Showing posts with label crisis communications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crisis communications. Show all posts

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three PR Lessons from San Francisco

My recent visit to San Francisco for this year's Public Relations Society of America's International Conference was an eye-opener. 

Just as the Bay City led  the 60s with its flower power movement, the convention showed it remains a powerhouse of new ideas.

When 3000 PR-types from across the globe gather, you're bound to meet interesting people and discover good ideas. It's always a buzz tapping into the energy of PRs from all over the world. Akin to having communications jumper leads (or booster cables as Americans call them) wired up to your brain.  

This particular conference  revealed insights and emphasised three themes:  

  • Social media is now baked into every significant piece of marketing and communication.  PRs must be able to strategise, deliver, integrate and evaluate a social media program.  If you can't, then you stamp a sign on your forehead which shouts you have no future in the industry. Bosses expect you to be as adept as social media as you are at writing media releases or staging events. And, there can be no excuses when we are all surrounded by free advice, tips and techniques on the web and PRs willing to share their experiences.
  • A social media crisis can hit at  tweet-speed. And just as quickly it can pass by leaving a trail of busted reputations and broken staff. The risks of doing nothing are too great in a world of instant dialogue. The PR professional is expected to respond quickly which puts a premium on crisis communications skills.  Once the province of specialist communicators, managing crisis communications has now moved to the front row of PR competencies.  
  • Social media is introducing a new era of transparency.  The citizen, customer or client is king and queen and can and will vent frequently and fully.  The social media spotlight penetrates like a miner's lamp further and faster into the back offices and factory floors of government and business. Everyone needs to adapt.  That means HR as well as PR, and also count in the folks in finance, production, distribution and R&D.
If you're not using social media and using it effectively, be confident your competitors are -  to out-organise, out-sell, out-strategise or out-think you. 

While our core business objectives may not have changed, San Fransisco shows the communications landscape around them certainly has. We are going to have to do more in less time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Defence In Communications War

If the Australian Defence Force loosened its control over communications it would gain more control over its public image. 

I say this as the Australian Defence Academy is embroiled in a sex scandal which Australia's media is reporting in detail.This latest incident follows a litany of problems with the public image of Defence. These include claims of ongoing equipment cost blow-outs, inappropriate behavior by service personnel, poor maintenance and pay glitches suffered by frontline troops. 

Defence is known for keeping an iron grip on its media relations and communications with the public. This must frustrate the thousands of servicemen and women who perform creditably each day often in tough, tough circumstances. They really deserve to have their efforts recognized. 

Occasionally we learn about their work but mostly it is rare for Australians to meet a serviceman  or woman in the course of a normal year and hear or see what they do. 

I also know a lack of information from Defence has frustrated the generation of journalists I have worked with. 

Australians have a deep affection for their soldiers, sailors, airmen and women stemming from the legend of the ANZACs. So perhaps Defence would be better served sharing their stories in a open, transparent way with rest of us rather than only communicating  when faced with scandal.

Disclaimer: I served 30 plus in the Australian Army including as the Army's first Director of Public Affairs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Queensland Leaders Earn Praise For Flood Communications

This past week has been a torrid time for Australians particularly Queenslanders.  

While Queenslanders lived through devastating floods that covered an area the size of several European nations, the rest of the country sat transfixed by the unfolding tragedy. The floods completely stopped and then dominated the national conversation. And they are likely to be the key topic of conversation into the coming months.

Last week's events were both tragic and historic.  One aspect worth noting has been the quality of local leadership. Here in Canberra I could only witness the unfolding events, but it seemed that local Queensland leaders  did what their communities expected of them - they led.  They were supported by all the communications technology of the modern era, 24 hours news rooms, people reporting through Facebook, Twitter and other digital channels and extensive radio and newspaper coverage.  But we should not forget that their own personal communications in this crisis were good. 

Top marks must go to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. For  weeks she and her team have had to face the flood crisis first in regional Queensland and then as it affected Brisbane.  She communicated with a mix of authority, technical detail and compassion. In numerous media appearances she impressed as knowing what she was talking about while being warm and down to earth. Her communications ranged from essential information about surviving the floods to the inspirational calls on future rebuilding.  Her tearful line about don't forget we are Queenslanders is likely to merge into State if not national folklore. 

Local mayors in affected towns and cities also communicated effectively.  They spoke with authority, genuine concern for the communities they lead and and every so often with a dash of that Aussie humour that can lift spirits in tough times. 

And really how refreshing all this was.   In  an age of public cynicism about politics, there were local politicians talking plain, in sync with their communities and obviously trying their very best in calamitous circumstances. 

Recent history such as the aftermath of the Victorian and Canberra bushfires shows that today's heroes can easily become tomorrow's villains.  In the coming months critics will pour over every shortcoming and failing before and during the flood crisis and in the reconstruction phase.  Of course there will be many things that could have been done better and indeed should have been done better.  

But let's remember when the pressure was intense and lives were in the balance, many of the people who will be criticised in the future, stood up, communicated well and provided leadership.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Greetings After a Year of Crisis Communications

What a strange communications year it has been. It seems it was the Year of the the Crisis Communicator as we watched communicators over the past 12 months grapple with crises such as the:
  • Devastating Victorian bush fires
  • Global financial crisis
  • Climate change
  • Rapid fall of Tiger Woods and a myriad of local and global dramas our communities faced.
On the other hand we saw the rise and rise of social media, the continued dedication of volunteers and the passion and persuasion of communicators doing campaigns and projects that truly make a difference for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading Traffic on Maine in 2009 and for those I encountered during workshops, seminars and other byways of life ... it was a pleasure to meet you.

Enjoy a safe and happy Christmas season. May you and your family have a well deserved break over the Australian summer and then return refreshed in 2010 to communicate with your community.