Breaking News: McNair School Shooting in DeKalb County, Georgia: Lessons in Crisis Communication

We interrupt this blog with Breaking News. A school shooting at McNair Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia is sadly duplicating the same crisis communication failures that we began to outline in this morning’s article and the serious written and awaiting posts in the coming days.

Our goal is not to belittle this school or the DeKalb County schools. Our goal is to have all schools and school districts wake up and adopt crisis communications plans and modern communications techniques. News about a school shooting must come from the school with great effort. Schools must not relegate information to the media, who will speculate about what they don’t know. Schools must not let social media go wild with panic and speculation.

Here is a breakdown of how information is and is not flowing about this shooting, just as it has in many other school shootings:

News helicopters hover with overhead images:
Chapper2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DeKalb County School website has NO information about the shooting. Within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis, the county should be posting truthful, honest information about this crisis.

DeKalbWebsite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyewitnesses post iPhone video.

Online news organizations repost the iPhone video.

McNairCh2iPhoneVideo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter information about the school comes from observers and the media.

McNairiPhoneCh2

 

 

 

 

McNairTwitter1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no Twitter updates from DeKalb County Schools. In fact, DeKalb hasn’t posted to their Twitter page since July 3. Today is August 20, 2013. Ideally, they should have a short Tweet with a link back to their official website.

DeKalbTwitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DeKalb Facebook page only gloats about happy news, ignoring this as a viable way to send timely and accurate information to the public. Ideally, they should have a short post with a link back to their official website.

DeKalbFaceBook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents are being interviewed by the media, expressing their fears and frustrations. Police are trying to manage frustrated parents at a time when school officials should be managing this task.

Parentsw:Cops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read these Tweets to hear the frustration of parents amid the lack of official information from school officials.

TweetParent1

 

 

 

 

TwitterParent2

 

 

 

 

So far… now in our third hour, we’ve seen no sign of a news conference from the DeKalb County School system. We do know the superintendent has spoken to parents at an area where children are being taken.

The bottom line is, it is time for educators and the education establishment to get educated about crisis communications. If you were being graded on this today, you would receive and F in communication, like so many other schools before you.

Crisis Communications for Schools Part 2: Defining a Crisis and a Crisis Plan

By Gerard Braud

For the purpose of our discussion in these articles, we will define a crisis this way:

StudentsGerardBraudA crisis is any incident that may seriously affect the safety, function, operation, reputation and/or revenue of any organization, public or private.

We will not debate or parse words as to whether what is called a crisis in this article might otherwise be called a situation, incident, event or any other synonym. Furthermore, we will divide our crises into two types: sudden crises and smoldering crises. A sudden crisis has a sudden flash point, such as a school shooting, tornado, fire, or explosion. A smoldering crisis might involve a labor dispute, issues of discrimination, and incidents of executive misbehavior such as embezzlement or sexual misconduct. In a smoldering crisis, details are known to internal decision makers, but not yet known to the public.

In our last article, we introduced you to the concept of the text messaging notification system and the crisis communications plan. While a text message notification system is intended for use in only a sudden crisis, the crisis communications plan can be used to communicate vital information for both a smoldering and a sudden crisis.

Confusion in “Crisis Plans” – Defining a Crisis Communications Plan

A great flaw in schools, in corporations, and in the world of emergency response is the generic use of the term “crisis plan” and crisis team. A crisis plan is not the same as a crisis communications plan. Each school and school system must operate with a collection of three unique plans that are executed by three unique teams, with each team being composed of individuals with specific skills and areas of expertise. Although the plans each serve a unique purpose, they are also designed to be executed in unison without any plan overriding or contradicting the directives of another.

The three types of plans needed are:

1) An Incident Command Plan, which is sometimes called the Emergency Response Plan, Coordinates police, fire and rescue. It is executed by the Incident Command Team.

2) A Risk Management Plan, which is sometimes called a Business Continuity Plan, ensures the components of the business operations are restored following a crisis, including identifying alternate facilities and supply chains. The Risk Management Plan is executed by the Risk Manager.

3) A Crisis Communications Plan, dictates prescribed measures for communicating accurate and timely information to key audiences, including parents, students, employees, the media and other stakeholders. It includes the components of public relations, media relations and stakeholder relations, and is executed by the Crisis Communications Team.

