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 That is outdated and flawed.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

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.

Navigate the Waters of Reputational Repair: 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications Planning

By Gerard Braud

DSC_0076Navigating the waters of a crisis requires a good crisis communication plan before the waters ever begin to rise. Clear sunny day planning, long before your darkest day, is the secret. In today’s social media filled world, this has never been more true. Sadly, in our social media world some public relations people expect to Tweet their way out of a crisis or repair damage using Facebook. Neither is true.

While “shiny and new” social media can be part of an effective communications strategy, you must first have the foundation of tried and true media relations, crisis communications, employee communications and stakeholder communications.

(Hear from Gerard in person during this special free webinar on November 20, 2013 1:00 p.m. EST)
Want to know the secret ingredients? Read on…

Here is a sure fire 5 step approach that must be your foundation.

Step 1: Vulnerability assessment Before “it” hits the fan, you have to identify everything that could go wrong, including potential sudden crises and smoldering crises. Hire a facilitator to take your organization through the process of a deep examination of the things that could go wrong that would damage the reputation and revenues of the company.

Step 2: Write your pre-written news releases, web posts, and e-mails Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “When you are up to your ass in alligators it is hard to think about draining the swamp.” This applies to crisis communications. One of the biggest mistakes public relations people make is that as the crisis is unfolding, they open a blank document on their computer and start writing a news release, which then goes through hours of unnecessary re-writes before it is released. Consider this: on a clear sunny day you should write as many of these potential news releases as possible, leaving blanks that you’ll fill in when you know the details of the actual event. These documents can be pre-approved by leaders, speeding up your ability to release them to the public. I’ve facilitated many crisis communication writing retreats that produced more than 150 pre-written news releases in one day. That kind of productivity rocks!

Step 3: Write your crisis communications plan Very few documents that public relations people refer to as a crisis communication plan would pass my test for what a plan should be. Most are worthless 6 to 12 page documents that state standard operating procedure and serve absolutely no purpose on the day of your crisis. Yet to be fair, this is what most PR people were taught in school or at some PR seminar. Frustrated by what I kept finding, I invented something new. My approach is to write a document that is intended to be read and followed during the crisis. It dictates specific, sequential tasks in a very fast moving time frame. It captures all of the perfect behaviors of the most senior communicator, yet is so easy to follow than any one who can read can execute the plan flawlessly. I’ve invested about 2,500 hours of development in my base plan, which is about 50 pages long, which I am now able to customize for my clients during a single afternoon workshop.

Step 4: Annual media training for a crisis Despite all of the buzz about social media, holding a live news conference within both the first and second hour of a crisis is vital if the media are standing at your door. Many organizations damage their revenues and reputations when untrained spokespeople say dumb things during a crisis. It is important for every potential spokesperson to recognize that media training is not a bucket list item that you do once in life. Talking to the media is a skill that requires regular practice. I recommend media training for all spokespeople at least once a year, with an expert coach. Then, before every media interview, in-house staff should do a fast refresher course. Think of it this way – the best athletes achieve great success because they practice often and partner with a great coach. Great spokespeople practice often and partner with a great coach, protecting their reputation and revenues through what they say, and just importantly, what they don’t say.

Step 5: An annual crisis communications drill Realistic crisis communications drills are the best way to test your communications team and the decision making process of your leaders. A drill once a year allows colleagues to establish trust and good working relationships. A crisis drill allows ample time for leaders to pause and discuss decisions they must make during a real crisis. This helps them avoid decision paralysis during a crisis. Your crisis communications drill should include at least two mock news conferences during the drill. Hire mock media and never use real media. Your facilitator must write a complicated, yet realistic scenario. It must include a likely crisis, plus all of the social media, employee and media buzz that would surround a real crisis. The facilitator should also hire a team of people to flood your phone lines with constant calls, replicating the calls you would receive from media, customers, and concerned citizens in a real crisis.

Conclusion All of this takes time. None of it is easy or fast. However, it is much easier to prepare on a clear sunny day than to struggle and fail on your darkest day. Your reputation and revenues depend upon it.

