The Doctor of Crisis Communications

Crisis communications doctor gerard braudIf you were a smoker and your doctor told you to stop or you would die of cancer, would you stop?

If you had diabetes and your doctor told you to change your diet so you don’t die, would you change?

Amazingly, there are people every day who ignore the advice of an expert and do the wrong thing. Some are stubborn. Some are in denial. Some just magically hope the problem will go away.

I’m watching two crisis communications patients die right now. As their doctor of crisis communications I submitted to each a plan of action that they could have taken long ago, when the early warning signs of a crisis were on the horizon. Both are major smoldering crises on the brink of igniting.

Time was on the side of each patient 60 days ago when they first contacted me. Time is now their enemy because the flash point has arrived and the media are writing stories on each. No messaging has been written. No news releases created. No media training has been conducted.

A doctor can’t miraculously cure cancer in a patient that has refused to listen to expert medical advice. Likewise, we in public relations are called upon too often to make miracles happen. We can’t always do it.

I could try to save each of these patients, but I know the effect of the communications we would do so late would be about 1/6th as effective as what was originally suggested. I know that this marginal benefit would cost them much more than the original plan, with less than satisfactory results. I don’t know that I want my name associated with a marginal response that lacks planning and execution.

Persuading audiences, engaging employees and communicating to the media takes time. Strategies are best done on a clear sunny day. Media training and writing a crisis communications plan should have been done weeks ago.

In one case, an organization will face very expensive legal bills and payouts. Their reputation will be damaged. People will likely get fired.

In another case, lawsuits will likely be filed, the institutions reputation will be damaged, I predict their revenue will fall, and there will be an employee revolt. The best employees will quit and go to work for their competition. Many angry employees will remain on the job, polluting the human resources culture for a decade or more. In the process, customer service will suffer, leading to a greater loss in revenue. This institution may also get gobbled up by a competitor as the value of the company drops.

Why do people ask for advice and ignore it? Who knows? They just do.

By Gerard Braud

Ebola School Crisis Communications Lesson: Ask for Help

school ebola 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 my 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 school administrators and leadership team will respect you for telling the truth and knowing that your truth may save the reputation and revenue of your school or university.

The field of communications is misunderstood, even by school leaders. Many school administrators hire one person to manage their image. They expect publicity. Often the president will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Sadly, many with an MEd or PhD 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. The reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most administrators, 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 school’s reputation and revenue.

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

Free Webinar Recording Ebola Crisis Communication-1Ask for help.

If you’d like some FREE help, please listen to this free webinar recording that explores what you need to do today to prepare for your possible Ebola communications tomorrow.

– By Gerard Braud

 

Ebola Crisis Communication Planning and Crisis Management Planning for Schools and Universities

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudShould your school or university begin getting your Ebola crisis communications plan and crisis management plan in place now? Some will think, “It is too soon.” But as one school in Dallas has discovered, an educational institution can become part of the Ebola crisis without warning.

If you are an administrator, a public relations professional, or a crisis management professional, NOW is the time to realize Crisis communication workshop gerard braudthat it only takes one case of Ebola to be associated with your institution for a world of media attention to descend upon you. Along with media scrutiny and hysteria, you will also have to deal with the online social media trolls. If you skip a beat… if you hesitate… if you are just slightly behind the story or the crisis, the institution you are associated with is treated like a 19th century leaper – no one wants to have anything to do with you. It becomes the ultimate crisis, defined by complete harm to your reputation and revenue.

Examine the case in Texas, in which Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The airline, the TSA, the Boarder Patrol, the hospital, the apartment complex, the sheriff’s department, and the victim’s church, the school system, the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Governor, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas County Coroner, and the mortuary that cremated his body are all suddenly players having to communicate about some aspect of this crisis. That means fourteen entities that were far removed from the crisis a few days ago are suddenly thrust into the crisis. Fourteen people, if not more, suddenly need to be a spokesperson about their portion of this crisis. Each suddenly needs a crisis communications expert. Even Louise Troh, Duncan’s longtime partner, has retained a public relations firm to speak on her behalf.

The piece-meal communications I’ve seen indicates that each of these entities are having to develop their crisis communication strategy on the fly. If they have a crisis communications plan, it appears none were updated prior to the crisis to address Ebola. In other instances, it is clear that no crisis communication plan exists, which is the reality for many organizations. And experience in reviewing a vast number of documents that public relations people call their crisis communication plan has proven that generally the document they call a crisis communications plan is woefully inadequate and in no way meets the criteria of a document that would guide and manage communications in a crisis.

