Author Archives: Gil Rudawsky

10 Communication Tips to Consider During a Crisis

crisis-communications-fbIt’s never too early to start crisis communication planning for 2019.

To help get started, the GroundFloor Media  team of crisis communications experts put together the following 10 tips to consider during a crisis: 

  1. Timing is Crucial. The speed of a crisis can be overwhelming. You have to react immediately or you will remain stuck behind the story.
  2. Be Honest and Open. It’s better to hear bad news from you than from the media. Never underestimate people’s capacity for forgiveness.
  3. Don’t Forget Employees. There is no greater community ambassador than an employee. Treat them like other valued audiences.

Read more after the jump…

Off-the-record? Anonymous Source? New York Times Explains Journalism Practices

New York TimesTo shed some light on how journalism works, The New York Times has launched a series of short posts that explains some of its practices.

This includes how the paper uses anonymous sources and what “off the record” really means.

Here are some highlights:

“Off the record,” “on background,” “not for attribution,” “embargoed,” “for planning purposes only,”: There is no universally agreed-upon meaning for many of these terms, making it difficult to sketch out even working definitions. So you have to work it out with your sources about how you want to proceed, and do so in clear language so there’s no misunderstanding.

At GroundFloor Media, we’ve explained this issue in the past, and as a rule of thumb, we recommend it is never a good idea to go “off the record” with reporters.

Anonymous sources: Under the Times’ guidelines, “anonymous sources should be used only for information that we think is newsworthy and credible, and that we are not able to report any other way. When the anonymous sourcing is central to the story, it generally must be approved by an even higher-ranking editor like a deputy managing editor.”

Corrections: “The Times recognizes an ethical responsibility to correct all its factual errors, large and small (even misspellings of names), promptly and in a prominent reserved space in the paper.”

Crisis Communication Playbook Thrown Out in Papa John’s Saga

Papa Johns Crisis CommunicationsPapa John’s founder and former Chief Executive John Schnatter has gone from being the face of the billion-dollar pizza chain to a punchline in The Onion.

Schnatter resigned last week from the company amid reports that he used a racial slur during a media training session with his PR and marketing firm. But this is more than a one-day media cycle story. The feud continues to heat up between the pizza chain’s board, the PR and marketing firm and Schnatter. And crisis communication lessons abound.

Communications and PR strategist David B. Grinberg offered his take:

Schnatter’s failure to follow the crisis communications playbook added fuel to the fire. He should have faced the media via a live press conference. Admit wrongdoing. Apologize to the public. Show heartfelt remorse. Ask for forgiveness. Explain that using the N-word is always wrong, regardless of the context. Talk about life lessons learned regarding race. Express renewed commitment to combat racism. Then pivot to positive messaging.

Papa John’s PR and marketing firm Laundry Service, which is owned by talent management company Wasserman, has kept a low profile since Schnatter’s remarks. Adweek obtained a copy of an internal memo sent to Laundry Service’s employees, which instructed them not to talk to reporters about the incident.

“As you all know, there’s been a lot of coverage about Laundry Service and Wasserman related to the Papa John’s situation in the past several days,” the note begins. “The disparaging and outrageous comments about Wasserman and Laundry Service that have been covered are completely false and we have a centralized PR strategy to go on the record and refute them. Until that time we cannot expect the media to know the truth,” Laundry Service said in its memo.

Adding more to the saga, late this week Schnatter a lawsuit filed in Delaware Chancery Court seeking to inspect company documents “because of the unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur.”

Papa John’s denied Schnatter’s claims in a statement. The company said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit, which it called “needless and wasteful.”

One thing is for sure, the more the players continue to air their dirty laundry in public, the longer it will take to move on and recover their reputations.

Preparation Key During a Public Relations Crisis

Brand responds to media questions and manages reputationIn the world of crisis communications, preparation is the key to maintaining a solid reputation.

Companies and organizations must be ready with a solid strategy – developing messaging for each audience, monitoring, social media and a streamlined approval process – and make the right decisions during a crisis. Forbes recently asked some communications experts for advice on how to handle communications during a crisis.

Here are some of the highlights that should be incorporated into a crisis response strategy: Read more after the jump…

Denver Post, Chicago Sun-Times Issue Mayday for Journalism

Gil Rudawky at the Rocky Mountain News news desk on the final day of publication


Gil Rudawsky, a city editor at the Rocky Mountain News, is at the news desk on the final day of publication for the paper nearly 10 years ago. In this blog, he revisits the future of journalism.

Leading up to the closure of the Rocky Mountain News in 2009, the mantra among corporate executives engaged in cost cutting was for journalists to “Work harder, not smarter” or “Do more with less.” But by that time, with a newsroom basically cut in half, the reality was “Doing less with less, and charging customers more.”

Nearly 10 years later, the continued death by a thousand cuts across the journalism world have continued, and we are at a tipping point. On Monday, The Chicago Sun-Times left its front page blank in a plea for subscribers in an effort to “protect the long-term survival” of its newsroom.

The Denver Post made a similar plea earlier this month, after one-third of its staff were laid off, demanding that its owners sell the newspaper. Hard-working Daily Camera reporter Alex Burness tweeted this week: “The stories being told now about the Post could be told about all of these newsrooms, just on different scales. National media reporters would do well to check out what’s happened in Boulder, Canon City, Longmont, Loveland, Sterling, Julesburg, Lamar, Broomfield, Brush.”

What’s Next for Journalism?