TulaneGerardBraudAll plans and all actions during a crisis should be managed by the Crisis Management Team.

Further confusion takes place in this area when the incident command plan makes reference to crisis communications. Usually this refers to details about radio systems and other technology used for interactive communications among emergency responders. This confusion must be avoided. We must emphasize that in this document, crisis communications is a function of public relations, media relations, employee relations, and social media management.

A sudden crisis, such as a school shooting or tornado would trigger all three plans. But a smoldering crisis such as an accusation of sexual harassment, would trigger the use of only the crisis communications plan, without causing a need to use the incident command plan or the risk management plan.

Your assignment for this article is to have a discussion with the leaders in your organization to identify the types of plans you have. If you think you have a crisis communications plan, I will be giving you come criteria in future articles by which you can determine if your plan is written properly.

You can also email a copy of your plan to me at gerard@braudcommunications.com and I will be happy to give you 15 minutes of free feedback.

 

Crisis Communication for Schools: Part 1

By Gerard Braud

TulaneGerardBraudIf you have school age kids, you’ve likely gotten a text message or phone message about some type of emergency or non-emergency at school. While useful for emergency notification, these systems are not a substitute for having and using a Crisis Communications Plan.

Out next few articles will answer the questions:

  • What is a Crisis?
  • What is a Crisis Communications Plan?
  • How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan?
  • Do I Need a Crisis Communications Plan?

Our goal is to give you practical information that applies if you work for a school, things you should be asking if you are a parent, and we’ll draw some parallels between crisis communication for schools and crisis communication for corporations.

Like building blocks, if your school or business has a text messages alert system, it is time for you to add the next layer of protection.  This will help you build a holistic system surrounding all of the aspects of communicating during a crisis.

You need a crisis communications plan. This plan must be a system that addresses all of the modern communications challenges created by mobile technology, social media and traditional media.

What Is a Crisis Communications Plan? A crisis communications plan is a manual that will guide school administrators (or corporate officials) through the process of rapidly and effectively send credible, actionable information to key stakeholder audiences.  These will include the media, employees, parents, students and the community. (In the case of a business, it includes getting information to your customers, just as a school sends information to parents and students.)

For all of the benefits of text message alert systems in schools, there are unintended consequences that must be and can be addressed.

1) The lifesaving use of text messages triggers an onslaught of media arriving at the school to report on the unfolding event.

StudentsGerardBraud2) The text and voice message systems brings an onslaught of parents in panic arriving at the school to rescue or comfort their children, and thereby creating traffic jams that delay life saving emergency vehicles and emergency responders.

3) The speed of the notification system hastens and triggers an instantaneous disbursement of panic, misinformation, rumors and inappropriate comments on social media.

All three of these unintended consequences can be mitigated and managed to the safety and betterment of parents, students and educators. It requires the use of a comprehensive Crisis Communications Plan.

Rapid or Mass Notification Systems versus a Crisis Communications Plan

Some schools and school systems mistakenly believe that their policy to send out rapid communications via text messages or phone messages is their crisis communications plan. This is incorrect. A system that sends out mass notification by way of text messages or telephones requires us to make a fine distinction between notification and communication. Notification screams panic! Communication uses words and information to calm fears by sharing actionable, honest and accurate information about the severity of an event. For example, a 140 character text message cannot convey the details of a web posting, email blast or news conference.

A mass notification system can quickly send messages such as, “gunman on campus,” “shelter in place,” etc. These are only short bursts of actionable information, which create the unintended negative consequences of panic that we mentioned previously. In contrast, a crisis communications plan must be used in addition to the mass notification system, but often it is used when the mass notification system is not even required, as we will explain in upcoming articles. The crisis communications plan provides the actionable and informative words and details that will be used in news conferences, on websites, in emails, in meetings with parents, student, and employee, as well as on social media sites.

As you will learn in this series of articles, a crisis communications plan can be vital before, during and after a crisis.

In our next entry we will define the word “crisis” and examine why many schools and businesses think they have a crisis communications plan, but very likely do not.

 

Tutorial #20: Crap is King

Tutorial #20 By Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

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.

