3 Secrets to Undervaluing a Crisis Communication Plan

By Gerard Braud

Braud Crisis Plan Stock QuoteYour expert crisis communication and public relations feedback is invited on this crisis communications case study.

A global company called to inquire about my crisis communication plan program and training. Their corporate revenues are $2 billion dollars annually. The company stock trades at about $66 per share. It has about 8,000 employees worldwide. Experts and media are doing an increasing number of reports questioning the safety of one of the company’s main products, which is suddenly in high demand because of changing trends. News coverage is both favorable and unfavorable

What might a single crisis cost this company in revenue and reputational damage? That is the question I always ask to help a corporation, CEO, or public relations team make an informed decision about spending money for a crisis communication plan or crisis communications training.

If you had a corporate public relations crisis looming, would you spend $7,995.00 U.S. to protect your revenue and reputation? Would the CEO or CFO grant your budget request?

The $7,995.00 is the price I quoted to the company for them to have access to my proprietary 50 page crisis communication plan system, with 100 pre-written news releases, plus expert crisis training for their staff, all delivered in two days. The estimated value of such a crisis communications plan could be placed at $100,000 with the standard amount of time to complete this task being six months to one year. The crisis communications plan and news releases have more than 4,000 hours of development built into them.

Some corporate experts would say this is a “no-brainer.” Experts might say, “A single crisis would cost us more than $7,995 in loss product sales or in a stock price dip.” Hence, those people would buy the plan without giving it a second thought.

Other experts would say, “Heck, the crisis communications plan would cost less than 125 shares of stock.” Hence, those people would see the crisis communications plan as a value.

Another group might say, “Heck, if we lost one sale because of bad publicity and this crisis communications plan helped us thwart the bad publicity, the plan would pay for itself many times over.”

However, this company clearly undervalues the crisis communications plan and this executive undervalues the crisis communications plan. The prospective client said it was “spendy.” Yes, that was the world a senior executive used. Obviously, I did a poor job of convincing this corporate leader of the value of the crisis communications plan. The leader sees the plan as a commodity, while I view my plans as a value.

The secret to undervaluing a crisis communications plan lies in what psychologists say is the single greatest human flaw: Denial. One psychology expert tells me that humans are instinctively programmed to say, “That crisis won’t happen to us,” or “We’ll just deal with that crisis when it happens.”

Denial is why public relations experts and corporate leaders don’t get along in the workplace.

A public relations professional sees a crisis communication plan as a vital tool to do their job, just as an accountant needs a calculator, or just as a mechanic needs a wrench. Yet the corporate leader, in denial that a crisis communications plan is a necessary tool, will insist that the accountant must have the calculator, and that the mechanic must have a wrench, but that the public relations person can magically slap together words and strategy in a bind.

I believe a public relations person without a corporate crisis communications plan is the equivalent of the accountant counting on their fingers, while the mechanic is told to use his or her hands to loosen or tighten vital bolts.

Media_Relations_CamerasThe reality is every corporation must justify every dollar it spends. This case study highlights three things:

1. A crisis communications plan is seldom perceived as an item of value in a corporation.

2. Most public relations people are undervalued in their jobs because they are often denied the tools they need to do their job, yet ironically are expected to produce magic on the company’s darkest day.

3. Denial is the reason corporations do not allow their public relations people to take time and a few dollars on a clear sunny day to protect the revenue and reputation of the company when it faces a crisis on its darkest day.

A wise business coach told me that, “Some people get it and some people never will get it. Work with the ones who get it, dismiss the ones who don’t get it… and then watch them fail on live TV when they have their crisis.”

Hence, every time I take the stage as a speaker, to deliver a keynote at a conference or convention, I look out over the audience knowing some get it and some never will. Sometimes most people in the audience get it, but when they return to work, their bosses won’t get it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

1 Confusing Name and 3 Things You Need to Know to Have to an Effective Crisis Communications Plan

Plan-to-FailBy Gerard Braud

Imagine this: You are eating dinner at a major corporate event. The event is only serving soup for dinner. You need only a spoon to eat the soup. However the table is set with a knife and fork. You don’t have the right tool for the right job. In other words, you can’t eat your soup.

Why do you have no spoon and only have a knife and fork? Because one of the top corporate officials declared that each person sitting at the table needed a utensil for dinner.

The terminology is flawed.

Now consider this: As a public relations expert and communications professional, you might not have the right crisis communications plan and tools because of one flawed name. That flawed name is “Crisis Plan.”

Three types of documents are generically – and incorrectly – referred to as a Crisis Plan. This is a confusing mistake for three areas of crisis response.