 

About the author: Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) has helped leaders and organizations on 5 continents write their crisis communications plans, using his one-of-a-kind writing retreat that completes one years worth of work in 2 days. He is regarded as an expert in media training and crisis communications plans and is the author of Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter. Contact him at www.braudcommunications.com or gerard@braudcommunications.com

Managing Expectations: 12 Crisis Communication Action Items for Winter Storms

By Gerard Braud

winter storm cleonCrisis Communications, a working Crisis Communication Plan as well as good media training skills will be critical in the next few days as bad weather moves across the United States.

Before the weather gets to you, now is the time to begin managing the expectations of your customers and employees. Many of you will experience power outages that may last up to two weeks. Let your customers and employees know this through effective communications today.

In your communications to them, be very clear about the pain, problems and predicaments they will face.

#1 Do Not Sugar Coat the News

Tell people exactly how bad things may get. Make sure your messaging is direct and simple. Deliver the headline, give a good synopsis, and then give the details. Write your communications the same way a reporter would write a news story. Don’t overload your communications with corporate jargon, acronyms and politically correct phrases that may confuse your audience.

#2 Do Not Hedge Your Bets With Optimism

You are better off to tell audiences what the worst will be and then be happy if the worst does not come to pass. It is easier to celebrate good news than to apologize for a situation that drags on and gets worse.

Click here to watch Gerard’s video on winter storms

Gerard Braud Winter Storm

Click image to watch video

#3 Be Ready to Use Every Means of Communications Available to You

Traditional media will be overwhelmed with many stories. If you want to get their attention and get coverage as a way to reach your audiences, do these things now:

  • Be ready to post updates to your primary website starting now.
  • Use iPad and iPhone video to record each update and post it to YouTube.
  • Send e-mails to employees with links to your website and video.
  • Post that same video to CNN iReports.
  • Add links to Facebook and Twitter that send your audiences to your website and your video.

#4 Media Training for Spokespeople

Anyone who records a video or does an interview with the media should have gone through extensive media training prior to this crisis. Additionally, do role-playing and practice with them before each interview in the coming days.

Cleon#5 Be Skype Ready

In a winter storm type crisis, media may ask you to do live interviews via Skype. Download Skype to your mobile devices now and practice using Skype. Additionally, all spokespeople on a Skype interview must be properly media trained in a Skype interview setting. Use my online tutorials to help you prepare spokespersons.

#6 Expect a Spike in Social Media Communications

Keep in mind that organizations that often have very little following on social media will see a spike in social media during power outages. As audiences have no computer access they will turn to their mobile devices. Your team needs to be prepared to monitor social media and reply to posts only when it is absolutely necessary. Too many replies to negative comments only lead to more negative comments and those comments keep re-posting more frequently in everyone’s news feed.

#7 Direct Tweets to Reporters

Increasingly, reporters respond quickly to Tweets. I find that in a weather crisis you can get a reporter’s attention faster with a Tweet than with an e-mail, phone call or text message.

#8 Be a Resource

Don’t confine your social media posts to only information about your organization. Post resource information that your audience needs, such as locations to shelters, information about emergency supplies, and any other creature comforts they need.

#9 Don’t Be Left in the Dark

Now is the time to review your list of emergency supplies and gather all of the devices you need to power your mobile devices. Devices like Mophies can charge your phones and tablets. Make sure you have batteries and flashlights. If you can, get a generator and ample supplies of gasoline. Gather extra food, water and blankets. Make sure you can heat your work environment.

#10 Rest When You Can

Rest and sleep well before the crisis. Work strategically in shifts during the crisis. Everyone doesn’t have to be awake all of the time. Naps are allowed in the middle of the day.

#11 Victory from Preparedness

Don’t judge your public relations skills by how well you were able to wing it during and after the crisis. Victory is measured by how much you did on a clear sunny day to prepare for your darkest day.

#12 Update Your Crisis Communication Plan

When this crisis is over, evaluate whether your crisis communication plan worked. It should be so thorough that nothing slips through the cracks, yet easy enough to read and follow during your crisis so that it tells you everything to do with a precise timetable for achieving each task. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, evaluate it during and after your crisis, then prepare for a substantial re-write or re-design as soon as this crisis is over.

