Category Archives: crisis communication

Crisis Management As Reality Show

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Photo by Brett Zongker, WIVB.com

District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier

A crisis nowadays brings out the hardcore working women in positions of leadership. Unfortunately, that’s the only time we really see them in wide media, as they are certainly not pop stars, singers, actors, dancers, and two-bit celebs and such.

Two we met yesterday, via mass media, were District of Columbia Police Chief, Cathy Lanier, and Dr. Janis M. Orlowski, chief operating officer at Washington Hospital Center.

Youths, these are the faces of career women in positions of genuine leadership. Not made-up and styled-up for a TV show or a date-night-out, but caught out doing their jobs. And in a crisis at that.

There’s your reality show.

SEO, Exclusives, And The Atlanta School Gunman

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Suffering from a case of what we in Atlanta call “Coxitis”, WSB-TV has been crowing, in their balls-to-the-wall coverage of the August 20, 2013 Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy incident, of how the gunman asked that WSB-TV be called.

This is not exactly how WSB-TV came by a call to their assignment desk from the person who turned out to be an excellent hostage negotiator – McNair Academy’s bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, who’s compassionate ability to talk the gunman out of his harmful intentions at the elementary school likely saved lives in Atlanta.

In her subsequent interview with WSB-TV’s Jovita Moore, Ms. Tuff recounts what the obviously troubled man ordered her to do when she was with him yesterday.

Seems WSB-TV’s assignment desk got the call because of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and not because the gunman specifically asked for WSB-TV.

From the Tuff interview, 4:30 to 5:11 on the tape: 

Jovita Moore, WSB-TV: “That was another part of this. He [the gunman] told you to call Channel 2. He said, ‘Call Channel 2!'”

Antoinette Tuffs, McNair Academy bookkeeper: “He told me to call one of the news stations. But I asked him which one, it was so many. And he said, ‘I don’t care. Just call one!’ And so I said, ‘I don’t have a number.’ He said, ‘I have a number.’

And so I was like ok, and I was just sitting there and this time just praying. And he said, ‘Well, call somebody!’

And so I start looking on the Internet, and I said ‘Well, Channel 2 is here. And Channel 5 is here.’ And I was like, ok, I got to the first number and it was Channel 2, and so I called Channel 2. And he says, ‘Tell them this: Tell them to get out here.'”

Crowing about an exclusive media event is fine. We all do it. But it’s best to get one’s crow-able story straight before launching into hyper promotional warp speed mode.

Old Field Producer’s Hurricane Coverage Survival Tips

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1.) Bring a large bag of quarters with you when heading out to the hurricane. Upon arrival, immediately use it to empty out the hotel hallway vending machine before all the other journos get there.

2.) Never leave the hotel. If you must leave, then never leave the crew van. Satellite trucks are preferred vehicles. They don’t blow over too easily.

3.) Satellite truck operators always stash extra rain gear in truck. Steal it when they’re not looking.

4.) If you can’t bring yourself to steal stuff, barter for extra rain gear with booty from vending machines. You’ll need it. Snickers bars are most valuable.

5.) Bring extra AA batteries and extra dry tube socks (men’s). Use for currency to get first feed priviledges from sat. truck operator if only one truck is operational for entire country’s network news providers.

6.) Don’t look in other journos’ hotel rooms. You want to be able to say you know nothing when all of you are returned to civilian life.

7.) Make friends with the fattest first-responder in charge first. They won’t want to have to walk anywhere either, and they may offer you a ride in their super-duper motorized whatever.

8.) Bring drugs, beer and ice. Share only with those who’s hotel rooms have all four walls left.

9.) Law-enforcement will lie their butts off to journalists. For sport. Never trust them for start/end presser times. Or for directions.

10.) Everyone around you will wig-out from stress and sleep-dep long before you do because they all think they’re too important to the disaster recovery effort for sleep. Get your 8-hours and they’ll make you president by Week 2.

11.) Stay on-scene post-hurricane as long as you possibly can. Milk the post-disaster scene for all the dopey, cliched features you can. Your paycheck, once you load all your OT onto your time sheet, will do the happy dance when you do get back.

12.) Never drink until you’ve fed everything to NY. And the sat. truck has powered down. If NY desk calls you to feed something after you’ve started drinking tell them the sat. truck has to save gas for the morning shows.

13.) Buy the hotel bar a round by first or second night on scene. During a hurricane it’ll just be full of other media. They’ll get you back when you’re all still there 10 days later.

14.) Don’t forget to get your mean, grouchy, sleep-deprived cameraperson to get the final shot when all is said and done.

  • EXAMPLE: When Dr. Bob Sheets finally left the broadcast desk at the National Hurricane Center after two solid weeks of around-the-clock coverage before, during and after Hurricane Andrew (in which his own home had been destroyed) one veteran network news producer had the great cinematic sense to order his cameraman to get the shot of Sheets laying down the lav mic and walking away.

15.) Try not to swagger in front of the desk jockeys when you get back to the newsroom.

APS Embraces Social Media. Finally.

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I’ve been watching everything the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) social media person has been doing with their social media outreach via their Twitter/blog/Facebook over the last few critical weeks.

I even met the APS social media person at the governor’s press conference to announce the results of the state’s investigation the other day. We set-up media shop next to each other, coincidentally. 

And WOW what an amazing transformation their social media game has undergone! Just in the last two weeks alone.

Suddenly, they are very responsive to the world around them. To their community here in Atlanta. They’re even dabbling in transparency and straight-up honesty too.

