Leadership Crisis Communications – Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010

This is our 5th and final day of looking back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem ourselves for 2010.

Today we’ll look at what leaders don’t know.

In 2009 I launched a new keynote called, Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan. It has placed me on the stage in front of a growing list of associations and audiences of CEOs, VPs and managers.

And as much as I bashed Social Media yesterday for being a shiny new object, the fact is, that shiny new object can have serious negative consequences for a company, especially when things go wrong.

It always disturbs me during my keynote, as I enter a dialogue with the leaders, to learn exactly what they know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t know they don’t know.

During a crisis I live by a cardinal rule to communicate quickly with the media, your employees and other key stakeholders. My goal is to make sure a company issues a public statement within the first hour that a crisis has gone public.

Leaders, meanwhile, often fall into decision paralysis. As a result, they make no decision because they fear they will make the wrong decision. They wait to have all the facts before they say anything at all.

The biggest thing leaders don’t know, going into 2010, is how fast the world of Social Media moves. Leaders are oblivious to the fact that while they are in their crisis command center, deciding if they should issue a statement, their employees, customers and the public are posting comments, pictures and videos to the web at lightening fast speed.

During my keynote, I ask the leaders how many of them have used the most popular forms of social media.

• When asked how many use LinkedIn.com, 10% – 20% usually say yes.

• When asked how many use FaceBook.com, fewer than 10% say yes.

• When asked how many have watched a video on YouTube.com, 25% usually say yes.

• When asked how many have ever posted a video to YouTube.com, the response drops to fewer than 2%.

• When asked how many use Twitter.com, the response is usually 0-1%.

This should be especially disturbing because 2009 was the year that a fully loaded passenger plane landed in the Hudson River in the middle of the world’s biggest media capitol, yet the first official news photo came from a citizen on a ferry boat with an i-Phone and TwitPics.

So is your leadership team fully educated or clueless? Is one of your 2009 sins a failure to educate your leaders about the negative impact of Social Media? If so, I’ll help you as best as I can in 2010 to find redemption. I can offer you several free articles for your company or association publications. Articles are a great way to reach leaders. My keynote is available for corporate and association meetings if you’d like me to do the dirty work for you. And you are welcome to join me Monday, January 19th for my teleseminar on Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan. Which ever of these might benefit you, look for my contact information in the e-mail for today’s BraudCast. I’m in the office waiting for your call. (Here is my contact link as well.)

The main thing is to find channels in 2010 to education your leaders, because When “It” Hits the Fan and things get ugly because of their failings, lack of knowledge and miscalculations, they may ultimately place the blame on you.

To listen to this program as an audio BraudCast use this link

I get asked about using Social Media a lot as a crisis communications tool, so on January 19th at 11 a.m. CST, I’ll host a special telemseminar called, Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan. If this is a topic that impacts your and your team, I invite you to sign up. We’ll look at examples of when Social Media has worked well and when it has been a huge failure.

Tweet Heard ‘Round the World – Social Media & Crisis Communications

January 15, 2009 generated the Tweet Heard ‘Round the World, as a TwitPic became the first official news coverage of an airplane landing in the Hudson River.

We’ll discuss this game changer and the changing face of crisis communications in a special teleseminar called, “Social Media When It Hits the Fan.”

Please register now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

11 a.m. CST

Registration $99

($79 for BraudCast subscribers with discount code)

(FREE to Braud Crisis Communications Plan users with discount code)

Warning: I’m very harsh on how Social Media is used as an outgoing communications tool. I’ll also dig deep into what your leaders don’t understand about Social Media’s negative impact in a crisis.

Who should attend: Public Relations & Communications Teams, Risk Managers, Emergency Operations Teams, Human Resource Teams, Security Teams

Suggestion: Listen as a team, then schedule a one hour meeting of your teams to discuss what you heard and how it will change your internal and external procedures.

Social Media Crisis Communications – Sins of 2009

Today we’re going to look at one of the biggest sins of 2009… shiny new objects syndrome.

When I look back at 2009, I’ll remember it as the year that people became obsessed with Twitter and Facebook. Seems everywhere I turned, people were clamoring over these shinny new objects… like aborigines who have seen themselves in a mirror for the first time.

The obsession with these tools is perplexing for me, because I know some people truly enjoy them… while others have jumped on the bandwagon because they fear being left behind. It’s a classic version of trying to keep up with the Jones.

The sad reality, is that while many people were chasing after the shinny new objects, they took their eye off the ball; they lost track of priorities, especially in the field of communications.