 

 

Lesson 11: Test Your Security Team During Your Crisis Communications Drill

By Gerard Braud

CrisisDrillGerardBraudWhile working with crisis communications clients, I provide a “first critical statement” template.  This template is intended to be read to the media, emailed to employees, and posted to the web in the first hour of a crisis when little is known about the emerging crisis. Some companies that operate facilities that have no spokespeople on site, but that have a security guard at the front gate. I’ve suggested that the template is simple enough that a security guard could go through low-level media training and be taught to deliver the message if media showed up at the front gate.

Amazingly and predictably, executives, in a semi-confidential and ultra condescending way, will say, “Have you met those people? They can’t be trusted with that!”

My response is, “Well, you gave ‘em a gun.”

While some security companies employ highly trained security professionals, others employ people with skills equal to a day laborer. Some are taught to simply check badges and passes at a guard gate. Many have little education, poor verbal skills, and they come to work with a power attitude they developed when a badge was bestowed upon them.

Regardless of their skill level, three things are true:

1) If a crisis happens, chances are they will encounter the media and may be the first person the media approaches with cameras and questions.

2) If there is a chance for a real life media encounter, then they need to be an active part of your crisis communications drill.

3) They can be media trained to deliver the first critical statement. I’ve done it successfully many times.

As you plan your crisis communications drill scenario, let your mock media team know that testing the security team is an important part of the drill. Your mock media team should be reasonably assertive without being aggressive with the security personnel.

crisisdrillgerardbraud2The goal is to record on video tape what the guards do and say. Guards generally all do the same thing. Some instinctively say, “No comment.” Others verbally and forcefully tell the mock media that they cannot be on the site or that they will be arrested, even when the mock media are standing safely and legally on the public right of way. Many security guards feel a need to put their hands on the camera lens to block the view of the camera. Some try to physically push and escort mock reporters away.

It is somewhat comical from my standpoint because they do all the things they’ve ever seen other guards do in any bad television situation.

Security guards often are the proverbial worst first impression. What they say can and will be used against them in the court of public opinion.

Such behavior sends a message to the public that the company has done something wrong and that they have something to hide.

Remember, if a drill is your opportunity to mess up in private, so behaviors can be addressed and corrected, challenging the security team in your drill is important.

Furthermore, a low-level media training class needs to be created to teach these guards how they appear to the public when they act inappropriately with the media. They must be taught to politely instruct the media where to park. Next guards must be taught how to ask the media for credentials and a business card so the appropriate media contact in the company can be called. The guards also need to be taught a verbal script. This may be, “How can I help you?” “If you’ll provide me with your media credentials and a business card I’ll be glad to call someone who can speak with you.”

Entergy drill Gerard Braud 1When the guards are asked casual questions by either real or mock reporters, they need to respond, “My responsibilities are confined to maintaining security at this entrance, but I’m sure someone from the company will be able to answer all of your questions shortly, so if you will, please bare with me while I tend to may assigned duties, you should be hearing from someone soon.”

It wouldn’t hurt to have a printed statement at the entrance for the guard to hand out.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Make sure your security guards make a good first impression and that they are included in every crisis communications drill.

 

One Month After Sandy Hook: Effective Crisis Communications In Critical Times

One Month After Sandy Hook: Effective Crisis Communications In Critical Times By Gerard Braud

(Free conference call Monday, January 14, 2013 REGISTRATION IS FREE TO ALL)

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut will raise many questions about school safety and gun control. What will it not do? The Sandy Hook shooting will likely not raise any discussions about effective crisis communications, although it should.

As television viewers, we see the coverage, but most people don’t realize that such a crisis immediately brings 500 media outlets and approximately 2,500 people to your town and to your front door, all with questions they want you to answer now.

Why no attention to communications? Schools will review emergency procedures. School safety consultants will call for more security measures. Companies that sell school text messaging systems will be in full sales mode. But few if any schools or school systems will do anything to prepare for the day when they might have to communicate with parents and the media about a tragedy at their own school.

The sad reality is that school shootings and workplace violence happens all too often. If you are the leader of a school or company, or the designated spokesperson, examine whether you are prepared to flawlessly and effectively communicate amid chaos, trauma and grief. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine if you had a personal relationship with any of these victims. Now imagine trying to talk with parents or loved ones to break the bad news, then respond to hundreds of media calls, while dealing with your own personal grief.

