JUST A THOUGHT
The Internet is the world's largest bathroom stall. You can write something, with no accountability, and just log off.
Comedian Jay Mohr
FROM THE EDITOR
Happy New Year to all; may the coming months bring you all much serenity and prosperity. Speaking of serenity, let's talk about some crises.
There's been a lot written about BP in the past year, but when I was offered a piece by a former BP communications pro who had been right in the thick of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I could hardly restrain my enthusiasm. Enjoy and learn from Neil Chapman's "Goodbye 2010 - Inside Deepwater."
Then, more prosaically, Mark Macias answers one of the most common questions received by anyone involved in online reputation management, "How do we deal with negative information that's upstaging us online?" or, as Mark calls it, "How to UnGoogle Yourself."
Finally, my collection of "miscellaneous stuff that didn't fit anywhere else" grew to a size that prompted me to give you a third article, "Bits and Pieces."
As always, if you like what you see, please share it with others by using the "Forward Email" link at the bottom of the ezine and tell them to subscribe! IMPORTANT NOTE: If you just "Forward" using your own email program's "Forward" function and your recipient thinks they're being spammed, they can click on the Opt Out link and opt YOU off the list. So use the "Forward Email" link, please.
My best to all,
GOODBYE 2010 - INSIDE DEEPWATER
By Neil A J Chapman
|Goodbye 2010. Last year saw different crises - the horrific Haiti earthquake, the ash cloud air chaos and snow muddle, both in the UK and US. Along with scores of communications professionals, I was caught up in the BP oil spill for too much of 2010.
|Neil A J Chapman |
Both a human and environmental disaster, the event was complex and extremely expensive in its emotional and economic toll. Any organisation facing an emergency or crisis would be wise to learn lessons from the incident, without the costs that befell BP.
Reports and inquiry testimony are readily available to study. BP has produced its own investigation report and a technical lessons learned document with accompanying DVD.
Many pundits have shared opinions about where BP went wrong and what it should have done. Here are some observations, that can point to where organisations might start to look for lessons relevant to them:
Readiness - an every day investment
In a crisis, time is precious, priorities key. Whatever the world thinks, BP was readier than many organisations. Meetings need a purpose, priorities established, decisions taken efficiently, communications clear and concise. All good skills and habits worth cultivating for every day business. But it takes training and practice.
Know the system
If outside agencies, especially emergency services, respond to a corporation's incident, it will likely be managed using an established response system with tried and tested procedures and protocols. Corporate responders - including senior management - need to be familiar with the system.
It's an on-line world
On-line is where most of the conversations and coverage about a crisis now occur. Corporate communicators who believe they should focus solely on traditional, mainstream media during a crisis - however demanding they are - will miss most of what is being said about them by default.
Social media smart
A crisis is not the time to learn the challenges and opportunities of social media such as You Tube, Twitter, Facebook etc. These channels can hurt and help at the same time. Corporate communicators need to be social media savvy, knowing when and how they can use these channels in a crisis. And tomorrow there will be a new one to learn about ...
A mobile world
As well as being on-line, the world carries the internet on its hip or in a purse. To reach key audiences on the go, corporate communicators cannot be hidebound by the technology they are permitted or know how to use.
To provide timely, accurate on-message information to the outside world as soon as possible across an organisation requires discipline to ensure it is shared effectively inside too. Information discipline gets harder over time, as people shift in and out or they are spread over geography and time zones. Has your organisation got a system other than email?
Plan for help
Chances are a corporate communications department will need extra people to cope with the tremendous information demand during a crisis. To bring them on-board takes time and effort, just when you need both for other priorities. Learn how to integrate extra resources quickly as well as how to coordinate with other agencies.
A corporate communications manual provides clear 'how to' instructions that save time and help integrate the 'new hands' an organisation needs. Have you got one?
Leaders - be hard, be soft
A crisis tests any leader's people skills. Responders need honest feedback, positive and negative. If something or someone isn't working, the problem has to be fixed quickly to keep the response on track. But at the same time, people need to be 'nurtured' when the going gets tough for them.