Every business should have three plans with three unique names. They include the:
1. Crisis Communications Plan
2. Emergency Operations Plan (also called Incident Command Plan)
3. Risk Management Plan (also called Business Continuity Plan)

If you are a communications professional, you need a plan specifically designed to meet your communications needs. Yet many communicators in public relations fly by the seat of their pants during a crisis because the company leadership has told them, “We have a crisis plan.”

I know this to be true because of the large number of public relations professionals who attempt to budget time and money to create the perfect crisis communications plan, but who get resistance from their corporate leaders who boldly declare, “We already have a crisis plan.” Many in PR struggle to explain the differences to their boss. If you are facing the same troubling situation, here are three things you should explain to your boss:

#1 A Crisis Communications Plan is used to properly communicate to the media, employee, customers, and other key audiences during a crisis. A crisis should be defined as any event that could damage the reputation and revenue of the company. Some crises are the result of an emergency, such as a work place shooting, fire or explosion. Other events, such as a high profile sexual harassment lawsuit or executive misbehavior, constitute a crises, yet do not have the characteristics of an emergency that require the emergency response of first responders.

#2 An Emergency Operations Plan or Incident Command Plan coordinates internal and external first responders in an emergency. This is the instruction manual for your internal responders for fires, explosions, and acts of violence. Should an emergency take place, the Crisis Communications Plan would direct the public relations team to share information about the emergency with the media, employees and stakeholders. Hence, both plans would be needed at the same time.

#3 The Risk Management Plan or Business Continuity Plan would help keep the corporate supply chain functioning if there was a significant fire and explosion in a production or distribution facility. The Risk Management Plan minimizes financial and logistical risks by having contingency plans for warehouses, production facilities and transportation options.

If a fire and explosion occurred, all three plans would be executed by three independent groups of experts.

1. Public relations experts would execute the Crisis Communications Plan.

2. Emergency response experts would execute the Emergency Operations

3. Risk management experts would execute the Risk Management Plan.

Now consider this. The Crisis Communications Plan would be used every time the other two plans are being used. But the other two plans are often not needed or used when the Crisis Communications Plan is needed, such as in the example of sexual harassment lawsuit.

Now ask yourself and your corporate leaders, do you have all three tools to manage all three of your critical response business functions in a crisis? Or will you be ill prepared because of one confusing name?

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.


Click image to watch movie

Click image to watch movie

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: Combining Technology & Social Media for Crisis Communication

By Gerard Braud

With no electricity for 5 days Social Media Gerard Braudand 6 feet of water from Hurricane Isaac surrounding my house on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, I became the go-to correspondent for CNN & The Weather Channel. Using only my iPhone, Skype and 3G, I was able to send reports first to YouTube and CNN’s iReport, then use social media, text messaging and e-mails to get noticed by the networks, which eventually led to an incredible number of live reports.

Hurricane Isaac came ashore on August 28, 2012. The Weather Channel and CNN had dispatched their correspondent to the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans, tethered to $65,000 HD cameras and a half-million dollar satellite trucks. Meanwhile, the anchors back in the studio were conducting a series of phone interviews with Emergency Managers and Public Information Officers (PIOs) in the area.

So why is it, with the wealth of official knowledge available, the networks suddenly cut away during storm coverage to interview a seemingly random resident 30 miles away, standing in rising flood waters at his home along Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana?

The answer? Because I’m the resident, I’m in rising floodwaters, and I have an iPhone with Skype. In short, they picked me because I can offer them great visuals, first hand information, and the technology to broadcast to the world from my front porch.

The network’s reporters have much better equipment and the PIOs have official information on the phone, but the resident has added the much needed sex appeal this story has been missing; the resident offers better television coverage than any of the network’s other options.

In any crisis you face, you could easily be upstaged by an eyewitness unless you can be better than they are. That’s why I’ve been teaching workshops on this system to many of my clients and at conferences for many associations.

Gerard Braud Media Training and Crisis Communication with IPad IPhoneIn the meantime, view a quick video lesson on how to effectively communicate in a crisis using your iPhone, iPad or other smartphone and smart tablet technology.

Times are changing and both spokespeople and media trainers need to take action now to prepare for the interview of the future. I suspect we are quickly approaching the day when the media will stop sending news crews out to interview you in person. Instead, they will expect you to do interviews on the spur of the moment, especially from the scenes of unfolding, highly visual crises.

This means you should take these 3 steps:

1) Get the right technology.

2) Get training on how to use the new technology.