The worst time to deal with crisis communications is during the crisis. The best time to address all of these issues is on a clear sunny day.

As it relates to tragic shootings in schools, be aware of these realities:

• A text messaging system is not the same as a Crisis Communications Plan. A text messaging system is only a notification system. Your text messaging system may save lives on a college campus when you can warn students to take cover from an active shooter. But when those texts are going to parents, a text sent too soon will lead to panic with potentially thousands of parents attempting to reach the school. This traffic jam then keeps emergency responders from reaching the scene. A text messaging system is notification; it is not communications.

• If you are unfortunate enough to experience a shooting at your school or workplace, you can be assured the media will be on the scene in greater numbers and nearly as quickly as emergency responders. You have an obligation to speak to them within one hour of the onset of the crisis, regardless of how tragic and personal the event is. For that reason, on a clear sunny day you should write the statements you will say to the media, parents, employees or any other stakeholders. You must successfully use three types of sentences in such a pre-written statement, which would include 1) fill in the blank statements, 2) multiple choice statements, and 3) declarative statements that are true today and will still be true on the day of the crisis.  I’ve successfully used this system in every Crisis Communications Plan I’ve ever written. On the day of your crisis, your template can be customized for release within 10 minutes. This message should then be shared simultaneously with all audiences, including communications to the media, e-mail, the web, social media, employee meetings and with all stakeholders. No audience should be told anything that is not told to all audiences.

• Denial and ignorance are the greatest evils that keep organizations from writing an effective Crisis Communications Plans. Denial means many will never take this step because they don’t believe they will fall victim to such a tragedy, although they may spend money for all sorts of security measures and text messaging systems. Ignorance means they simply think that having a text messaging system, a public address system and a plan for a fire drill are enough. You will forever be judged by your ability to communicate effectively.

• Do not summarily dismiss your responsibility to communicate and defer all communications to law enforcement.  Some law enforcement officials are effective communicators and some are shamefully bad. Furthermore, their comments should only be about the crime, crime scene and the investigation. Your job is to communicate on behalf of your institution. Your job is to be the face and voice of comfort to those you know so well and with whom you share a bond and grief.

• Leaders will quickly second guess every decision and every word during a crisis. That is why all communications decisions and all words that will be spoken should be determined on a clear sunny day. Most Crisis Communications Plans state only vague policy and procedures without definitive timetables or job assignments. Most Crisis Communications Plans fail to have a bountiful addendum of pre-written statements and news releases. By my standards, if I can identify 100 potential crisis scenarios, then on a clear sunny day, I can and will write 100 pre-written and pre-approved news release templates.

• Stay in close touch with members of your Crisis Management Team. Each team member is running their own team, be it emergency response and incident command or communications. Meeting in person is best, but you should never delay meeting because you are not all physically present. Opt to use conference call technology to hold virtual meetings when necessary.

• The perfect Crisis Communications Plan should outline in great detail every decision that must be made in order to effectively communicate. The plan must be written in chronological order so that in one hour or less you can successfully gather all of the facts known at that time, confer with fellow decision makers, then issue your first statement to the media and all other stakeholders. Your plan must be so perfect and thorough that no steps are left out, yet easy enough to execute that in the worse case scenario, it can be effectively executed even by an untrained communicator.

• Many leaders fail to communicate in a timely manner because they are waiting for all of the facts to be known before they say anything. This is a bad strategy. Speaking early helps eliminate rumors and helps to gain the public’s trust. It is better to communicate a little than to say nothing. You need two types of pre-written statements. The first statement gives only the most basic information and is void of many of the hard facts, which are usually not yet known in the first hour of a crisis. In my plans, this is known as the First Critical Statement. Some organizations call these holding statements.

Such a fill-in-the-blank statement should acknowledge to the world and the media that the event has happened and that you are gathering more information which you will share within the second hour of your crisis.

The second hour statement is a more detailed statement that fills in the blanks to many of the facts that were not given in your First Critical Statement. This statement should be written on a clear sunny day, when you are not under emotional distress. This is the type of statement I referenced above. To achieve this you must successfully use three types of sentences in such a pre-written statement, which would include 1) fill in the blank statements, 2) multiple choice statements, and 3) declarative statements that are true today and will still be true on the day of the crisis.

