Ebola Crisis Communication: Webinar Follow-up Resources

Here are the crisis communications, crisis management, and public relations resources promised in the Friday, October 17, 2014 CommPro.biz webinar:

First Critical Statement:

In crisis communications, you should have two types of pre-written communication
documents. The first is for fast release, called a “First Critical Statement.” Some companies call these holding statements. To get a free download use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my resource page.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braudWrite Your Crisis Communications Plan:

In the webinar I mentioned my 2-day program to write and complete a crisis communications plan. It will be in New Orleans November 5-6, 2014. Call me at 985-624-9976 to discuss pricing and details. The deliverable is a completed 50-page crisis communications plan and a minimum of 65 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out with 500-700 pages of completed work.

If you cannot make these dates I can hold a program on another date just for you. Call me to discuss the options.

If you missed the webinar or would like to share the content, follow this link.

Listen to the re-broadcast

Listen to the re-broadcast

Media Training Tip: Ebola Crisis Communications Interviews

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudThe Ebola crisis has spawn a rash of spokespeople saying things to the media that should have never been said. If you are the public relations person responsible for writing statements and news releases for your hospital, company or spokesperson, this blog is for you. If you are the media trainer preparing the spokespeople, this blog is for you. If you are the spokesperson… yep, this blog is for you.

Behold exhibit # 1: A news release statement from October 15, 2015, as a second nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital becomes ill from Ebola.

The hospital released a statement saying, “Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very serious.”

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! Really, you cannot defend that statement PR team from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Here’s why: If it were true, two nurses would not have Ebola. Do you follow my thinking? Two nurses have Ebola because safety was obviously not the greatest priority and obviously compliance was not taken seriously.

Every time I teach media training or do a conference presentation, my advice to PR people and CEOs is to run every statement through the cynic filter. I just demonstrated my cynicism… and trust me, I’m a huge cynic. If you filter your statement past me, will you get a positive reaction or a negative reaction? That my friends, is the cynic filter.

My apologies to the PR team if this was not your words, but the words of your lawyers or PR firm or agency. But as a public relations professional, your job is to shout “No” when a B.S. statement like that is written or proposed.

Back in August, when the Ebola story broke regarding Emory University Hospital, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden made bold statements about Ebola not spreading in the U.S. He was wrong.

Dr-Anthony-FauciDr. Anthony Fauci, with the National Institute of Health, in an interview on the Today Show this week, on October 11, 2014, said, “We’re not going to see an outbreak” of Ebola in the U.S. He even references Dallas as an example of proper containment of the virus, which as we all now know, is wrong.

Once again, if you are a spokesman, you can’t say that. You can’t defend that statement. You cannot guarantee it so you should not say it in an interview.

If you are the person providing media training for the spokesperson, you cannot allow the spokesperson to say something like that. You have to be so intense in the media training class that you push the student to the point of failure in the training class, pick them up, fix them, and don’t release them from role playing until they are perfect. Media training should be designed to let a spokesperson fail in private so they don’t fail on national TV, or any interview.

Close isn’t good enough. A crisis this serious demands the best communications possible. There is no margin for error in interviews just like there is no margin for error in containing a serious disease.

Would you like to know the magic words that will set you free? Insert the word, “goal” and throw away the words, “committed” and “top priority.” My top priority is to get people to stop saying top priority and committed.”

Instead of saying, “Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very serious,” a better option is to say, “Our goal is to protect the safety and health of every patient and every employee.” (Yes, I intentionally used “every” twice.)

My statement is one that can be defended because it is stated as “a goal.” It is forward looking and aspirational, while not definitive, such as, ““Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very serious.”

If you are responsible for writing statements that get re-written with tired clichés by your lawyers or CEO, your job, as a public relations professional, is to push back. If you write these type of clichés because you were taught to do this or have heard these clichés so many times that you think this is the way it should be done, please stop.

If you are responsible for media training your spokesman, you must not be afraid to push back when the student doesn’t perform well. As the trainer, you must not be intimidated, especially if you are training your boss, or in the case of a hospital, a powerful doctor.

We have an Ebola crisis on our hands. Are you making it better or worse with your statCrisis communication workshop gerard braudements?

We’ll talk about these issues and more this Friday in a special webinar about Ebola. Register here.