The live Tweets from @APSUpdate during a public forum with the new super Davis last week were very candid. And full of helpful and useful information.

What a difference a criminal investigation can make, eh? But the thing about social media, as any serious practitioner can tell you, social media is a garden; it only produces when meticulously tended.

Let’s watch and see. And participate, cultivate, in this transformation too.


No One Tweeted. No One Facebooked.

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“Once we heard the gunshots and got up, we were watching out the window, and I actually started Tweeting it, what was going on,” said Jeremy Powell, who is the morning show producer on Dave FM.

Everything plays out now, moreorless, in real time. (Witness the dude in Pakistan inadvertently Tweeting bin Laden’s demise.) Via Twitter, uStream.tv, Facebook and YouTube. Everything except for crippling disasters in the rural American south.

NPR’s Morning Edition today focused on a small town in AL ravaged and wrecked by the storms of Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The worst series of tornadoes ever recorded in the United States.

We were able to watch this tornadic mayhem play out in real time from the Tweets, and the seemingly endless stream of citizen media, coming out of the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, AL areas; Tuscaloosa being the home of (fully wired) University of Alabama, so it’s little wonder so much media came from there.

There was so much out there to follow I gave up trying to curate it in real time, such as with a paper.ly product, as I like to try to do with real time disasters in the nearby (GA) area.

I just slapped a #tornado hashtag-generated column onto my TweetDeck and let that serve as my eyes and ears until I collapsed from pan media-watching exhaustion later that evening.

But there was no real time media coming from the more rural areas of AL, places also in the paths of some 300-plus  tornadoes that day/night. Morning Edition finally caught-up with what’s on the ground now, for a national audience, almost a week afterwards, in Hackleburg, AL.

That story is here. No mention whatsoever of any Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Internet = zero in rural AL? Or just another case of MSM herd mentality? Could be some of both.

One has to assume that rural AL is not wired for real time crisis communication use the way we’re becoming accustomed to now, though. And that needs to change.

Using Twitter In Breaking News. Case Study.

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Apply this case study of how to use Twitter for breaking news to any crisis communication effort you need to stay on top of. Click photo to enlarge. From NYCTheBlog:

 

As you likely know, there was a deadly shooting in Arizona yesterday afternoon that has left six people dead, according to The New York Times. At approximately 2:00pm, Caitie Parker, a high school class mate of the shooter, noted on Twitter that the incident happened “2 minutes from my house.” When the media discovered her, likely because of a smart interview Anthony DeRosa was conducting with here, at least 35 public requests for comment, phone calls and interviews—from local newspapers to national news networks—came into Catie on Twitter from all over the country, as well as overseas.

Article in full here.

The Value of An Established Social Network In Times of Crisis

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Brother can you spare a boat?

It took four hour for the Atlanta Fire Department (AFD) to get their rescue personnel into a rescue boat during recent flooding in the city – as AFD  floundered smack dab in the middle of one of the wealthiest zip codes in the city, if not the entire country.

Four hours to acquire a boat in a portion of a city where people have likely dozens of boats, of a vast variety, idling in backyard garages. Dozens. Just minutes away from a flooded creek from which people needed immediate rescuing.

According to The Sunday Paper, when AFD went broke during this recession they were forced to sell the only rescue boat they owned before the big flood of September 2009.

So be it. If you need a boat in 30327 and you can’t put out a plea to any number of neighbors and citizens nearby, in a time of crisis, who would gladly and urgently have offered a boat to assist in the rescue of neighbors and fellow citizens in the Internet Age, then that’s a sorry state of communication – a state of communication that illuminates just how critical it is that our social networks include, and overlap with, government entities and the people they serve and seek to assist. And vice versa.

During the flooding the week of September 20, 2009 in Atlanta there was almost no interruption to communication infrastructure such as cellular networks and Internet services.

Had anyone on the fire department rescue team asked any 30327 resident, bystander, onlooker or neighbor to help locate a boat, chances are someone could have stood right by the rising creek, whipped out a phone (smart kind or othewise) and called someone to assist with the immediate loan of an appropriate boat.

A 30327 resident might have sent out an urgent request on a neighborhood message board for a boat. Someone could have used their Twitter (and the #atlflood hashtag) or Facebook network to locate a boat.

If the Atlanta Fire Department had built their own Twitter and/or Facebook social network of citizens of the areas of Atlanta they serve, AFD could have used that network, immediately, to locate and acquire a boat — within the hour of need I’d guess.

But first you must, of course, HAVE a social network to ask things of and to utilize in times  of crisis! It’s not that the fire department did not have a boat to call their own; rather they could not get their hands on ANY boat for four hours… while they were surrounded in a sea of possible boats.

I recently witnessed a local Atlanta social network jump into action to assist an elderly neighbor who was discovered living without water service for over a year. Once people in the neighborhood became aware of the neighbor’s plight, and what was needed to help the situation, an entire community and social network kicked in to serve and assist. Virtually instantly. All because one email was sent to an established social network. In that particular case, a network created via a simple, free Yahoo! Message Board/group.

In times of crisis, people want to serve. People will serve and assist in whatever way, small or large, that they are capable of. Any disaster scenario has proved that over and over again.

But it takes communication to let people know what exactly is needed to kick-start our inherent sense of service. And it takes leadership. And it takes foresight.

Now, especially in a deep recession, it very well may take an established social network. Because a social network is comprised of all kinds of people – people who are willing and able and eager to serve…  in most cases.

In the case of severe flooding, your social network may very well have just the boat you need… if you ask that of your network.