• Communicate quickly, especially in a college or high school situation where an active shooter is present. During the Virginia Tech shooting, the university had a woefully inadequate Crisis Communications Plan, which is sadly still used by an enormous number of universities. Furthermore, when the first two students were killed, school officials were slow to communicate. Two hours after the initial shooting, the gunman shot 30 more people. The university, meanwhile, had still not communicated the events and dangers from the initial event. In addition to the sad deaths of 32 people, extensive fines and court damages have been levied against Virginia Tech for their failure to adequately issue communications that could have saved lives.

• Never get frustrated because you think reporters are asking stupid questions during a news conference. The questions get dumber when you fail to communicate quickly. On a clear sunny day you can actually make a list of all of the questions you think you might get asked by reporters in any given crisis event. Once you have written all of these potential questions, you can effectively write news release templates that will sequentially answer each anticipated question, beginning with who, what, when, where, why and how. You can also successfully write answers that deflect speculative questions, which are the specific questions that so many spokespeople and law enforcement officers consider to be stupid. I can promise you are going to be asked, “why do you think this happened.” You also know that in the early stages of the crisis you will not know the answer. But don’t get frustrated and angry.  On a clear sunny day write a benign answer and have it ready in your news release templates. All of my pre-written statements contain this phrase: “One cannot speculate on why a violent individual would commit such an act. We will have to wait for our investigation to tell us that.”

• When you have your emergency drills, enhance those drills by including mock media and mock news conferences, complete with video cameras. Never use real media for these drills. During your drill you can test your skills, your Crisis Communications Plan and your pre-written statements all on the same day.

• Social media in such a crisis may do more harm than good. As a communications vehicle, social media is a tool and it should never be substituted for talking to the media, talking to employees, posting to the web and communicating to stakeholders via e-mail. All of these tried and true techniques should be used before Facebook and Twitter. YouTube should be your first social media option, followed by links on Facebook and Twitter to your primary website and your YouTube videos. My experience and research shows that Twitter is especially problematic, because well meaning, yet ill informed people, will re-tweet old tweets as though the shooting is still under way, causing undue panic. Once a shooting is over you must tweet an all clear message repeatedly for several hours, complete with links to your primary website where you must post the latest information.

• Do not delay in writing your Crisis Communications Plan. Twice this year I was contacted by organizations that wanted to write their Crisis Communications Plan “within the next 6 months.” Both had shooting fatalities in the workplace before they “ever got around” to writing their plan. One experienced a triple shooting with a double murder and suicide within 12 hours of calling me.

Please realize that the question should not be if you should have a Crisis Communications Plan, but how soon can you have one. Every organization must be prepared to effectively communicate in critical times.

About the author: Gerard Braud is known as the guy to call “When ‘It’ Hits the Fan.” He is an expert in writing Crisis Communications Plan and Media Training, and has practiced his craft on five continents. He has developed a unique workshop that allows multiple organizations to write and complete an entire Crisis Communications Plan in just 2 days, using his proprietary message writing system. You can reach him at gerard@braudcommunications.com  www.braudcommunications.com  www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com
Amid the heartbreak of every tragic shooting we always hear, “No one every thought it would happen here.” The “never happen here” attitude creates huge problems, leaving schools, businesses and communities unprepared – whether it is a tragic shooting at a school, a theater, a mall or your workplace.

It is heart breaking to have to address these concerns during this holiday season, but such is the reality of our world today.

CommPro.Biz has asked global crisis communication expert Gerard Braud to offer a free conference call and conversation to guide us through the steps every school, community and business should be prepared to take when the unthinkable happens.

REGISTRATION IS FREE TO ALL

http://www.commpro.biz/green-room/the-sandy-hook-tragedy-effective-communications-in-critical-times/

Please share via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail with your child’s school leadership, with community leaders and with leaders in your organization.


In this conversation we will discuss:

• Why this tragedy will lead so many institutions to do absolutely nothing

• Tragic flaws in the conventional wisdom about crisis communications

• Social Media’s upside and downside in a crisis

• Tried and true techniques that everyone must be prepared to undertake

• How leaders fail to lead while throwing up roadblocks


 

After Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting: What Should My School Tell Parents About School Safety?