If you need help with your Ebola key messages, contact me for assistance writing bullet proof key messages. And if you need help media training your spokespeople, I’m happy to help. Call me at 985-624-9976.

– By Gerard Braud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebola Crisis Communications Lesson: Ask for Help

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudOf all the Power Point presentations by his leadership team members, the CEO only stood and applauded the vice president who showed he was having difficulties in his division, when the other vice presidents showed rainbows and green lights. The company was millions in debt with falling sales and the CEO knew that everyone who painted a rosy picture was either a liar or delusional. The one who asked for help was the star.

A colleague shared this story supporting my premise in yesterday’s Ebola communication considerations blog. In the blog I suggested that public relations, marketing, media relations and crisis communication professionals will not be fired if they ask for help. Instead, your CEO and leadership team will respect you for telling the truth and knowing that your truth may save the reputation and revenue of your organization.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braudThe field of communications is misunderstood, even by the C-Suite. Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. They expect publicity. Often the CEO will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Sadly, many with MBAs don’t really understand the differences either.

Even in public relations, many do not realize how difficult it is to be a crisis communication expert. The expert is the one who prepares on a clear sunny day for what might happen on your darkest day. At the university level, most public relations classes touch on crisis communication as an evaluation of how well you manage the media after a crisis erupts. That is outdated and flawed. Preparation = professionalism.

Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge and expertise rather than asking for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue.

Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue.

Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Ask for help.

If you’d like some FREE help, join me on Friday, October 17, 2014 for a free webinar that explores what you need to do today to prepare for your possible Ebola communications tomorrow. Register here.

 

– By Gerard Braud

NFL Crisis Sets Off Cynics

NomoreblogDon’t set me off. I’m a cynic. The NFL crisis and its flawed communications strategy continues to set off the cynic in me. A huge part of my crisis communications plan strategy and the crisis management advice provided to my clients is based upon understanding how to effectively communicate to the cynics.

Sunday night the NFL crisis and the failures of Roger Goodell were not on my mind. I was watching Sunday Night Football on NBC with my wife and enjoying a Sazarac – yes, Saints, Sunday and Sazaracs. (I wish we had won the game.) My goal was to be entertained.

Without the crisis on my mind, a public service announcement ran for an organization called NoMore.org. The campaign originated in 2013, but the NFL played the public service announcement during the game in an effort to “fight domestic violence.”

What did the cynic in me think? Cover-up. White washing. Trying to cover you’re a**. You screwed up and now you’re trying to make us think you’re doing something.

The crisis was not on my mind. Great job Goodell because you just put it back on my mind. Also, my mind isn’t thinking about victims. My mind is thinking about a failure of leadership.

I’ve thought the same thing about all of the commercials BP ran following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and crisis. The cynic in the oil spill crisis wonders just how much BP spent telling the world they are not the negligent company that they’ve been proven to be in a court of law. While BP says they’ve made things right, my sources say the marshes of Louisiana still have a lot of BP oil that has never been cleaned up.

The bottom line is:

1) Fix your problems to prevent a crisis from happening

2) Address your crisis quickly so there is never a cover-up

3) Say you are sorry to the people you have harmed

4) Don’t brag about how well you allegedly said you are sorry… especially when you have failed to fully address the crisis and the real problem.

For the NFL the problem is not domestic violence. The NFL problem is one man at the top who doesn’t know how to properly investigate a domestic violence case and properly punish a guilty player.

When you brag about the wrong thing, you set me off. Don’t set me off.

By Gerard Braud

Did the NFL Miss a Crisis Management and Crisis Communication Opportunity on Sunday?

Roger goodell gerard braudBy Gerard Braud

Sunday football arrived without a plan for NFL management to end the Ray Rice crisis. Nor did they manage the crisis surrounding what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knew and didn’t know.

Fans continue to call for Goodell to be fired. Is there another option for crisis management and crisis communications shy of Goodell’s termination?

Sometimes the best plan is to look for a creative solution that hasn’t yet been considered in the crisis.

What if the crisis management solution was for Goodell to communicate to the Sunday NFL audience that he was suspending himself for one year? It would have displayed leadership in a crisis and managed the crisis to a conclusion.

Is this the best expert advice that crisis managers and crisis communications counselors could make? It would be the creative crisis management solution I would suggest.

