So… The new International Media Training No-No

Crisis Communication - Gerard Braud - Crisis TrainingSoooooo…. I’ve noticed a new trend. Soooooo…. it appears people think every sentence needs to start with “Soooooo….” Soooooo…. stop it already!

I first noticed this alarming trend while teaching media training to a global defense contractor in Los Angeles in 2010. One engineer — a lead engineer –started every sentence with “Soooooo….” It was driving me nuts and I worked with him to eliminate it.

When I came back to Los Angeles for their annual media training class one year later, “soooooo….” had spread like an epidemic. Much like corporate jargon spreads like a virus, so had soooooo… In the 2011 refresher course, nearly every engineer was saying soooooo…. as the open to every sentence.

Normal people don’t talk like that. But it is spreading, not like any ordinary virus, but like a global pandemic. I was teaching media training in Europe recently and a petroleum engineer with a major oil company had the same bad habit. During our media training role playing on camera, she began every answer with “Soooooo….”

As best as I can tell, this bad habit is rooted among engineers and IT (information technology) employees. If you hear it, please try to put a stop to it. Otherwise the pandemic will infect every conversation and media interview in the future.

Media Training and Crisis Communications Tip: Reporters Will Interview Anyone Who Will Talk (Who Are Often People with No Teeth and Live in Trailers)

Let’s be respectful here and realize that many poor people don’t have either dental insurance or the ability to pay out of pocket for dental care. And let’s realize that while hoping to someday fulfill the dream of home ownership, many people live in an affordable alternative – a mobile home.

Let’s also recognize that many of these people are in lower income brackets and therefore also tend to live near industrial facilities where the more affluent members of society may work, but do not live.

With all of that out of the way, let me acknowledge that when I was a journalist, people would actually ask me, “Why do reporters always interview people with no teeth who live in trailers?”

The answer was, because when the industrial facility blew up, no one from the company would agree to an interview with us. The people living near the facility were the only eye witnesses and they were willing to speak.

If you work for a company that has a crisis, you have the responsibility to provide a spokesperson as soon as the media arrives. Usually the media will be on site within 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the crisis. And as more media outlets become dependent upon web based audiences, their need for news is even more immediate.

Reporters need facts and quotes and they are going to get them from somewhere. It is their job to get interviews and their job is on the line if they do not deliver.

If you don’t give the information to the reporter, the reporter will go get it from someone else and that someone else will likely not represent your point of view.

And as the age of Social Media and web based tools expands, more and more media outlets are dependent upon digital photos and video taken by eyewitnesses. A simple cell phone is capable of doing an enormous amount of reputational damage by providing the media with pictures and video.

So what do you do?

First you need to establish policy and practices that insure you have a spokesperson ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

Secondly, you need to have a crisis communications plan that contains a vast array of pre-written statements designed to address all of the many crises your organization could face.

With those two things, a spokesperson should be able to pull a pre-written template out of the crisis communications plan and walk out to the media to deliver that statement. It also allows your organization to post the template to the web, email it to the media, employees and other key audiences.

Even if you only have partial facts, your organization still needs to make a statement. And it is critical that the statement is delivered by a person and not just issued on paper or via the web. The human element is critical in gaining the trust of the media, employees and other key audiences. A written statement is simply a cold cluster of words.

In my world, the spokesperson should be able to deliver the statement live within one hour or less. It should never be longer than an hour and hopefully much sooner than an hour.

One of the biggest delays in issuing statements is the lengthy process of waiting of executives and lawyers to approve a statement. This delay should be eliminated with the pre-written statements. The statements should be pre-approved by executives and the legal department so that the public relations or communications department can issue statements quickly.

Certain portions of the template must be fill-in-the-blank, and the communications department must be authorized to fill in the blanks with information such as time, date, and other critical facts. Executives and lawyers need to establish a trusting relationship with the communications department so that they help speed up the process rather than hinder and delay the communications process.