Parents are asking, “What are you doing to protect the safety of my child at school?” “What can be done to prevent a school shooting at my child’s school?” Many are asking for comfort; and in some cases, they want to hear an answer that satisfies their emotional needs. But weigh carefully whether your emotional answer is a lie or whether you should share what may be a more harsh, yet realistic explanation of today’s realities and the real roll parents can play in preventing the next school shooting. Any of you have my permission to use parts or all of the text below as a free resource to communicate with parents about school safety. If you’d like to discuss it, please call me.

A Letter to Our Parents

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary raises many questions and concerns for parents, including questions about safety and procedures. Please be aware that we love your children and our goal is to educate and nourish them in a safe environment every day.

Schools routinely turn to experts in psychology, emergency response and risk management to learn the best practices for addressing concerns about safety. We’ll address each of these, including the role emotions play in coping with such a crisis as well as fears about such a crisis at our own school.

Emotions: Each of us has a unique DNA and emotional response to such tragedies. Some of us will hug our children a little longer, some will shed tears, some will accept the reality of today’s society and many will ask if everything humanly possible is being done to keep their child safe. We ask that you carefully weigh your emotional fears with the reality of what can and cannot be controlled in today’s society.

Risk Management: Safety begins in the less emotional world of risk management. In terms of risk management, recognize that Sandy Hook Elementary was a well fortified school with significant security measures, including locked doors, security cameras, buzzers that let visitors enter the building and much more. By all practical standards, the school had done all that it could. Yet in this case, the gunman, intent on committing a violent act, shot his way through windows in order to bypass all of the security measures. The lesson here is that someone intent upon doing harm was able to blast his way into the building and the classrooms. Adding more layers of security, whether it is metal detectors, security guards, limited entries, high fences, and the like cannot eliminate the risk. In many cases, they create an atmosphere and impression of safety. Experts will remind us that we have locks on our doors at home to make us feel safe, yet thieves often penetrate them. The sad reality is that a criminal or mentally ill person intent on harming either teachers or children also has access to them by shooting through windows or shooting onto a crowded playground through a fence. In recent weeks we’ve seen mass shootings at movie theatres and shopping malls.

In reality, these events have less to do with safety procedures and more to do with the mental state of the violent individual.

Much like airline crashes, school shootings get a lot of attention because they are so tragic. But the reality is, based on the number of schools in America, the actual number of incidents and the risk of such an incident happening at your school is low. Furthermore, it is quite likely impossible to have enough security to prevent a violent act at a school, mall or theater.

From the perspective of safety, the automobile you and your child ride to school in creates a far greater risk of danger. The danger is increased for those who wake-up late and don’t get out of the door on time, causing the driving parent to exceed the speed limit, speed through traffic lights or ignore stop signs. Amazingly, we each have more of a direct impact on the safety of our children each school day than the many safeguards in place at many schools.

Emergency Response: From an emergency response perspective, most schools have already worked with their police departments to quickly respond to an active shooter. We pray we never have to deal with such an event, but we have already coordinated these procedures with our city, parish and state police.

Our own safety measures currently involve a high fence around the entire property and only one entry door to the elementary building and one entry door to the pre-school. We will consider whether other measures should be taken, what suggestions you may have, and the practical aspect of what additional measures will cost and whether additional measures truly create a safer environment.

Psychology:  We cannot address the violence without addressing psychology, and things that each of us has the ability to address in multiple ways. Even if no one in your home is clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, here are some things to consider:

Behavior: If you notice strange behavior in your child, another child, in an adult friend or in your spouse, please inform the right people. A private conversation with a school counselor or principal is the right place to start. Seeking professional treatment is important.

Medications: If your child suffers is on any regular medication for any reason or if your child suffers from various ailments that might affect his or her behavior, speak with your doctor and keep you children on their proper medications.

Home environment: In today’s society, family struggles and marital conflicts are common. Please work to create and environment of harmony in your home. Please be conscious of things you say in front of your children and the tone of voice you use. Verbal anger in front of children is not acceptable, yet unconsciously it happens in many homes. For those of you struggling with divorce or separation, we encourage you to remain civil in the presence of your children and seek professional counseling for difficult discussions. Do not belittle your spouse in the presence of your children. We also encourage you to recognize that your children should never be used pawns, treated like property, or used as a bargaining chip in the divorce proceedings. You’ve been blessed with precious little lives. Please do not let your anger and trauma be transferred to these impressionable young lives.