3) Schedule a customized Media Training class to help you better answer questions from the news anchors during your interview while you are simultaneously (and flawlessly) operating the technology.

Taking one step without the others is dangerous. You must do all three because operating and holding the technology while being a spokesperson is a daunting, multitasking event that goes beyond anything you have done before. There is no camera crew. You are the camera crew. There is no producer. You are the producer. This isn’t Skype from your stationary desktop computer. This is Skype while you walk, talk and hold your i-Pad, i-Phone (or similar smart device). This isn’t FaceTime with your mother in which she doesn’t care how you are framed on camera. This is network news in which we clearly need to see you and see what is in the background.

What spokespeople and public relations professionals will soon discover is that:

a) The media will begin expecting you to be ready to do an i-Interview

b) If you are not prepared, they will skip over your official information and go get it from an eye witness with technology who is on the scene.

Furthermore, your readiness gives you an upper hand when you can show and tell the media something they cannot get from a lesser source.

Here’s what you need to know to get started:


iPhones, iPads and laptops, with a built in video camera, top the list of the technology you need. Many smart device will do, provided you can see yourself on camera. This feature is missing from early models of smart phones.

Using these tools for a live interview means you need to be connected to the Internet and you need the free Skype application available at skype.com. Depending upon where you are and whether you have electricity, you can use Skype via Wi-Fi or your G3/G4 phone signal.

Many of you are Skype veterans, but if you’ve never used it, Skype works essentially like a telephone call from your computer or smart device, except it allows your voice call to become a video call through the device’s built in camera. A network producer will call you via your Skype address, you answer, switch on the video feature and you are ready for your live broadcast.

Wi-Fi, Skype and iPads can be temperamental. Occasionally the signal will freeze while you are live on the air.

Good audio is also important. When the wind started howling and drowning out the voices of the anchors, I was forced to switch to my laptop, with a built in web cam and USB Skype headphones with an attached microphone. I could hear them better and they could hear me better.

Periodically between the live interviews, I used my iPhone and iPad to take video of the flooding. I then used the Internet to upload the raw footage, making me a triple threat: I had great video; I had a great location; and I had the technology and information to communicate effectively at a critical time.

Technology Training

There are two parts to the technology training.

Part one is learning which keys to push and what applications to use.

Part two is having the talent to manage the technology, while holding the technology and conducting an intelligent interview with the news anchors. This can be tricky.

You have no margin for error when you are both managing the technology and the interview on live television. For that reason you need to practice using the equipment, while holding it yourself, while talking.

The technology training needs to also include how to shoot additional video at the scenes of your event. That means learning how to hold your camera phone or iPad perfectly still, as well as knowing when to “pan” or turn the camera to enhance the video that you provide to the network. These days, the media will use even well composed still photos from a smart phone. While pictures and videos from the untrained eyewitness are often of poor quality, you have the ability to offer more compelling images that better tell the story.

Media Training

Annual Media Training should be standard operating procedure for every spokesperson. Talking to the media is a skill much like playing sports; you must practice on a regular basis and increase the intensity each time in order to master it.

When you combine it with technology training, you will learn how to hold the iPad, iPhone or laptop at the proper distance so your arms don’t show. Next, you need to learn how to
“frame the shot” so the television network sees both you and what is going on behind you. Then, you need to learn where to look, since the web cam on these devices usually tends to be off to one side or the top or bottom. Looking good goes hand in hand with looking intelligent and sounding intelligent. Likewise, saying what is most important upfront is critical, because your live shot will likely last only 90 seconds.

In the world of crisis communications, expect live interviews on the scene via Skype to become the norm. Soon you will see television stations interviewing police officers from crime scenes and first responders being interviewed from the scene of disasters.

But this technology shouldn’t stop with just the media. It also lets you post videos and interviews to YouTube, Facebook and your own website, so your public, your employees, and the media all have access to the best, up-to-date information.

Certainly, during a crisis, powerful communications before the crisis and rapid communications during the crisis has the ability to move people out of harm’s way. But that life saving critical communications depends upon you learning to do your part.

Is the Media Ready

The media are actually slow in evolving toward i-Interviews. Likewise, many corporate spokespeople are also still fighting to get their IT departments to authorize i-Pads and similar smart technology.

As media revenues continue to fall and as layoffs continue among reporters and photographers, i-Interviews will be the media’s low cost alternative. The question is, will you be ready for the interview of the future?

Add to your to-do list the need to acquire the technology and get the training. Please call me if you would like me to be your in-house trainer or to present a training program for an upcoming conference.

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.Crisis-Communication-Plan-In-Action-Braud Communications

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.

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.