Beware of the toll
Crises wear people down. The strain can show up at work or at home. Relationships may break. Any corporation that sees its people as an important asset needs to provide effective employee support in a crisis. The first step is to make sure they are trained.
It's hard to see the writing on the wall with your back to it! It's too easy to get trapped into focusing on an immediate challenge - and not to look far enough ahead. A team, or someone, needs to be thinking long term from the outset.
Don't make it worse
Until the world thinks the crisis is fixed, there's a lot an organisation can say to make things worse for itself. Stay on message and talk 'actions, actions, actions'.
BP's crisis was the first energy industry disaster of the social media age. The result was that information - good and bad - traveled at an exceptionally fast rate, was dominated by digital and saw demand for it go through the roof. But some of the most effective communication took place face to face.
The communications landscape is now much, much broader than it was. Organisations - particularly corporate communicators - should take note and learn because 2011 will bring its own crop of crises.
Neil Chapman worked as the head of communications for BP's Refining and Marketing business until last year. He has 25+ years experience dealing with crises and difficult public affairs issues around the globe. For what BP called their "Deepwater Horizon Incident" he first ran the media room in the Unified Joint Information Center (he notes "we weren't the ones advising Hayward!"), then joined the JIC Management team, and when the Feds took over he was the liaison between BP and the JIC. He founded Alpha Voice Communications consultancy to focus on crisis communications readiness, presentation training and issues management. Go to: www.alphavoicecommunications.com to find out more.
HOW TO UNGOOGLE YOURSELF
By Mark Macias
Everyone likes to secretly Google himself, but what happens when Google turns up results you don't like? How do you get your name removed from the search engines when the material is damaging?
|Mark Macias |
An established New Jersey financial consultant woke up one morning to discover his reputable name was falsely accused of ethical violations. Making it worse, the writer never called Gottlob for a response. Gottlob first learned of the article three months after it was published when a client read it on the Internet and asked him about it.
These strong allegations can destroy nearly any person's business but in an industry built on trust - like the financial industry - the article nearly destroyed Gottlob's private practice.
Gottlob reached out to me to manage his crisis communications after he didn't get anywhere with the web publisher, Investment News. We applied several new strategies and within weeks, Investment News and its parent company, Crain Communications Inc., were in discussions to correct the article.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are several steps you can take to get the material removed from the Internet. Contrary to the popular saying, "the Internet is written in ink," it is possible to modify the record if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies.
Here are some of the strategies you can take if you find yourself in a similar crisis situation as Gottlob.
- Go after the power brokers or the people who finance the publication, which includes the publisher, city editors, Executive Producers, and most important: the legal counsel for the publication. Do a quick google to find out who owns the website or publication. Most people, like Gottlob, contact the writer when a negative article is published, but that's like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change. You need to complain to the people who control the money. Your letter to these power brokers needs to state why this article is inaccurate and most important, how the article has financially harmed your business. If you can't show any financial duress from the article, you won't succeed in the court of law or with the publisher.
- Understand the difference between libelous, slander and opinion. If a blogger writes that you smell, you can't take legal action to bring down the story. However, if the blogger writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you can. And you don't always need an attorney for this. Sometimes a strongly worded letter that outlines the bullet points from above is enough to get the publisher's attention.
- Don't wait. Go after the website's owners immediately. The longer the website is up, the more time search engines have to index the web page. Unfortunately, it took Gottlob several weeks to get ahold of the reporter and her superiors, which is sometimes the secret strategy many journalists take to diffuse the threat from any lawsuits. Google will stop indexing the website if you can prove the website displays private personal information like social security numbers, however you need to make a case to them if it involves other matters. You can find this page on google.
- Push the article off the first google page with new content. There is another strategy you can take to bury the article off of the first page from Google. You can accomplish this by writing your own blog or material and making sure it is indexed with the proper search engine optimazation.
- Once the page is removed, you need to write a letter to all the search engines to make sure the page is no longer indexed.
