You’re “Excited” AND “Pleased” ??? Wow, That’s Effective Communications: NOT

Emergency News Release  Gerard BraudWhat if you learned that your writing and communications skills are really sub-par? Would you want someone to tell you? Here is an example– An IABC e-mail just reached my inbox. The lead sentence says, “I’m excited about…”

That is sub-par writing and public relations. It is shocking that public relations people cannot write a lead sentence for a news release and that they continue to use tired, old clichés. It makes me wonder if their public relations teachers accepted this as good writing in college.

Effective communications focuses on your customers or your audience. However, every day while teaching media training or in message writing workshops, I see PR people and CEOs all making inward facing comments, rather than external facing comments. They focus on themselves by using words and phrases such as, “I’m excited to announce…” or, “We’re pleased to tell you…”

Your audience, however, is excited and pleased when your opening sentence says what’s in it for them.

Ironically, the e-mail was promoting an IABC event, which likely needs a session on writing without clichés.

Take a moment to search through your e-mails and news releases to determine if you are guilty of using these clichés, especially in your lead sentence. Akin to this is the sin of writing a fake quote from the CEO that says, “We’re pleased and excited about this event,” says CEO Pat Jones.

If you find you are guilty of these sins, write to me at gerard@braudcommunications.com and confess your sins. I’m willing to conduct an intervention on your behalf… or should I say, “I’m pleased and excited to help you stop saying pleased and excited in a lead sentence.”

By Gerard Braud

How to Write a Corporate Crisis Communications Plan?

By Gerard Braud

How do you write a crisis communications plan? That is a PR question asked daily by corporate communicators. That question is followed by, “do you have a sample crisis communications plan?” Sometimes public relations people want a crisis communications plan template or a crisis communications plan checklist.

Gerard-Braud-Crisis-Communications-Plan-350x232How about I show you how to write a crisis communications plan? How about we do it together? How about we take my 20 years of crisis communications plan templates and customize them so they work perfectly for your employer? How about when we finish, I will have revealed every one of my crisis communications plans secrets in just two days and you will have a crisis communications plan that works in every possible crisis you could face?

This is your invitation to a Crisis Communications Plan Writing Program. This is not your ordinary crisis communication w

orkshop where you learn crisis communication theory. This is a program where the goal and end result is to write and complete your crisis communication plan.

The program will be in my hometown of New Orleans this summer. I’ll repeat the program twice in one week. If you can’t attend on the dates that are scheduled, just call me and I will arrange to bring the program either to your town or directly to your company, non-profit organization or government agency.

On July 14-15, 2014, the program is open to all types of businesses. On July 17-18, 2014, the program is open just to Rural Electric Cooperatives.

The deliverables include:

1) A full assessment of the vulnerabilities that could lead to a crisis for your employer.

2) Customization and completion of a world-class crisis communications plan that will work in any type of crisis you face. The plan is approximately 50 pages long and contains all of my proprietary crisis communications plan features.

3) A library of more than 60 pre-written news releases and instructions on how to write additional news releases so your library is customized for your specific needs.

 

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Is there a catch? Not really. In exchange for me turning over my life’s work for the past 20 years to you I ask only one thing. I ask that you don’t give it away or share it with anyone who has not paid to use it. To participate, your company will sign a licensing agreement – just like you do for software and other intellectual property. The license says that your company gets to have a license to use the intellectual property forever, but I retain ownership to the intellectual property. This is not a work for hire project, which would cost you about $100,000 and take a year of collaboration. The program and licensing agreement are designed this way because it makes it a far less expensive option for you.

Okay, you say, so what is the price?

For you and two of your colleagues to attend this program – that’s correct – I want you to bring a team of people to work on this – The base price $7,995 for a lifetime corporate license. However, savings of $1,000 to $2,000 per organization may be available as the size of the class grows, which is why it benefits you to sign up and invite friends from other companies to join you. I’ll tell you more about it all if you phone me at 985-624-9976.

The price really isn’t for you to attend the program. The fee is really for the license. For all practical purposes, the customization program is essentially free for you to attend if you purchase one of the licenses.

Will you join me? Call me at 985-624-9976 so we can discuss it.

 

Social Media for Crisis Communications: Social Media Relationships Before Your Crisis

By Gerard Braudfacebook-like-button

In considering social media and crisis communication, let’s all agree that social media may cause your actual crisis. Other times, your crisis may be of your own making and social media then amplifies the crisis because of the chatter created in cyber space.

Social media at its worse, clusters mean, anonymous people saying unkind things about your issues and your employer. You have no control over their public conversation. In better situations, fans might say nice things.

In the best situation, social media is about relationships. It is a space and a collection of tools that cluster people with whom you wish to listen to and talk with. It clusters people who want to hear what you say.

I’m not a fan of many aspects about social media because effective crisis communication involves controlling the message and the messenger. However, if I want to at least influence the conversation, the message and the messengers, it is more easily done through friends and supporters than through those anonymous mean people. As with much of what I advocate, those friendly relationships must evolve on a clear sunny day, if you wish to have that support on your darkest day.

Consider that social media is the ultimate personification of 6 degrees of separation. The people you have relationships with have other relationships you don’t know about. That means they are repeating things to friends of friends of friends, creating a circle of conversations and influence. This frightens me because there is less control over the message and the messenger. Yet, it creates hope for me because if a good relationship is built on a clear sunny day, it produces people who like your organization. As a result, they will be more likely to support you in tough times. Essentially, people you have a relationship with have the ability to become your brand ambassadors.

Let’s stop our conversation here today and add something to your to-do list. How might you use social media to create meaningful and sincere relationships with members of your core audiences?

Tomorrow we’ll look at some case studies and struggles in the world of social media and crisis communications.

 

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.

What Can You Learn from a Media Roundtable or Media Panel?

Katrina Media_0311By Gerard Braud

Another one just hit my LinkedIn group message discussion — Each month I get numerous announcements about associations inviting a media panel to talk to their members, most of whom are public relations people.

These media panels usually draw high attendance at a meeting, but do they benefit the members?

My observation — having sat through many of these, having been a journalist, having been on the panels, and as someone who specializes in media training and crisis communications — is that you should take the advice of these journalists with a grain of salt. No wait… take their advice with a block of salt.

The advice the media members give is bad advice. Often, the media give advice contrary to what you should do in a media interview and in a crisis.

“You should always tell us everything you know,” they usually say. In other words, they want you to go to confession with them. Media want to you confess every negative aspect of your business and your event.

My expert advice is that you should always be honest. However, you are never obligated to confess to them everything negative about your crisis.

My advice is to be prompt and timely with information to the media in a crisis. In fact, my entire crisis communication plan system is built on getting honest information to the media quickly. However, a key part of the plan is my addendum of 100 pre-written news releases that acknowledge known facts, while deflecting media speculation and negative details about your crisis.

On one hand, if you don’t know the media or how to function with the media, a media panel could be a useful part of your association meeting. However, if you don’t want to be given one-sided bad advice, may I suggest that after the panel gives their presentation, you dismiss them. Next, ask a media relations and public relations expert to give you their take on what the reporters said. You will definitely hear an opposing point of view and have an eye-opening program.

Please feel free to call me if you have questions about organizing such an event.

 

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.