Archive | February, 2009

Vulnerability Assessments & Crisis Comm

18 Feb

It has been awhile since I’ve left a seminar (webinar, teleseminar, in-person, etc.) feeling, ‘Wow, I’m walking away with some new nuggets of insight I can put in place to help me up my game – and impact my clients in a positive way.’ Believe me – I’m definitely not saying I’m a know-it-all 😉 but rather, a lot of presenters seem to be rehashing the same subjects right now – ‘what is social media’, ‘how to pitch journalists and/or bloggers’, and ‘how to build your brand online’.  All good topics – when you hear them once or even twice!

So kudos to Gerard Braud for a great teleseminar on ‘Writing Your Crisis Comm Plan for the New Social Media Reality‘ and bringing to bear new ways of tackling an age-old bastion of public relations – the Crisis Communication Plan. If you are a comm pro – I’m sure you’ve developed your share of Crisis plans – good, bad and in-between.

1827262_270x359But like the world of communication is constantly evolving – so should our strategies for addressing and dealing with crisis in the 24-hour news cycle when anyone with a phone and thumbs can spread a crisis within seconds (and 140 characters or less). As Gerard notes, technology is significantly leapfrogging every 18 months – that means our plans to communicate utilizing the latest technology need to change in kind. Rewrite those plans annually!

A few of the key points Gerard presented that really hit home for me:

  • Develop a vulnerability assessment for your organization. Where are all the areas where you are vulnerable and could experience crisis? Investment, product liability, guest safety, natural disasters, management indescretions, etc. Imagine what could go wrong, plan for the worst. And don’t just query the C-Level about what could go wrong, ask employees in all strata of your organization. The mail room will have a whole different set of insights than your marketing team and leadership team.
  • Think about this – the world knows more about what is going on during your crisis than you know. Sad, but often true. And that goes for core media as well! Organizations must build a crisis plan that can survive the pace of social media. Figure out…
    •    How do we make it fast? Unfortunately, leadership can often sabotage efforts to disseminate information by taking too much time to craft and refine and approve. Before the crisis occurs – determine early who is on your Crisis Communications Team and minimize the layers of approval and voices that will speak in a crisis. Steamline the process.
    •    What can we write ahead of time? Talking about templates, who would have thought? But there are some basic structures you can put in place to frame out your initial critical statements for the vulnerabilities identified above.
    •    How can we post it to the web quickly? Can you build dark pages that your web team can turn on quickly to push out critical information
    •    How can we get it out faster than (or as fast as) other voices on the social web? How are you monitoring for your brand/organization’s share of voice online? Find the conversations and when you have your information available, link back to it.
  • Keep in mind the Crisis Behavior Paradigm
    •    Communicate quickly
    •    Provide honest information
    •    Make sure your information passes the vote of confidence. When your audience reads it – do they believe you are telling the truth and that you have your act together?
    •    Control the flow of accurate information
    •   Spread truth faster than lies and rumors
  • A Crisis Communications Plan should not tell you HOW things should be done, but it should tell you WHAT to do. Seems basic, but it is an important distinction. Emphasis on the ‘do this now in this way’ step-by-step instructions and lose the lengthy policy discussions.

If you fail to quickly get information out to your audiences, your audiences will get the information from someone else. It’s as simple as that. How are you going to make sure you are heard – when the crisis din goes nuclear?

Thanks again to Gerard Braud for a fabulous seminar (you can reach out to Gerard at and to Jeanette Duwe for partnering with us to sign up for it!

– Jess

(BTW – hearing the above picture from a ferry passenger’s camera phone of the USAirways Hudson crash  may be considered for the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism. Seriously? Would love to hear what local photojournalists think of that!)

Make the Jump…Silver Platters, Stupidity, Saving the Newspaper

9 Feb

It has been a whirlwind week of stashing great links and sites into my page (if you want to follow me on FriendFeed here I am!) Playing catchup now on some links that I would love to share…

It’s NOT About Relationships (well, not only!)
Have to admit I have been one to preach, “It’s all about the relationships!” But David Mullen’s post “Five Tips for Media Relations Success” hit it on the head in remarking that it is not only about relationships. Even more key than those personal relationships is “… going beyond developing a great story angle to pull together everything a reporter would need to tell the story.” i.e Serving it Up on the Silver Platter. Take the jump to check out the full five.

Media On Twitter
Every Make the Jump has to include something about Twitter, right? 😉 Well here is the latest from the PR mind of Sarah Evans, a robust wiki of global media on Twitter. ‘Journalists, Bloggers & Media Outlets on Twitter’ Use the power wisely oh those with the urge to TwitPitch quickly!

Really? You were that Stupid?
That, and a few other choice words, is what I would like to say to Michael Phelps so-called advisors for their actions handling Phelps-Bong-Gate. Not only for the harm they did to Phelp’s reputation, but their sad representation of our industry. John Feinstein’s Washington Post column ‘Phelps Made a Mistake, But His Handlers Made it Worse’ brought to light some disturbing actions by Phelps’ PR team. Bribery, coverup… pretty much everything you shouldn’t do when handling a crisis communicaiton situation for a client.

Saving the Newspaper
In light of the response I saw to my recent post on the Statesman’s recent full-page ad, I thought this article in TIME magazine would be of interest to many of you. ‘How to Save Your Newspaper’ “During the past few months, the crisis in journalism has reached meltdown proportions. It is now possible to contemplate a time when some major cities will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network-news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters.”

Walter Issacson floats the idea of returning to paying for content, with a new twist of implementing micropayment systems ala iTunes, SpareChange, TwitPay and E-ZPass. “I say this, too, because I love journalism. I think it is valuable and should be valued by its consumers. Charging for content forces discipline on journalists: they must produce things that people actually value. I suspect we will find that this necessity is actually liberating. The need to be valued by readers — serving them first and foremost rather than relying solely on advertising revenue — will allow the media once again to set their compass true to what journalism should always be about.”

And lastly, on the same theme, a creative entry from Gary Goldhammer from Edelman Digital on ‘The Last Newspaper’ “Stories are personal and transformational. Stories have definition and character. Stories are history personified. But content is cold, distant. Content is a commodity – a finite consumable of fleeting value. Content is artificial intelligence. When storytelling is reduced to content, ideas die.”

Some divergent thoughts to start off your week…. may it be a great one with inspired conversation and new ideas!

– Jess