When you follow these simple steps, you begin to manipulate the media because you are meeting their wants, needs and desires.  You also become their friend. The more you can provide the media with information, the less need they have to interview an ill informed eyewitness who is thrilled to have their 15 minutes of fame. The more you can occupy the media’s time, the less time they have to spend interviewing people with no teeth who live in a trailer.

Check out my 2-day crisis communications plan course: You will knock out your plan and templates so your organization is never ill-represented in the media.

Media Training Tip: Don’t Leave The Audience Thinking “What Does That Mean?”

What bugs the ever living daylights out of me is hearing people speak in mumble jumble that they think means something, but it means nothing at all. This mumble jumble is corporate speak, buzzwords, jargon and government acronyms.

I’m fortunate enough that people pay me an honorarium to speak at numerous conferences, corporate meetings and association meetings every month. I always make a point of listening to what other speakers say so I can incorporate their lessons into my presentation.

But many of the speakers fill their presentations with so many buzz words, jargon and mumble jumble that I find myself sitting in the audience asking, “What does that mean?” The speaker thinks they have said something profound, but they’ve really said nothing at all.

I hear things such as, “If we work in a customer centric capacity to increase productivity and to create a win-win situation for our partners in a collaborative fashion, then we can achieve our goals for the betterment of our strategic partners in the hopes of benefiting those with whom we do business?

What does that mean?

Were you trying to say put customers first?

What is a win-win situation? (With all due respects to Steven Covey…)

What are examples of collaboration?

What are the goals?

Who are the strategic partners?

Please, spell it out. Please give me meaningful examples. Please give me tangible examples. Please give me anecdotes. Please communicate with real words. Please put some emotion into your communications. Please make the communications more visual by describing who and what you are talking about.

Would those words work at career day with a 6th grade class? A friend of mine uses this test: If you said it to your grandparents at Thanksgiving dinner, would they know what you mean?

Let’s touch on one other important point that I find in the politically correct world, especially among non-profit organizations. There is a propensity to say things in a way that will not offend the people that you serve. However, in the process of crafting your statement with sensitivity, you become so ambiguous that no one really knows what you are talking about, including… and sometimes most importantly, even the people they are trying to help. That’s right — the people you are trying to help don’t know what you mean, because the organization is being so sensitive and so politically correct.

If you keep changing the labels and the terminology out of sensitivity, the audience, the reporter and the people you serve will be left asking, “What does that mean?” This could lead to you accusing the reporter of taking you out of context and it affects your bottom line when you use terms that your audience cannot understand because of the politically correct ambiguity.

Consultants and trainers are also guilty of trying to coin clever phrases. A few years ago my wife, who works at a small private school, mailed out the class schedule for the fall semester. Her phone started ringing off the hook because after years of promoting the school’s top notch computer lab, computer classes were no longer listed on the class schedule. She told concerned parents she would check it out and get back to them. As it turns out, someone on the school staff had taken the term computer class off of the schedule and replaced it with the term “information literacy.” Yes, it seems someone had gone to a summer workshop in which the trainer/consultant preached that “it’s so much more than just knowing the mechanics of a computer, the internet and the programs – It’s really about ‘information literacy.’” What does that mean? It’s a dumb term. Call it what it is. It’s computer class.

If you’d like more examples from my “What Does that Mean?” file I have a great PDF that I’d be happy to share with you so you can share with the offenders. It is available as a download at www.braudcasting.com

Call or email me to talk about your media training and crisis communications training needs:

Direct: 985-624-9976

Email: Gerard@BraudCommunications.com

Braudcacheorgraphy

The term Braudcacheorgraphy is first being used on July 22, 2010. Braudcacheorgraphy is defined as a mechanism to track whether an actual web post is seen in a search engine search or whether what appears in the search engine is only a cache’ image of a post that once existed. Braudcacheorgraphy also allows one to study how quickly a search engine reads a term and reports it.