Video games and television violence: There are many discussions about whether shooting rampages at schools, theaters and malls are affected by violent television or violent video games. We would, however, encourage you to not expose your children to video games and television programs that are filled with gun violence. Learn to tell your children no when they ask for these games or when you catch them watching inappropriate television. Exposure to violence through games and television is believed to make such behaviors more acceptable in the minds of children, even to the extent that some children are unable to distinguish between games and actual violence.

Secure your guns: The gun debate will be renewed because of this shooting, but the reality is guns are already prolific in our society. If you have guns in your home, please secure them in such a way that your children are unable to access them. They should be locked in a solid metal gun safe with a combination or key lock that cannot be accessed by your children. A glass display case is an unsecure case. A gun in a dresser or nightstand drawer is a potential tragedy waiting to happen.

Regardless of your position on gun control or gun freedom, we know that violence exist where anger and emotional instability rage. Just recently a school experienced the death of two faculty members who were killed with a bow and arrow at the hands of a son who was upset with his father. The son then killed himself in the school with a hunting knife.

Please be aware that we love your children and our goal is to educate and nourish them in a safe environment every day. We pledge to do our part in the process, but we also ask you to be our partners in keeping our schools and our children safe.

 

Write and Complete a World-Class Crisis Communications Plan in the Two Most Intense and Productive Two Days of Your Career

Join Global Crisis Communications Expert Gerard Braud in Denver, CO

October 29 & 30, 2012

Save Time – Save Money – Save Lives

Watch this video on YouTube via this link

Watch the video in your browser below by clicking on the image

You need a Crisis Communications Plan, but you don’t have time to write one on your own or you know you don’t have the expertise to do it correctly. You need a Crisis Communication Plan, but every price you’ve gotten from an agency is expensive and outside of your budget.

You need help. We have the solution.

Only Gerard Braud offers this intense 2-day program that generates his exclusive, world renowned Crisis Communications Plan, used around the world by corporations, non-profits and government agencies.

You bring your team of writers and Gerard Braud will provide you with the most amazingly designed communication documents. You and your team of writers will customize your plan under his personal supervision.

You’ll leave the workshop not with theory, but with a finished document.

You could struggle on your own and after a year of work never create a Crisis Communications Plan that is this well thought out and perfect for every crisis.

You could hire an agency and spend more than $100,000 and not achieve the same level of success.

Your cost to attend this amazing workshop is just $7,995 per company/organization.

For one corporate price, you are invited to bring up to 6 writers to participate in the 2-day process of customizing your company’s new plan.

This isn’t touchy-feely collaboration. This is you and your team locked in a room for 2 days getting real work done without distractions.

This is going from your “to-do list” to your “done list.”

This is going from “I wish we had” to “we did it.”

Size & Price Matter

Many organizations spend 6 months and $25,000 to $100,000 to create a six page plan that will fail them every time, which is the document on the left side of this photo. In just 2 days we create the document you see on the right. It is 3 inches thick and full of everything you need to do and say in a crisis.

Register before Monday, October 15, 2012 and receive an immediate $500 discount.

Earn an additional $500 discount for each additional company that you recruit to join us for the 2-day workshop.

For registration details, call Gerard Braud at 985-624-9976.

Can’t Make These Dates?

Call us to discuss your options.

About Your Instructor

Known as the guy to call when “it” hits the fan, Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) is an expert in crisis communications and media issues. He is an international trainer, author and speaker, who has revolutionized crisis communications for organizations on five continents.

Versed in the daily struggles of corporations, non-profits and government agencies, Gerard developed this exclusive 2-day workshop as a remedy to cries of “we don’t have time to do it on our own” and “we can’t afford to hire an agency.”

Only Gerard Braud bridges the gap by offering an affordable alternative in a time frame that fits everyone’s schedule and budget.

