Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WikiLeaks Hit By Powerful Internet-Based Cyberattack CBS New York – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of NY

I guess you can expect some retribution if you embarrass the most powerful country in the world and many other international leaders.

However, who's really to blame in this mess? WikiLeaks or the people who wrote the memos and cables?

WikiLeaks Hit By Powerful Internet-Based Cyberattack CBS New York – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of NY

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sharing knowledge and its benefits

Hi there!  I'm back home after spending most of last week as a guest instructor and coach at the Canadian Emergency Management College in Ottawa. I was there to do the PIO component of the Emergency Ops Centre (EOC) and Incident Site Management courses.

It was a real blast with a fantastic bunch of candidates on the course and very experienced and knowledgeable instructors. I always feel privileged to be asked to go back and share my own modest expertise.

I believe that the instructor often learns as much as the students in this kind of course. Although it was very demanding ... the rewards are numerous.

First, it's something I like doing ... talking about something that motivates me: crisis communications and emergency information ... how PIOs work with command both in the EOC and the incident CP. There's nothing more rewarding then witnessing the sudden understanding dawn in the mind of an experienced senior firefighter who's been afraid of media for years.

I spent a few minutes talking with a fairly senior firefighter from a major city in Qu├ębec. He had a bad experience with media a few years back and has never done another interview since ... always referring reporters to some other officials within his department ...

I took a few minutes to outline the message mapping crisis communications technique with him ... how it makes for an easily usable and very visual representation of key messages. After a while ... he said that he now had a much clearer understanding that things don't have to be complicated ... you focus on a couple/few key messages ... well crafted and supported by some key facts ...you visualize them in/on a message map and it's easy to relay the information. That was a highlight of my week. I literally saw the light go on in his mind!

Second, interacting with experienced senior officials from police services, fire departments, EMS, public works and others ... is a good way of validating what we've been trying to impart for years. Does what we believe in and teach or talk about in presentations and seminars, relate to the daily experiences on the ground? To my immense relief, the answer seems to be yes.

Finally, you do learn a great many things about the work of first responders, city engineers and others and how they prepare for emergencies in their communities. That's extremely valuable in itself and provides you with a greater and more accurate perspective on what communications support they might need, what crisis communications planning is most appropriate for them and how they see the role of the PIOs in their EM functions.

All in all it was a great week. Looking forward to the next time already. The only hiccup ... i missed my wife and kids while i was in Ottawa!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An interesting online community

In the last few weeks I have been involved with a new community whose objective is to foster emergency management and business continuity online.

PTSC stands for Partnership Toward Safer Communities and is supported financially by the Canadian government and sponsored by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

Here's the link: http://www.ptsc-online.ca/

I enjoin you to take a look. I believe it's a very worthwhile project.
In fact, a colleague of mine (Barry Radford) and I have decided to put together an initiative to advance crisis and emergency communications practices.

Here's a brief outline of what we propose to do: http://www.ptsc-online.ca/forums/ptsconlineprojects/recommendationsforaptsconlineproject

It's really an open source initiative and we're really hoping to get a lot of input, comments, suggestions and even criticism (if warranted !!! ) in order to foster debate and general contributions.

Hope we'll hear from you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What better endorsement for being prepared?

The BP Gulf Spill almost brought down that industrial giant. Now, the head of the company at the time admits they were totally caught off guard by the accident itself ... but also the intense media and public scrutiny that followed.

Here's a quote that sums it up rather nicely:

"Embarrassingly we found ourselves having to improvise on prime-time TV and slap bang in the middle of the glare of the global media. Our efforts involved amazing feats of engineering – tasks completed in days that would normally take months, numerous major innovations with lasting benefits.
But because every move was scrutinised around the world, what the public thought they saw was fumbling and incompetence."

That's Tony Hayward, the former head of BP.
full story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/11/tony-hayward-bp-oil-spill

There's really nothing else to say.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If there ever was a time to ...