Sean PaytonConsider this — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for one year even though he didn’t know that his defensive coach was running a bounty program for defensive players. Payton received a one-year suspension because Goodell said that as the head coach, it happened on Payton’s watch. Payton, as the top leader, was held responsible by Goodell.

So, many call for Goodell to be fired and he goes into classic executive denial, diversion and potential cover-up about what he knew. The best way for him to end the current crisis would be to suspend himself on the grounds that the Rice incident happened on his watch. If someone within the NFL had video of the punch in the elevator and Goodell didn’t see it, then by default, Goodell is as guilty as Payton.

If we learn Goodell did know about the video, or saw the video, and/or was told by Ray Rice about the punch, yet failed to serve Rice his harsh penalty until the world saw the punch video, then we have a classic case of leadership failure in a crisis. We have a case of an executive acting one way toward others, yet having different rules for himself. We have a case of an executive who was wishing it would all go away, but who was forced to respond differently when the world learned more.

Crisis management requires good ethics and good ethical decisions. Expert crisis management only happens with the executive’s words and actions are one in the same. Are the executives actions congruent with his or her words? When they are, the executive is a leader. When they are not congruent, the executive fails to be a leader.

The more I watch this crisis the more I expect it to get worse. When a crisis is allowed to smolder this long it results only in more damage to reputation and revenue. Experts will tell you that the faster you end the crisis, the faster revenue and reputation are restored.

Leadership in a crisis happens when hard decisions are made quickly. A self-suspension is a great compromise shy of Goodell being fired. If Goodell fails to take a bold step, then his job is one the line, as it should be, for failing at crisis management and crisis communications.

3 Questions to Ask about the Intersection of Crisis Management, Crisis Communication, and Crisis Communications Plans: The NFL

By Gerard Braud

rayrice apAnother crisis management and crisis communication lesson plays out in the NFL as the Associated Press reports the NFL had a copy of the videotape showing Ray Rice punching his fiance in the face.

This exposes a crisis management and crisis communication weakness found in many organizations, which either involves leaders intentionally covering up a crisis or the crisis management team not fully sharing information. This prevents everyone from connecting the dots in a way that results in the best resolution of the crisis and full, honest communications about that resolution.

Here are three questions you can ask today to have a better crisis management and crisis communications plan.

1) When a crisis unfolds, do you have a central hub within the crisis management team in which all information is collected and disseminated to the key decision makers? If there is or was such a system within the NFL, a videotape of the punch would have been shared with the crisis management team. If there is and was a system, then we have a case of unethical behavior, personified by a cover-up and possible lies in media interviews by Roger Goodell.

2) Does your crisis communications plan have a predetermined list of questions that you will ask in every crisis so that everyone is always on the same page? This is one of the most powerful tools you can have and a vital part of all of the crisis communications plans I write.

3) Is there conflict in your organization because ethical decisions about a crisis often take a backseat to legal arguments by lawyers or financial arguments from the CFO? Those arguments often result in everyone taking a vow of silence so the organization doesn’t get sued, resulting in a loss of reputation and revenue. This is the job of communication experts in the room: Connect the dots for everyone else. Focus on the long-term reputational and financial health of the organization by doing the right thing and not the most convenient thing in the short-term.

Smoldering crises like the NFL Ray Rice case often cause various leaders to connect the dots only in a way that is immediately best for their interest, rather than in a way that is best for the long-term health of the organization, its leaders, and in many cases, the victims of the crisis.

Rayrice blog gerard braudFor example, in the case of Penn State, we saw the university fail to expose the crime of sexual abuse out of fear of reputational damage and a loss of revenue. This short-term failure resulted in more boys being victims of sexual abuse, greater reputational harm, a larger financial loss, and top leaders being fired.

In the case of the NFL, many experts believe the only reason the NFL has taken a tough stand on concussions is because of a lawsuit that would damage their reputation and lead to a huge financial loss if the lawsuit went to trial. It was not done years ago when it could have been.

When powerful people hide the facts from the world, as a way to avoid reputational and revenue loss in a crisis, you are witnessing unethical behavior in a crisis. In most cases the secret becomes public, executives get fired, the institution’s reputation is damaged, and revenue is lost. Stay tuned to see what happens with the NFL.