All communications is about what you want the other person to know and how you want them to respond to that communications. There are many tools that can help you achieve this goal, but too many people in communications have tried to force fit Social Media not only into their tool kit, but to make it paramount as a communications tools.

I think that is a bad idea. Social media reflects a huge generational gap between those under 30 who use it often and those older than 30 who have never used or seen a social media site.

While they tools have their benefits for maintaining certain relationships, they are often a force fit in a corporate culture. Sure, frantic fans of a movie star may want to track their every move on Twitter, but do customers of a chemical company really need to follow your Tweets…and do you really think that I want to follow your Facebook fan page? Not likely.

The reality is, as a communications platform, Social Media sites are unreliable and vulnerable to hacking. There are still many other forms of communications in your tool chest that are more reliable and are better for reaching your loyal audience.

So if shiny new object syndrome was your sin in 2009, as we enter 2010, your redemption would be to make an effort to not get distracted by what is shinny and new, but to use it only when it is a good fit and the right fit…not a force fit.

I get asked about using Social Media a lot as a crisis communications tool, so on January 19th at 11 a.m. CST, I’ll host a special telemseminar called, Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan. If this is a topic that impacts your and your team, I invite you to sign up. We’ll look at examples of when Social Media has worked well and when it has been a huge failure.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the week with a look at what leaders don’t know and how it impacts your job.

And…

1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link

Crisis Communications Plans – Lost Opportunity in 2009

As we look back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem yourself in 2010, today’s lesson is about how to be opportunistic.

Opportunistic means you take advantage of a situation to get what you want. Maybe it is because I grew up in a large family and had to fight my 3 older brothers and a younger sister for everything I got, but being opportunistic has served me well in life.

Being opportunistic means that when you observe a situation, you use the power of persuasion, supported by a business case, to convince your boss to let you do what needs to be done, even if you’ve previously been told “no,” as we discussed yesterday.

You can apply this technique to many of your communications needs, but since I write crisis communications plans and teach media training, I’ll share with you a real life example of a HUGE opportunity that passed many people by in 2009.

Every year I get a wave of inquiries from people who want me to help them write their crisis communications plan, and most want a package, complete with a crisis communications drill and train their spokespeople. Many of the inquiries come this time of year because so many people these items on a list of goals and tasks to complete for the coming years. But many of those plans didn’t get written in 2009 because people were told “no, there’s no money in the budget.”

Then in April 2009, the Swine Flu epidemic began. This crisis presented a huge opportunity for you to go back to your boss, paint a grim picture, explain the potential negative impact the Swine Flu could have on your businesses, and get the funding you need.

Another way to be opportunistic is to get help from other departments. Pandemics are a huge concern for risk managers and human resource managers. In every risk management and human resources seminar, there are classes that focus on dealing with pandemics. This is a big issue for them. That means that if you are opportunistic, you can partner with those other managers to convince leadership that a crisis communications plan is an important element of risk management and employee communications.

Most of you who subscribe to the BraudCast are in internal communications, external communications, media relations, PR and marketing. And many folks in these fields are, by their very nature timid, and often take “no” as a final answer. I’d suggest that for 2010 you set as one of your goals to become opportunistic.

Look at it this way… In the case of the Swine Flu, workers would get sick, workers might die, productivity, production and sales could suffer… and you’d be called upon, likely at the last minute, to start crafting both a strategy and messages to deal with the impending crisis. That’s not really fair to you, is it? Especially if there is a solution, namely a pre-written crisis communications plan with pre-written templates. And if you already have a plan, you know it needs to update and tested. I have one client who is so opportunistic that I help him conduct 4 crisis communications drills every year.

So if you know in your heart that being prepared is the right thing to do professionally… then the answer is, being opportunistic is also the right thing to do professionally. If you achieve your goal and still do it legally and ethically, there is nothing wrong with being opportunistic.

Timing is critical when you are trying to be opportunistic. You have to be ready build a business case immediately after a crisis begins and present it to leadership while the crisis is still fresh in their minds. It doesn’t matter if the crisis is where you work or if it is a high profile crisis in the news. I can tell you from experience that each day that you get further from the crisis, the more likely leadership is to forget the trauma and devalue your proposal.

If your 2009 sin was a missed opportunity, your redemption in 2010 is setting a goal to be more opportunistic.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Shinny New Objects.

And…

1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link.

3) Sign up for the upcoming teleseminar “Social Media When It Hits the Fan.”