While I’m encouraging public relations professionals, spokespeople and Public Information Officers (PIOs) to share their stories of breaking news, I want to also encourage you to look for side stories about the fascinating side of your event.

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.

In crisis communications we focus on the serious, but 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.

 

Tutorial #19: How to Shoot and Why to Send B-Roll to CNN

Tutorial #19 By Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

When filing an iReport with CNN, you can either place yourself on camera as a narrator of events, or send video of an event that is still happening. That extra video is known in the television business as B-Roll. When I file iReports, I send both.

Ultimately, my goal is for CNN producers to call me to ask me to be interviewed live on CNN or HLN during one of their news programs. During the interview, they will begin with me on camera talking to the anchors, then they will cut away and show the video that I’ve sent.

Watch today’s tutorial to better understand how this works.

When you are shooting B-Roll, also called “cover video,” you want to do several things that are important. First, don’t talk. Allow the video to capture the natural sounds of what is going on. After you’ve done that, add a brief narration. This will tell the video editors back at CNN what they are seeing. This is how you provide context and accuracy for your B-Roll.

Secondly, when shooting B-Roll, don’t provide an excessive amount of movement. Start by showing something important and remain motionless for at least ten seconds. With the camera or smart device still recording, pan or turn the camera slowly for about five seconds, then stop and hold the scene for another 10 seconds. This gives the video editors several options. As you look at my tutorial video, you’ll see that sometimes I also walk while taking the B-Roll.

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.

Tutorial #18: How You Can Create Great Videos Holding Your iPad or iPhone at Arm’s Length

Tutorial #18 by Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

What amazes me about iPhones, iPads and other smart devices, is that I’m able to shoot high quality video and perform all of the tasks on my own, that would otherwise require a news crew with a videographer, producer, reporter, engineer, and a broadcast camera tethered to a satellite truck.

And best of all, I can do it all while simply holding my smart device at arm’s length. At that distance, if framed correctly, no one can see my arm and no one knows that I’m doing this all by myself.

This also gives me the freedom to move, which I couldn’t do if the device was stationary on a tripod. In some situations, a colleague may want to act as your photographer, but often the video is shaky. I find it is much smoother when I hold it myself. It gives me control of movement, lighting and sound

Watch today’s tutorial, then practice this skill yourself.

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.

Tutorial #17: Using SKYPE.com for Live Reports on CNN & HLN

Tutorial #17 by Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

My goal in these tutorials is to first encourage public relations professionals, corporate spokespeople and Public Information Officers (PIOs) to file CNN iReports as part of your crisis communications strategy and media relations plan. My second goal is for CNN to then reach out to you and extend an invitation for you to be interviewed live, on the air, during one of the CNN or HLN news programs.

These days, they will likely ask you to be interviewed via Skype.

If you are unfamiliar with Skype, visit www.skype.com and download the free application for you computer, smart phone and smart tablet.

The app allows you to make regular phone calls to regular telephone numbers, or it allows you to make a call from computer to computer with voice only, or you can set up a video chat from computer to computer.

CNN and the other news outlets want you to know how to set up the video chat.

Start by downloading the app. Next, set up your profile. Much like most social media sites, you can add your contact information and a photo.

CNN producers will then either call you or ask you to call them at an assigned time, during the news program. When it is time to go live, your Skype call is what the audience at home will see.

Take a look at this specific video tutorial to learn more.

The quality of the image on Skype varies, based on the strength of your internet signal. Sometimes the image may freeze while you are live on the air. Sometimes the call will get dropped completely.

The networks know they are taking a risk when they do a Skype call, but if your location and event is news worthy and they have no news crew of their own nearby, they are willing to take the risk.

In one of my previous tutorials I mentioned that a set of ear buds or a USB headset can be useful during your live report. If you use these, you will need to find the audio button on the Skype software and select input and output for the headsets, rather than using the computer or smart device’s external speakers and microphone.

The secret to getting it right is to practice on a clear sunny day, rather than attempting to learn the hard way under the time constraints of a crisis and significant news event. Set up your account, study the account until you know all of the buttons you need to push, then establish a call between you and a colleague so you can practice.

During your practice, you’ll want to incorporate many of the other lessons you’ve learned through these tutorials, including managing audio, lighting and movement, as well as what to say.

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.