4 Crisis Communications Lessons as the NFL Management Struggles with the Ray Rice Smoldering Crisis

Rayrice blog gerard braudBy Gerard Braud

The NFL has a crisis. Do they have a plan? Will the crisis get worse because of non-verbal communications? Can the NFL management communicate their way out of the crisis? Below are some observations and suggestions to help you cope with your own corporate crisis.

The non-verbal message from the NFL is that they are more concerned about one man hitting another man in the head on the field than they are about a man – essentially an employee – hitting a woman in the head, or more specifically, punching the woman in the face.

That non-verbal message speaks volumes and creates a crisis within a crisis.

Another part of the crisis is the NFL’s failure to obtain the most compelling video of the actual punch. TMZ – not even the mainstream media, but the tabloid media – did what the NFL could not or would not. From a non-verbal standpoint, this communicates that the NFL didn’t want to try as hard as they could, fearing the crisis might get worse. As we see, the crisis did get worse and is getting worse because the NFL executive management failed to fully investigate the crisis, perhaps in fear of what they might discover.

On the plus side, NFL commissioner Robert Goodell has done media interviews and apologized. In too many crisis case studies there is a clear failure to apologize.

On the plus side, sporting goods stores have positioned themselves as heroes in the crisis by communicating their willingness to exchange Ray Rice football jerseys for new jerseys if a fan regrets owning a Rice jersey. This is great customer service and frankly, great public relations, for essentially “doing the right thing.”

On the plus side, AE Sports is removing Rice from their video games. Again, this is great public relations, for doing the right thing.

Both the sporting goods stores and AE Sports have actually capitalized on the crisis in a way you might not have expected, but in a way that creatively allows them to denounce violence against women.

When crisis management is botched because of failed communications, there is usually fallout. Usually people get fired and revenue is lost.

People are already calling for Goodell to resign. Will he lose his job because of the perception created that he and the NFL were protecting their player hoping the fallout would not get worse? More than one expert is predicting a revenue loss for NFL sportswear among females, after years of high revenue growth from apparel sales to women.

What can you learn from this crisis?

1) When a smoldering crisis breaks out, you, the public relations professional, must vigorously investigate the case behind the crisis. Approach it like an expert prosecutor or an expert investigative reporter. You need to know what the executives might not want to know or what the executives know but have not told you.

2) The PR team must also look for executives who are in denial. Denial is characterized by the executive team’s subtle attempts to move forward as though the smoldering crisis will not ignite.

3) On a clear sunny day, make sure your crisis communications plan outlines procedures for investigating a smoldering crisis and responding to a smoldering crisis. Too many PR people and corporate crisis communication plans are structured to respond only to natural disasters and sudden emergencies. It is a huge crisis communication plan failure to not anticipate your reaction to a smoldering crisis.

4) Define a crisis for your organization as anything that can affect both the reputation and revenue of the organization. The NFL crisis is a perfect example of something that is neither a natural disaster nor a sudden emergency, but certainly something that will affect both the reputation and revenue of the organization.

Experts will tell you that in most organizations and corporations, you are more likely to face a smoldering crisis than you are to face a sudden emergency or natural disaster.

If you have more questions about preparing for a smoldering crisis please give me a call at 985-624-9976.

 

Three Media Training and Crisis Communications Tips for Doctors and Employers

By Gerard Braud

ebola

Click image to watch video

The current Ebola crisis has the media calling upon their medical experts to communicate about infected patients being flown to the United States for treatment.

Media training for this type of crisis requires you to have a plan for how your doctors and physicians will respond if they are called upon to talk with reporters. Every employer needs to be prepared to follow these same rules. When talking about the health of an employee or a patient, HIPPA rules – the Federal rules that govern patient privacy — essentially prohibit a doctor or employer from talking about the patient.

Yet the media want details; details a treating physician cannot give; details the employer cannot give.

The three secrets to an intelligent interview answer that satisfies the media are to:

1) Set the context of the situation

2) Politely admonish the reporter

3) Speak in generalities

An artful answer may look like this:

“First, we need to recognize that because of Federal laws governing a patient’s privacy, I’m not allowed to give any specifics about this patient and neither should the media. In general I can say that a patient with Ebola can be safely quarantined because the virus is not transmitted by breathing in the infection, but only by contact with blood or body fluids.”

