Write Your Own Crisis Communications Plan in Just 2 Days

By Gerard Braud

www.braudcommunications.com

Yes, it is true. I do have a system that lets you write and complete your crisis communications plan in only 2 days.

I’ll be hosting a 2 day program here in New Orleans on November 3-4, 2008.

If you are unable to make these dates, I can host a private or group program in your town. Just send an e-mail to me at gerard@braudcommunications.com Please put Crisis Communications in the subject line.

More details are available at these websites: www.schoolcrisisplan.com and www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com

Crisis Communications & Hurricane Gustav

Crisis Communications for a University or School is critical during a hurricane, such as Hurricane Gustav.

I’m shocked, however, at how poorly LSU is communicating with students. Baton Rouge is devastated by the storm, power is out and phone lines are down. Let’s share a few lessons from LSU in the hopes that your school or university can learn from their actions.

LSU, the 2008 National College Football Champions and the flagship school of Louisiana continues to be on my list that rhymes with hit but starts with an “s”.  Daddy Gerard Braud has a daughter at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Power will not be fully restored to Baton Rouge for 2-3 weeks. While the LSU website does have updates, the updates are slow in coming and cannot be seen by many of the 30,000 students because the students do NOT have electricity and internet access.

Furthermore, the LSU website says that if you do not have internet access, you can call a special phone number for updates. Problem one is students canNOT see the phone number because they do not have access to the web. Problem two is because phone lines are down, cell phone towers are down and phone circuits are over loaded, students are not able to call the LSU phone number to find out when classes resume or what emergency support is available to them.

I sent an e-mail to the school suggesting that they use their text messaging system to communicate with students. My daughter, who signed up for the emergency text messaging system, has yet to receive a single text message. This angers me, since in December of 2007 LSU had a double shooting on campus and their text messaging system failed then. It appears LSU still 1) has not worked out the kinks, 2) fails to use it, and/or 3) has failed to run an active campaign to get students signed up for the system. I give LSU the “Ray Nagin Leadership in Communications Award.”

Hats off to little Cedarwood School in Mandeville, Louisiana. They used their text messaging system early to inform parents of the school closure for the hurricane, they’ve updated their website on a regular basis, and they are using their text messaging system now and also using their website to inform parents about when the school will reopen. To my wife and Cedarwood School COO, the lovely and talented Cindy Braud, I give the, “Aren’t You glad You Married Me and We’re in This Disaster Together Despite My Many Other Faults” Award.

(If you are with a school or university and you are reading this, there are more free resources at:www.schoolcrisisplan.com )

Recap of the above is that high tech does not always beat low tech. Don’t be foolish. Make sure you have multiple systems for reaching your students and parents. And, make sure that like LSU, you don’t use your website to give people an emergency phone number that they can neither see nor reach.

Next, please make sure you practice “Crisis Communications in the Dark Ages.” There are many people in the disaster zones right now who have no power and therefore, no telephone. Their phone lines may still work to their homes, but because they only have cordless phones, the phones at their offices and homes do NOT work. Make sure you have an old style “slim line” style phone that plugs into a simple phone jack without having to be plugged into electricity. I have a great DVD set that covers much of this information. It is available for purchase at: www.braudcasting.com/DVDs.html

Also, many people in the disaster zones and evacuations zones cannot make a phone call on their cell phones. Some cannot because circuits are overloaded, or cell towers are down, or because they do not have a phone charger for their car. The two most important cell phone tips I have for you are to always carry a car charger with you and to PLEASE learn to text message. My daughter in Baton Rouge cannot make phone calls nor can she receive phone calls, but we are in constant communications because we can text message one another. Text messaging works when most other forms of communications fail.

Finally, every disaster is a great time to review your own crisis communications plan and crisis communications tools. Do it now. You may never face a hurricane, but you will face some other disaster of nature or man. The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Even Karl Marx noted that, “History repeats itself first as tragedy and secondly as farce.”

I’m glad to say that in the case of Hurricane Gustav, many in my areas did not repeat the farce of Hurricane Katrina and many did not repeat the problems of the past. However, there is still room for improvement.

Yours safely evacuated to Florida,

Gerard Braud (Jared Bro)

For more free resources on crisis communications and media relations, please visit:

www.braudcommunications.com

www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com

www.schoolcrisisplan.com

www.katrinalessons.com