Could your school or university suddenly be a small part of this bigger story? You bet.

Are the odds low? Maybe yes, maybe no?

Could that change quickly because of variables beyond your control? Absolutely.

Is the risk high enough that you should invest time and money to prepare? The vast majority of organizations say no, because they are in denial about how real the potential threat is. Yet it is a fool’s bet to stay unprepared, when the act of preparing can be done quickly and affordably. Furthermore, when done correctly, you can develop a crisis communications plan that will serve you for Ebola, as well as hundreds of other crises you may face in the future.

Is this line of thought logical? In my world it is very logical. I believe in being prepared. Yet experience tells me that this thought process will be rejected by the vast majority of you reading this and the vast majority of leaders and executives who run corporations, hospitals, non-profit organizations, schools, and small businesses. Human denial is a stronger power than the power to accept a simple option to prepare.

“We don’t need to worry about that,” is easier to say than, “Let’s get a team on this to prepare. The chances are slim, but if it happens it could damage our reputation forever.”

“Forever?” Is that too strong of a suggestion? Well, two weeks ago the Ivy Apartments in Dallas were a thriving, profitable business. Do you think anyone wants to move into those apartments after an Ebola victim has been there? Do you think existing residents will stay? The owners are already feeling the symptoms of damage to reputation and revenue.

Based on my crisis management and crisis communication experience, don’t be surprised if you see the Ivy Apartment complex bulldozed and the land left vacant for a time, all because they were, through no fault of their own, associated with a global crisis beyond their control. Could the same happen to a school? I think so.

What are the odds? Very small.

What is the reality? It could happen without warning.

Are you willing to roll the dice if you are an administrator? Are you ready to roll the dice if you are the public relations expert?

“Better safe than sorry,” is my suggested approach. Yet, “That won’t happen to us,” or “The chances of that happening to us is so small it isn’t worth out time and effort,” is what the vast majority of institutions will think or say.

In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.

I’m available to answer your questions on this issue. Call me at 985-624-9976.

 

- Gerard Braud

4 Crisis Communications Lessons for Schools and Universities as the NFL Management Struggles with the Ray Rice Smoldering Crisis

rayrice apBy Gerard Braud

A school or university can face a crisis in their athletic departments in the same way the NFL faces a sports crisis this week.

Do you have a school crisis communications plan to address a sports or athletic crisis?

Study the NFL crisis and consider how communications could and has affected this crisis. For example, 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 school 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 saying they have been unable 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, according to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. 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. Or, if reporting by the Associated Press is correct, the NFL had the incriminating video, but perhaps failed to take stronger action until that video went public.

On the plus side, 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 feels betrayed and 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 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.

Already people are 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 school officials might not want to know or what the school administrators know but have not told you.

2) The PR team must also look for school administrators who are in denial. Denial is characterized by the administrative 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 school 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 school as anything that can affect both the reputation and revenue of the organization. The loss of votes on a tax issue for schools is a reflection of revenue loss for a school. 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 schools, 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 school crisis please give me a call at 985-624-9976.

 

3 Secrets to Undervaluing a Crisis Communication Plan

By Gerard Braud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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?

How to Write a School Crisis Communication Plan?

By Gerard Braud

How to write a school or university crisis communication plan? That is a PR question asked daily by school and university communicators.

The question we should be asking is when will you write your school or university crisis communications plan? The answer is now and the solution is here. As soon as July 14-15, 2014, you could have a completed crisis communication plan. You’ll read more below.

Pause for a moment to think that 74 school shootings have happened since Sandy Hook in December 2012. Meanwhile, in the wake of this week’s Oregon school shooting, President Obama says “this is becoming the norm.”

Gerard Braud Crisis Communications PlanYet many schools and universities do not have a plan that will stand up to today’s social media or mainstream media needs. Most have a 6-10 page document as you see on the left of this photo. The school crisis communication plan you will get will look like the 3 inch thick binder on the right of the photo.

How about I show you how to write a crisis communications plan? How about we do it together? How about we take my 20 years of crisis communications plan templates and customize them so they work perfectly for your school? How about when we finish, I will have revealed every one of my crisis communications plans secrets in just two days and you will have a crisis communications plan that works in every possible crisis you could face?