The medical experts and reporters on the network news programs have done a brilliant job of walking this fine line when being interviewed by their networks and reporters. An increasing number of reporters are more aware of HIPPA rules, but many are not, while others try to trick the spokesperson into saying something.

Here is the key: The media need a good sound bite or quote. Write a good sound bite then train the spokesperson to deliver it in a masterful way to the media.

On the NBC Today Show Monday morning, the doctor spokesperson from Emory University Hospital, where the patient is being treated, does a good job of not violating the patient’s privacy. It is an interview worth watching.

If we dissect the interview a bit further, here are a few things to note:

NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie states in her question, “I know that you can’t say much, if anything about the patient, under your care, but let me just try. Can you confirm that he is improving this morning?”

The doctor responds by saying, “I really can’t comment on the clinical condition of the patient. That comes specifically from the request of the patient and his family.”

The answer is an okay answer that doesn’t violate HIPPA. However, to a reporter and the audience, it may seem like something important is not being said or that the spokesperson or doctor is hiding something, when in fact they are just protecting the patient. Granted, doctors are not professional spokespeople, which is why they require extra media training when talking about a crisis like this. Granted, the doctor needs to be focused on the patient and not the media, which is why regular media training with doctors, when there is no crisis, is the best way to have them ready for a future crisis.

An abrupt answer like that is known as a “block.” A “block” is more acceptable when it is combined with a “bridge” and a “hook.” The bridge allows you to bridge to an acceptable answer and then hook the reporter and viewer with new information and a quote.

A better answer would follow my guidelines above and sounds like this:

“First, we need to recognize that because of Federal laws governing a patient’s privacy, I’m not allowed to give any specifics about this patient and neither should the media. In general I can say that a patient with Ebola can be safely quarantined because the virus is not transmitted by breathing in the infection, but only by contact with blood or body fluids. While I cannot comment on the prognosis or any progress about this patient, I can say that our institution is optimistic that we have the right facilities and right physicians to treat someone with Ebola, which is why the patient has been flown here from Africa.”

Using this technique, the doctor doesn’t just block the reporter’s question, but also bridges to useable information.

In the PR department at Emory, the media trainer and the PR team are likely calling this interview a success… and they should… and it is, because the doctor walked the fine line of HIPPA. But with a slight bit more training and practice, the doctor can be taught to use the full block-bridge-hook technique, for a more polished answer.

For all of you who must media train a spokesperson, realize that you can go from good to great with just a few minor adjustments in an answer. Regular media training goes a long way to make your spokespeople great.

Crisis Communications Checklist: Four Hidden Problems that Lead to Failure

Free Crisis Plan Gerard Braud

Click image to play

By Gerard Braud

Public relations people are always searching for a free crisis communications checklist, as though some expert in crisis communications has the magic solution in a free template. Just search for crisis communications checklist, or free crisis communications checklist or free crisis communications template and you’ll see what I mean.

The problem with a crisis communications checklist is that it is no different than any other to-do list in your life. What is the truth about your other to-do lists? Well, many of the tasks go undone.

Why do they go undone? Because the task is assigned to no one and the to-do list has no time limit for completion.

Take the typical free crisis communications checklist that you find online. It will say things such as:
1) Gather information
2) Consider whether you will need to write key messages
3) Consider whether you will need to call a news conference
4) Select a spokesperson

In the crisis communications checklist as exemplified above, there are 4 huge problems:

1) The tasks in the checklist are assigned to no one.
2) There is no time limit on how soon the tasks need to be finished.
3) There is no mandate that the tasks should be done.
4) There are no details about the steps that should be taken in order to know that each task on the checklist is done properly.

The flaw with the crisis communications checklist is it still requires you to make too many decisions on the day of your crisis that could have been made days, months, and years before on a clear sunny day.

My expert advice is to never depend on a crisis communications checklist. On a clear sunny day you should write a crisis communications plan that predetermines:
1) What is the sequence of steps that must be followed?
2) To whom are those tasks assigned?
3) How quickly must the tasks be completed?
4) What are the details that you must know to complete the task correctly?

There is no shortcut to writing a crisis communications plan correctly. Don’t trust the fate of your career and the reputation and revenues of your company to something that you find for free on the internet.

If you’d like to see what you shouldn’t have, here are a few links:

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
Plan.

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?