OK ... you've heard this many times but apparently some people still don't get it. In a world of instantaneous sharing ... the need for an immediate response is no longer a desirable feature of your crisis management plan ... it's become an absolute necessity.

Case in point: the Quantas airline near-disaster this week: see this post from Gerald Baron on it:

a couple of quick thoughts:
  1. if something bad happens ... get in front of it ... don't wait hours or say that nothing's going on
  2. always assume that people, your audiences know ...
  3. if you're using social media for marketing and PR ... why not use it as an emergency info channel too?
Things will never be the same again ... we're in the era of the "human network". It doesn't matter if the actual platforms (facebook, twitter, others) come and go ... most of us like to have the ability to communicate instantly what we're experiencing ... to share our feelings ... good or bad ... that cat ain't going back in the bag!

In a way, we're in an ultra-post-McLuhan world ... the medium is more than just the message ... the media (or platform) is now the user ... more on that a little later.

For people in crisis communications planning, the expectations are now clear ... it's do or die ... and do it PDQ ...

So, we come back to the four Ps: Plans (or procedures), People, Preparation, Practice ...

  1. Plan and Procedures: who does what? Who do we involve? Do we have enough latitude and delegation of authority to respond immediately? If not, you've failed!  Today, that means total integration of the different channels you might use to respond ... from social media to web to traditional media ...
  2. People: ... it's zero-dark thirty ... your guy is asleep ... or the B or C (or Z team) is on duty ... are they trained to know what to do? do they have the basic knowledge of crisis comms and crisis response to fill in the templates (see below) to get the ball rolling?  if not, you've failed again!
  3. Preparation: you know what risks your business or organization faces ... well do you?  you don't ?  you've failed ....and if you do ... have you prepared pre-scripted response that tell your audiences that you know what's going on and you have a plan to address the issue/deal with the incident? you don't ... you've failed yet again .... it's not rocket science ... a simple HIRA or risk analysis will guide you ... My colleague Barry Radford and I have been proponents of the message mapping technique to prepare our crisis communications response ... it's simple and offers a multitude of uses once approved ... more here from a recent post by Barry: http://barryradford.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-message-map/     .... you should have a whole compendium of such message maps or related templates ... ready to be filled out and used to effect an immediate response: we're aware of the incident and have implemented our response plan, we're investigating ... but our first priority is the safety and well being of ... yadda yadda ... you get the point ... again, if I can figure it out ... the complete theory of relativity it ain't ...
  4. Practice ... it's all and well to have all three elements above ... but if your plans sit on dusty shelf ... if your people have left or rotated out of their normal jobs ... or have been trained ages ago ... if your message maps haven't been updated ... you'll fail again ... so practice ... run exercises as often as you can ... involve as many of the business functions in your organizations as you can ... you can never have enough alternates and back up ... and there might be some real talent available to you there as well ...
those FOUR Ps sum up a crisis communications plan/crisis management plan ... and because technology and social media are changing our world .... I would now add a fifth P .... P for Platform ... that is social media ...

Because of the growing evolution of social media, its interdependencies with all other means of communications, and its growing involvement in all aspects of our lives ... the use of social media platforms ... those used by millions/billions of people ... is now a MUST for any comms response plan.

You must therefore integrate social media in all aspects of the plan:
  • from your procedures: who posts? who has access to the accounts on the platforms you'll be using?
  • are your people familiar with social media? with the conversational aspect of the many platforms? the ongoing exchange of info and ideas and how to use crisis communications practices in SM ?
  • Preparation: why not have tweets ready to go? facebook posts and blogs?
  • Practice: ensure that your key people have accounts on these platforms and can use them effectively ...
Hope this makes some sort of sense ... I know the obstacles are numerous: from policy, to misunderstanding of social media at the top or just paralysis caused by a blind application of the Incident Management System ... well, today, there's no time for inaction when the public's perception on your response is firmed up in a matter of minutes ...

Thanks and I look forward to your comments yet again!