What’s his secret? As a senior communicator with more than 30 years experience as a journalist and a corporate communicator, Gerard has been on the front line of crises his entire career. He has invested more than 1,500 hours of time into capturing the most perfect behaviors any communicator could dream of… and he’s put it into a sequential plan. It is a plan so thorough that nothing is left out, yet a plan so perfectly organized that it can be successfully executed by anyone who can read, regardless of their job title or communication experience.

What You Need to Bring

  • A laptop for each writer
  • 6 of your best writers
  • Specific documents you will be asked to prepare in advance.

For full details and answers to all of your questions, call 985-624-9976 or email gerard@braudcommunications.com

The Fine Print: Each Crisis Communications Plan is the intellectual property of Diversified Media, LLC, dba Gerard Braud Communications. As such, your organization is technically purchasing a license to use the plan. Your organization is granted rights to use the plan, but it remains the copyright product of Gerard Braud Communications. As such, you are prohibited from ever sharing your plan with anyone who is not an employee of your organization.

NIMS Misinformation Alert: Media Training & Crisis Communications Plans, NIMS, Emergency Communications & More from Gerard Braud

Big warning on the BraudCast today.
Big warning as we commemorate September 11th.
Big warning as we remember August 29th, the recent anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Big warning as your kids go back to school.
Big warning for all executives.
Big warning for everyone in public relations.

Why all the warnings?

After September 11th and Hurricane Katrina the Federal government launched a massive emergency communications effort. However, these efforts have little, or anything, to do with PR people communicating with the media, employees and other key stakeholders.

The reason I issue the warning is that many schools, government agencies, hospitals and companies are not doing what they are supposed to be doing… and many executives, government leaders, hospital administrators and school leaders think they now have all the communications tools they need.

They are so wrong.

All of these emergency communications efforts deal with the radio systems that allow first responders to talk with one another during a crisis. RADIO SYSTEMS.

They have nothing to do with communicating the written and spoken word with your core audiences.

Many school systems and many law enforcement agencies around the country spent the summer rolling out what are known as NIMS Emergency Plans. In the program, government buildings and school buildings have all been given special numbers to identify them during an emergency.

One PR person recently told me her boss said he no longer needed Media Training because if there was a disaster, the FBI would be their spokesperson. Another executive stopped a PR department from working on their Crisis Communications Plan because they were part of the new Federal Emergency Communications System.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It frightens me what executives know, what they think they know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t know they don’t know.

For clarification, yes, executives and administrators still need Media Training because in a crisis, they still need to talk to the media, employees and other key audiences. In schools, that means the training needs to include talking with students, parents, faculty and staff. In a hospital it means talking with patients and their families. In a company it means talking with customers as well as the media and employees.

If your event involves first responders, they DO NOT become your spokesperson. Their interest is different than your interest. If a Joint Information Command is set up for news conferences, your spokespeople talk about what you know, while the responders and law enforcement talk about what they know.

Additionally, every organization needs its own Crisis Communications Plan in addition to any NIMS plan, Incident Command plan or Emergency Operations Plan. Those plans ONLY coordinate responders arriving in a timely manner and talking to one another through secure radio systems. They DO NOT include instructions for your written and spoken communications to your audiences. They DO NOT include all of the dozens of pre-written news releases that your crisis communications plan should contain.

I’ve posted new resources in the definitions section of 2 websites, including:
www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com and www.schoolcrisisplan.com

Please forward these to your leadership to educate them.
Please forward the link to the podcast to educate them.

As you can tell, I’m passionate about this and I’m concerned about the misinformation and misconceptions that is out there. Your own Media Training and your own Crisis Communications Plan can save lives through communications prior to a natural disaster, such as communicating evacuations for a hurricane… and during a crisis, such as a school shooting or workplace violence event. You would be using your written and spoken communications skills long before first responders even get involved, while responders are on the scene, and long after they have left the scene.

Here’s today’s call to action. Meet with your leaders and discuss this with them. If your leadership won’t listen to you, I’ll be happy to talk with and explain it. I’m also happy to speak to any association conventions where your leaders may be in the audience. As PR professionals we need to stick together on this and educate our leaders and executives. I’ve updated my website at www.braudcommunications.com with a new keynote called Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan, specifically designed to address some of these issues.

Let’s work on this together. After all, it is our job as strategic communications professionals.

Here is your link to listen to today’s BraudCast.

Here is your link to sign up for FREE.