There’s the non-profit model, or the pay-wall model for digital news or the billionaire-backed model, or any combination of all three. As the shakedown continues, people are more and more realizing what the world looks like without the print media. There are city council meetings that aren’t being covered, feature stories that define the fabric of communities that aren’t being shared and checks and balances on our democratic way of life that aren’t being made.

As we grapple with this change, I have become keenly aware that in most instances news coverage originates from the print media. And the news is a commodity and just like anything else of value, you have to pay for it. The biggest question now is whether our news-obsessed culture will realize this as well.

Crisis Response: Plan, Monitor and Respond

Traditional Media During a Crisis | GroundFloor Media Crisis Communications ExpertsIt’s 2018. When was the last time your company or organization updated its crisis communication plan?

The GroundFloor Media crisis team has been spending time reviewing crisis communication plans for our clients, and we are finding several areas that need updating. For instance, unlike five years ago, most crisis events these days don’t manifest only in the media, so there is a large social media component. Also, response scenarios likely need to be updated as well as key audiences to take into account the likelihood of a crisis happening on social media.

In general, the key theme of a crisis-response plan must be providing clear, honest communications to various audiences that might be impacted by the bad news. The crisis response approach is simple and straightforward, and based on three points:

  1. Don’t cover up
  2. Fix the problem
  3. Apologize and make sure it does not happen again

Here’s an outline of a crisis communications response plan:

Plan

  • Identify and prepare for potential issues
  • Communicate with the customer-service and legal teams
  • Get the facts and prepare statements

Monitor

Respond

  • Get in front of the story
  • “No comment” is a last-ditch response
  • Accurately convey your side of the story to all audiences

Find out more about elements of a crisis plan in a Denver Business Journal article I wrote. Also, let us know if your business needs help revising its crisis communication plan.

Takeaways from Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Text

Crisis Communications Takeaways from Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Text | GroundFloor Media PR AgencyOnly two weeks into 2018, and we have the first crisis communication case study of the year courtesy of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and its false tweet to residents across the island chain warning of a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.”

The January 13 early-morning false alarm had families panicked, saying their goodbyes as they sought shelter from this doomsday scenario. After the threat was discovered to be false, government agencies and the media did all they could to inform people that this was a false alarm. Unfortunately, it took an excruciating 38-minutes to inform the public via text that it was a mistake.

Apparently, since November the agency has been practicing its Cold War-era nuclear warning sirens and online alerts amid growing fears of an attack by North Korea. It was a drop-down issue on a computer program and the employee mistakenly hit the “Missile alert” button instead of “Test missile alert.”

From a crisis communication perspective, here are a couple of takeaways from the incident:
Read more after the jump…

Forget Fake News, How About Fake Sources?

The old saying in journalism that “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” rang true recently with reporters at the Washington Post.

A source claiming to have had personal information about inappropriate relations with US Senate candidate Roy Moore was uncovered to be tied to an advocacy organization that attempted to trick the Post to report false allegations. If successful, it would have shown that the media failed to adequately check out its sources in a rush to print salacious information.

The sting failed, and is being held up as an example of journalists upholding the basic principles of their profession, namely, reporting the truth.

“The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap,” Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said about the sting. “Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled.”

This latest “undercover investigation” is a good reminder for clients to be aware that anything they say may become a matter of public record, regardless of the circumstances. Think you are talking to an interested student or a job candidate? Think again, they might be undercover and looking to catch you saying something that can further a cause.

It’s scary and unfortunate, but a good rule of thumb is to remember that private conversations are no longer private, and don’t share information that you wouldn’t put in a press release.

In terms of fake reporters, we created this video with tips to help from getting duped:

 

Time to Revisit Your Crisis Communication Plan

Media Interview Tips

Crisis communication plan and risk assessment

With 2017 almost in the books, it’s a good time to review and update your crisis, reputation and issues management communication plan or to think about developing a crisis plan if you don’t already have one.

Each year, GroundFloor Media works with clients to review their plans and ensure they are still accurate in terms of team members, assessment of current risks, messaging, scenarios and responses. For those thinking about putting together a plan, here is an overview of what should be in a plan.

  • Develop a “risk assessment”

    • Identify and prioritize areas of vulnerability
    • Research public perception, emerging issues and business practices
    • Conduct social media research and monitoring
  • Develop a crisis communication and issues management plan, including policies and procedures, audiences, potential scenarios and responses

  • Develop key messages

  • Develop third-party alliances

  • Testing and refinement

  • Conduct crisis communication/messaging training

  • Provide media training for key personnel

  • Evolution, revisions and lessons learned

No company wants to deal with a crisis, but having a tested plan in place will make the experience – and your results – infinitely better. For more information on GroundFloor Media’s crisis experience, please visit our website.

Air Force General Anti-Racism Response Video Goes Viral

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria’s address last week to Air Force Academy students and staff in response racial attacks that appeared on message boards at the school set the bar for effective crisis response. It’s no surprise that the video has gone viral.

His five-minute speech, during which he encouraged those in attendance to film and share on social media, is worth watching in full.

PR Daily broke down his address, highlighting several key points that made it so effective:

  • Message was unambiguous
  • Strong closing
  • Built on the group’s collective power
  • Demand for action
  • Avoided politics
  • Strong delivery emphasized audience connection

Adding to these, and having worked with clients on crisis responses, one aspect that gave the address such impact was its authenticity. Surely everyone who heard it live, watched it on YouTube or on one of the many media sites that picked it up, walked away with no doubts that Silveria set the right tone for condemning the actions, and for moving forward as the preeminent educational institution that represents the Air Force and the country.