This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. If the article is false and inaccurate, don't be afraid to fight back. Just make sure you're not picking a fight over someone's opinion because luckily the First Amendment still protects us from that.
Mark Macias is a crisis communications consultant. He runs a TV production and PR company that has consulted restaurants, retailers, lounges and Congressional candidates, including one challenger who beat an incumbent. Macias also wrote the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. You can read excerpts at: www.BeatthePressBook.com.
BITS AND PIECES
By Jonathan Bernstein
- Bernstein Crisis Management celebrated its 17th birthday on 1/4/11. Thank you to my mentors at Ruder Finn, Grody-Tellem Communications (now Tellem PR) and Playboy Enterprises for teaching me about PR on the heels of my experience as a journalist and Army Intel guy. And thank you to my clients for your ongoing faith in our services.
- MUST READ, new Pew Report on where people get their news. If you're 18-29, it's going to be the Internet, and the Web is trending upwards as a news source for ALL ages. The personalized news streams available via Facebook, Twitter and other sources are part of the reason, but I think another is the decline in traditional media's credibility amongst anyone with an IQ over 80. I'm sure that there are some fine sharp reporters at every network, but the profit-driven mandates of their owners keep them muzzled.
- Crisis Managers should be interested in the annual West Coast Product Safety and Liability Conference March 9-10 in Los Angeles. Your editor is a speaker, so if you attend, please say "Hi!"
- Twitter users have been laboring under the illusion that their Tweets aren't as "find-able" as information posted elsewhere on the Internet. No more. Google is going to start indexing Tweets -- I predict some "embarrassment crises" coming out of that soon!
- If you're not already familiar with Quora, it's described as "a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it." Sort of a Wiki but specific to questions asked of your fellow members, who also list their expertise with regard to different topic areas. You can ask me anything about crisis management via my Quora page.
(aka blatant self-promotion)
Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Media Training
What has 80+ pages of hard-hitting, entertaining and easy-to-read guidance on how to deal with both traditional and online media during times of crisis? The answer is
Keeping the Wolves at Bay - Media Training.
The, four-color, perfect-bound, 8x10 manual is currently available both in hardcopy ($25) and PDF form ($10). Volume discounts are available; write to Jonathan Bernstein for that information.
Here's a couple of teaser reviews for you:
Jonathan Bernstein's Keeping the Wolves at Bay is an eminently practical guidance for anyone - business leader, celebrity, politician - who must willingly or unwillingly face the glare of media attention. It appears
at a moment in time when the social media and other digital communications have upped the ante exponentially.
Bernstein's practicum on media relations takes on renewed urgency as news, gossip, and opinion now drive
public perception virally and at the speed of light.
Richard Levick, Esq.
President & CEO
Levick Strategic Communications, LLC
Even if you think you'll never, ever be interviewed by the media, buy this book and read it cover to cover. It isn't a substitute for media training. But it will give you the tools and confidence to go head to head -- and possibly even defang -- rabid reporters, blood-thirsty bloggers and social networking buffoons who are out to besmirch your good name.
Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound
The book and other products can be found at the
Crisis Manager Bookstore
Want To Blog And Tweet About
Your Organization But Don't Have Time?
Missing out on all the promotional and SEO advantages of doing so? Hire someone to be your voice...like Erik Bernstein, aka "Son of Crisis Manager."
The Art of Celeste Mendelsohn
This has NOTHING to do with crisis management, but I have to brag on the launch of the new website launched
to feature the art of Celeste Mendelsohn -- my wife, partner and Creative Director. This image is Yin-Yang, painted on a wood round. Her work also includes plates, masks, yoga asanas, computer art and even needlework.
GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome
to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most
guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of
appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based
lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are
all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of
ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to email@example.com.
All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.
Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.
Unless due to willful tortuous misconduct or gross negligence, Jonathan Bernstein and Bernstein Crisis Management shall have no liability in tort, contract, or otherwise (and as permitted by law, product liability), to the user and/or any third party.
Under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.