Thursday, May 2, 2019

Updating the Crisis or Incident Comms Tool Kit

Okay ... Back again ... Let's get some things out of the way. 

When everything gets boiled down ... there are only three things a good PIO or crisis comms practitioner needs to do at the onset of an incident to communicate effectively: 

  1. Convey you're aware of the situation ...
  2. Say what you're doing about it ...
  3. Indicate how you'll keep informing your audiences ...
All the while doing these three things, realizing you'll be under constant scrutiny from the media, your stakeholders and the public. If you want more on the new incident comms imperatives and social convergence ... here's a full presentation.

Since I first started focusing on social convergence and incident/crisis comms (10 years go now !), two main things have changed:
This evolution means certain things long-taken during incidents need to be reconsidered ... I somewhat indelicately put it this way on Twitter: 

The first one seems self-evident ... the NRA's hold on so many elected officials in the US has made the very phrase "Thoughts and Prayers" a joke

The other one is even worse ... Politicians can't resist a crisis if they think they'll be seen as "leaders" ...but it can often go sideways even when the best intentions are involved. It's so simple for someone to completely derail a photo opp during an emergency of any kind. Why would you invite that kind of trouble?

Make the better choice! Forget those two things ... stick with action ...real, meaningful action. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Crisis comms in the era of untruth ...

Image result for fake news and emergencies

I'm picking up the pen again ( or really  the keyboard ? ) ... Thing is I've missed talking about crisis comms and #smem.  But one thing is bringing me back ... the constant question echoing in my mind: how can an organization become a beacon of trust in an era where truth is now a relative concept? 

In an age where social networks give a platform to uniformed, misleading, moronic points of view, knowing how to reach audiences in a crisis is essential. Unfortunately, social networks are both the threat and the solution ... which means the crisis comms expert or Public Information Officer faces tough choices.

Rational discourse is replaced by online outrage. Passion trumps science. Reason is many shades of a million arguments. 

Bad actors count on that. Countries, organizations and people with agendas that have nothing to do with the common good, are spurring chaos ... spreading hate ... sowing discord in the hopes of weakening a citizen-based, democracy-enhancing debate. It's something the Canadian government is starting to take seriously ...especially in an election year at the federal level.

Some social networks are trying to correct course ... with limited success it seems.

Clearly online literacy training is becoming a must in anyone's education. It's something that applies to everyone ... no matter how old

But what about you? Caught in an emerging crisis or incident ... how do you get a message across to your audiences through all that noise? How can you be heard ... and more importantly, how sure are you that you'll be trusted? The PIO's job is getting a lot harder!

So, how does one win the disinformation war? Here are some thoughts ... and some may appear radical: 

  • don't use the media ... bypass them ... most of the time it's not worth your effort (it pains me to write this as a former CBC/Radio-Canada reporter ...)
  • Yes ... that means using social networks ... Twitter in particular ... (Facebook is now nothing more than a hate/propaganda channel ...being manipulated to weaken democracies everywhere ...they can't even abide by their own weak-ass anti-hate rules ...)
  • build a network of agencies/organizations like yours that can make your messages reach wider audiences when you need to. 
  • amplify that via a loose alliance of "community champions" ... people with a certain following who are respected and whose word matters in your field, your area.

In other words, become your own broadcasters ...use video especially ...put up short posts online ... with 2-3 key messages ...set up a page to debunk rumours ...

Don't play the sucker game of dealing with reporters ... who (if you're in the US in particular ... work for organizations that have a clear agenda ...think Sinclair ....) 

A real useful document by FEMA/DHS and their social media working group is a good place to get additional tools. 

Truth in our society is facing an unrelenting attack ... PIOs and crisis comms practitioners are caught in the fray ... knowing which side are the good guys is getting tougher ...knowing which weapon in your comms arsenal to bring out is also not an easy task.