriptors such as “rips though refinery,” “rocked by large explosion,” etc.




While ExxonMobil uses clichés such as “top priority” and “incident,” the NBC Los Angeles website describes, “Crushed cars, mangled metal, flames and a health warning.” Their lead says, “Hours after an explosion ripped through a Torrance refinery, residents for miles around continue to grapple with ash, a gas odor and concerns over poor air quality…”

Something tells me this was more than an “incident.”



In a crisis, it is important for official sources to provide official information. It is also important to control SEO. From a control perspective, the corporation should be controlling the flow of accurate information, rather than surrendering to the rumors and opinions for the public.

In the 2014 Fortune 500 list, ExxonMobil is listed as second. Some might wonder if their PR is second rate.

So what do you think about how ExxonMobil manages its crisis communications?

The Doctor of Crisis Communications

Crisis communications doctor gerard braudIf you were a smoker and your doctor told you to stop or you would die of cancer, would you stop?

If you had diabetes and your doctor told you to change your diet so you don’t die, would you change?

Amazingly, there are people every day who ignore the advice of an expert and do the wrong thing. Some are stubborn. Some are in denial. Some just magically hope the problem will go away.

I’m watching two crisis communications patients die right now. As their doctor of crisis communications I submitted to each a plan of action that they could have taken long ago, when the early warning signs of a crisis were on the horizon. Both are major smoldering crises on the brink of igniting.

Time was on the side of each patient 60 days ago when they first contacted me. Time is now their enemy because the flash point has arrived and the media are writing stories on each. No messaging has been written. No news releases created. No media training has been conducted.

A doctor can’t miraculously cure cancer in a patient that has refused to listen to expert medical advice. Likewise, we in public relations are called upon too often to make miracles happen. We can’t always do it.

I could try to save each of these patients, but I know the effect of the communications we would do so late would be about 1/6th as effective as what was originally suggested. I know that this marginal benefit would cost them much more than the original plan, with less than satisfactory results. I don’t know that I want my name associated with a marginal response that lacks planning and execution.

Persuading audiences, engaging employees and communicating to the media takes time. Strategies are best done on a clear sunny day. Media training and writing a crisis communications plan should have been done weeks ago.

In one case, an organization will face very expensive legal bills and payouts. Their reputation will be damaged. People will likely get fired.

In another case, lawsuits will likely be filed, the institutions reputation will be damaged, I predict their revenue will fall, and there will be an employee revolt. The best employees will quit and go to work for their competition. Many angry employees will remain on the job, polluting the human resources culture for a decade or more. In the process, customer service will suffer, leading to a greater loss in revenue. This institution may also get gobbled up by a competitor as the value of the company drops.

Why do people ask for advice and ignore it? Who knows? They just do.

By Gerard Braud

How Do I Get a Seat at the Table? Times of Crisis Management and Crisis Communications Present an Opportunity

Seat BraudPublic relations people constantly ask, “How do I get a seat at the table?” The short answer for now is to take advantage of the Ebola hysteria.

The seats are not handed out at the table. The seats are taken. During a time of crisis or potential crisis, leadership can be displayed by those who speak up about how to manage a crisis, how to make a crisis go away, and how to effectively do both through effective crisis communications.

We addressed this in the October 27, 2014 IABC webinar, “Is it too soon to talk about Ebola?” My advice is that each public relations professional needs to become a crisis communications expert. The Ebola crisis is a perfect time to gather executives and leaders together to discuss the many ways real or rumored Ebola contact could damage the reputation and revenue of the business that employees you.

Speaking to the IABC group, my advice was to focus on the negative ROI. In other words, focus on how much money could be lost, even if the public thinks Ebola has tainted your company. Often in crisis communications and crisis management, rumors and hysteria can do more damage than a real infection.

Additionally, my suggestion was that each organization should use this as a perfect time to update or write a crisis communications plan that can be used in the Ebola crisis, as well as any other crisis that might strike in the future. (contact me via my website to learn more)

If you are waiting for your invitation to take a seat at the table, it won’t come from your boss. However, there is a chance Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) just sent one to you via the web.