This is your invitation to a Crisis Communications Plan Writing Program. This is not your ordinary crisis communication workshop where you learn crisis communication theory. This is a program where the goal and end result is to write and complete your crisis communication plan.

The program will be in my hometown of New Orleans this summer. I’ll repeat the program twice in one week. If you can’t attend on the dates that are scheduled, just call me and I will arrange to bring the program either to your town or directly to your school.

On July 14-15, 2014, the program is open to all types of businesses, schools, and universities. On July 17-18, 2014, the program is open just to Rural Electric Cooperatives.

The deliverables include:

1) A full assessment of the vulnerabilities that could lead to a crisis for your school.

2) Customization and completion of a world-class crisis communications plan that will work in any type of crisis you face. The plan is approximately 50 pages long and contains all of my proprietary crisis communications plan features.

3) A library of more than 60 pre-written news releases and instructions on how to write additional news releases so your library is customized for your specific needs.

Click image to watch movie

Click image to watch movie

Is there a catch? Not really. In exchange for me turning over my life’s work for the past 20 years to you I ask only one thing. I ask that you don’t give it away or share it with anyone who has not paid to use it. To participate, your school will sign a licensing agreement – just like you do for software and other intellectual property. The license says that your school gets to have a license to use the intellectual property forever, but I retain ownership to the intellectual property. This is not a work for hire project, which would cost you about $100,000 and take a year of collaboration. The program and licensing agreement are designed this way because it makes it a far less expensive option for you.

Okay, you say, so what is the price?

For you and two of your colleagues to attend this program – that’s correct – I want you to bring a team of people to work on this – The base price $7,995 for a lifetime  license. However, savings of $1,000 to $2,000 per organization may be available as the size of the class grows, which is why it benefits you to sign up and invite friends from other companies to join you. I’ll tell you more about it all if you phone me at 985-624-9976.

The price really isn’t for you to attend the program. The fee is really for the license. For all practical purposes, the customization program is essentially free for you to attend if you purchase one of the licenses.

Will you join me? Call me at 985-624-9976 so we can discuss it.

 

Breaking News: McNair School Shooting in DeKalb County, Georgia: Lessons in Crisis Communication

We interrupt this blog with Breaking News. A school shooting at McNair Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia is sadly duplicating the same crisis communication failures that we began to outline in this morning’s article and the serious written and awaiting posts in the coming days.

Our goal is not to belittle this school or the DeKalb County schools. Our goal is to have all schools and school districts wake up and adopt crisis communications plans and modern communications techniques. News about a school shooting must come from the school with great effort. Schools must not relegate information to the media, who will speculate about what they don’t know. Schools must not let social media go wild with panic and speculation.

Here is a breakdown of how information is and is not flowing about this shooting, just as it has in many other school shootings:

News helicopters hover with overhead images:
Chapper2

The DeKalb County School website has NO information about the shooting. Within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis, the county should be posting truthful, honest information about this crisis.

DeKalbWebsite

Eyewitnesses post iPhone video.

Online news organizations repost the iPhone video.

McNairCh2iPhoneVideo

Twitter information about the school comes from observers and the media.

McNairiPhoneCh2

McNairTwitter1

There are no Twitter updates from DeKalb County Schools. In fact, DeKalb hasn’t posted to their Twitter page since July 3. Today is August 20, 2013. Ideally, they should have a short Tweet with a link back to their official website.

DeKalbTwitter

The DeKalb Facebook page only gloats about happy news, ignoring this as a viable way to send timely and accurate information to the public. Ideally, they should have a short post with a link back to their official website.

DeKalbFaceBook

Parents are being interviewed by the media, expressing their fears and frustrations. Police are trying to manage frustrated parents at a time when school officials should be managing this task.

Parentsw:Cops

Read these Tweets to hear the frustration of parents amid the lack of official information from school officials.

TweetParent1

TwitterParent2

So far… now in our third hour, we’ve seen no sign of a news conference from the DeKalb County School system. We do know the superintendent has spoken to parents at an area where children are being taken.

The bottom line is, it is time for educators and the education establishment to get educated about crisis communications. If you were being graded on this today, you would receive and F in communication, like so many other schools before you.

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.