 

 

Tutorial #16: The Secrets to Adding Movement to Your Web Videos

Tutorial #16 By Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 iReporters. This is part of a series of articles about how you can be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

Think about your own web video viewing habits. If a video is entertaining you watch it. If a video is boring, you click to something else.

In some CNN iReports, the entire report is filled with just video of a breaking news story. Other times, a person is on camera talking, which is generally what I do in most of my CNN iReports. I’m usually on location, recreating the same type of Live Shot that I did when I was a television reporter.

If you are in public relations or if you are a spokesperson or Public Information Officer (PIO), and you decide to file a CNN iReport or other web video, you can increase the watchability and entertainment value by adding some simple movement.

Sometimes that movement can be as simple as turning the camera on your smart device to the left or right. Sometimes, you can walk and talk as you go. In some of my reports I do both, and even stop to bend down and pick up items I may be referencing in my verbal narration.

Watch today’s video tutorial to learn more.

As you add movement, it needs to have purpose. Show us something interesting as you move. Let the audience see things from your point of view  — television producers call this POV, i.e. point of view.

As you move, be aware of what is behind you. You don’t want to accidentally show something that would be embarrassing.

To effectively master this skill, you need to practice in advance. So take a few minutes to first watch my video tutorial on this topic, then use your own smart phone or tablet to record a video in which you move left or right or walk. Practice it on a clear sunny day, so you’ll be prepared on the day you need it.

This link will take you to all of 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Tutorial #15 Determining When to Use Ear Buds and Headphones for Interviews on Your iPad or iPhone

Tutorial # 15 By Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

One of my goals in this series of articles and video tutorials is to help you, first file an online news report about your crisis, which then would lead to a live interview. This is geared toward news events where you work that could get national news coverage, and this is geared toward spokespeople, public relations people and Public Information Officers (PIOs) with government agencies.

If CNN sees your iReport and they like the content, a CNN producer will visit your profile page on CNN.com. They will collect your phone number and e-mail address and contact you, asking you to be a live guest on one of their programs.

Once a SKYPE connection has been established, you must be able to hear the producer talking to you and you must be able to hear the news anchors talking to you. If you are in a quiet location, you can turn up the volume on your smart phone or tablet and likely hear them just fine. But if there is a lot of background noise or blowing wind, you may find it necessary to use ear buds to hear the producers and news anchors.

Some ear buds have a built in microphone, which is optimal. Chances are, if it is too noisy for you to hear them, it may also be too noisy for them to hear you.

One option I select in some of my live reports is to use a USB SKYPE headset with my laptop. These headsets plug into my computer’s USB port. The headsets have earmuffs, that block out external noise so I can hear the news producers and news anchors. It also has a microphone on a flexible arm that gets very close to my mouth. This microphone makes it much easier for them to hear me, without them hearing the background noise.

Watch today’s video tutorial to learn more.

The ear buds come free with most smart devices. The USB headphones can be purchased at any electronics retailer.

As with all of the skills shared in these tutorials, you’ll want to practice on a clear sunny day by having a SKYPE call with a colleague. Don’t wait until the day of your crisis to try to sort out the technical aspects of this. The networks give you only one change to get it right. If you blow it, you are blacklisted and they will call someone who knows what they are doing.

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.

Tutorial #13 The Secrets to Good Audio for Your Web Videos

Tutorial #13 By Gerard Braud, iReporter Evangelist

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 reporters. This is part of a series of articles that share how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

Tutorial 13 Still Gerard BraudHave you ever watched a video you’ve shot, only to be surprised that you can hear other people talking in the background, or that the roar of the wind drowns out what you were saying or wanted to hear?

When shooting a video for a CNN iReport, for YouTube, or for any other use, you must be a multi-tasking expert. As you talk while recording the video, you must be listening as well.

Are dogs barking in the background? Are church bells ringing? Is someone nearby talking loudly on a cell phone? And the big one, is the wind blowing so hard that it drowns out your voice narration?

View today’s video tutorial to see and hear examples of all of the above.

As you’ll see in the tutorial, you have several options, including your ability to turn your back to the wind or face the wind, if wind is your problem. The correct answer depends upon where the microphone is located on your device. Another option is to use a small microphone that plugs into the headphone jack of your smart phone or tablet.

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.