Yikes! Ike’s Ad Libs & Bad Libs

By Gerard Braud


As  Hurricane Ike   takes aim at Houston, it’s time to bestow awards upon 2 of the primary spokespeople and 1 of the constant heroes.

Texas Governor Rick Perry wins the award for the best al lib quote this week. As he was questioned about early evacuation plans in advance of the approaching Ike, he said, “I’d rather be moving in buses than moving out body bags.”

That is the type of brilliant quote that drives home the severity to citizens.

• It’s a well worded way of saying get out or die.

• He creates a great compare and contrast statement.

• He incorporates alliteration with “buses” and “body bags.”

In contrast, the award for the biggest bad lib goes once again to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. During hurricane Gustav I clearly stated that Ray Nagin is an idiot. He further proves my point with his latest quote.

Last night, as Nagin invited Houston residents to evacuate to New Orleans, he told the media Houston residents should call hotels in New Orleans and, “ask for the Ray Nagin special.”

Media immediately called hotels in New Orleans to find out if there was a special discount rate for Houston residents called the Ray Nagin special. The answer from every hotel was that there is no discount and they’ve never heard of a Ray Nagin special.

Once again, the mayor let his mouth get out of hand. (And have I mentioned, Ray Nagin is an idiot.) See the his Gustav blunders, please read my Gustav entry on this blog.

The award for the constant hero is the national weather service. They always state the danger exactly as it is. On the eve of Hurricane Katrina the national weather service issued a statement describing how cinder block buildings would collapse, how roofs would be ripped off of homes, how New Orleans would flood, how exposed cattle would die and how skin could be ripped from humans exposed to the wind and rain.  It painted a dire, yet accurate picture.

NBC Anchor Brian Williams talked extensively about how he received the warning on the eve of Katrina and thought it might be a hoax because it was so dire.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the weather service employee who issued the statement and asked him about the time, effort and thought he put into crafting the statement. To my delight, he told me it was a template.

When the wind speeds and weather conditions meet certain criteria, his computer automatically tells him which template to use.

I’ve used a template system for more than 12 years in the crisis communications I write. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to see the National Weather Service using templates as well. That’s because it saves time and allows you to communicate quickly.

A disaster like Ike is a great time to open a discussion where you work about the ability of your organization to communicate in a crisis. Make sure that you have spokespeople who have been through extensive media training so they sound perfect like Perry and never like Nagin. And now is the time to discuss whether you have a crisis communications plan filled with templates that will allow you to communicate quickly.

For a free copy of a template that I use in my crisis communications plans to quickly issue a statement in the very first hour of a crisis when information is very limited, you can visit http://www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com/  I’ve placed a link in the announcements block on the right side of the page. Enter the discount code for the free download. Do NOT enter a credit card number.

Remember, powerful communications before a crisis and rapid communications during a crisis has the ability to move people out of harm’s way.

For more help, just send an e-mail to me at gerard@braudcommunications.com