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Friday, April 26, 2013

Think Before you Tweet

Justin Bieber recently became a social media target – not just someone to follow – after his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. He signed the guest book saying he hoped that the teenage Holocaust victim "would have been a belieber," causing an uproar once it was posted on the museum’s Facebook site. Harsh comments claiming that this was narcissistic (among other jibes) flooded the internet. This one message may now shape the way people view Justin Bieber.  Our point: this criticism is not reserved for celebrities; it could happen to you!

Now that the mistake has been made, it is important to know how to regain control and segue into damage-control mode as soon as the negative feedback starts to spread. Depending on the situation, it is usually best to accept responsibility for any offense and try to clarify the message. After explaining and owning up to what happened, you have the choice to either avoid bringing more attention to the issue or you can be proactive in re-building your image to combat the damage your reputation suffered. In addition, CommCore urges clients that this mistake was avoidable. Bieber might have had one of his advisors with him who could have suggested him to be a little more modest in his comments. For mere mortals, we advise that you should slow down and think before posting messages via social media. Your followers’ opinions may trump whatever it is you think you are trying to say.



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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Prepared for the Onslaught

The West Clinic of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital was among those institutions affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. Not only did they have to deal with the influx of 24 victims including the suspect who died, Tamarlan Tsarnaev, but with some 1,000 media requests. Two of the hospital's three-person media relations department were on vacation.


Working remotely, the media relations team worked 23-hour days and managed to balance the media's and the public's thirst for news with the restrictions in place that guaranteed both patients' right to privacy and law enforcement agencies' demand for secrecy while they searched for the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. When the gravely wounded Dzohkhar was captured and brought in after his older brother had died at the hospital, knowing not to release potentially sensitive information themselves, they fed the news to the FBI first, which vetted it and then posted it on the FBI Twitter account.

Media Relations Director Jerry Berger credits the hospital’s up-to-date emergency management plan and staff training with helping them balance everybody’s interests. "It's the biggest story in the world, but you do what you need to do," Berger said. "That's where the adrenaline comes from — knowing how big and important this is. You need to get out there and do your job, and be helpful with the restrictions you have to work with, because that reflects on your institution, both nationally and internationally."

At CommCore we remind our clients that crisis communications skills are only as effective as the complementary training and crisis response simulation required to minimize the chances of mistakes and the reputation hit that will follow. When a crisis hits isn't the time to break out the plan, figure out tasks and learn the protocols.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Can Advertising improve your Presentation Skills?

Advertising offers a number of tips for Presenters.  Advertisers know you have to hook an audience, get them to react to your message and do something like click on a link or buy a product.  A recent Slide Share presentation from boutique design firm Slide Comet illustrates the point.  Advertising techniques react, relate, and respond are comparable to presentations cover slide, content, and call to action.

At CommCore we coach our clients on three main steps when delivering effective presentations:
  1. Find out who is in your audience - feed the fish what they want to eat
  2. Deliver a strong message and respond to the audience questions
  3. Ask the audience to do something 

We often write about how to improve your presentations. Here’s a link to one of our articles  - How to Create a Compelling Presentation.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cell Phones and Bandwidth at the Boston Marathon

Cell phone traffic was jammed on Monday in Boston.  Despite early rumors that Boston police decided to shut down cell phone towers following the blasts, fearing more duffel bag bombs could be remotely activated, wireless carriers said the issue was that the cell phone network was simply  overloaded. 

Whatever the cause, thousands of runners and tourists – as well as people from all over the globe trying to reach someone in Boston – created a communications frenzy.

Then something amazing happened. Strangers opened their doors and laptops to other strangers and allowed them to log in to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to post updates on their safety, whereabouts and plans to get out of Boston.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency sent out a tweet telling people to try using text messaging, saving bandwidth.

And Boston's first responders put out messages on their scanners, asking citizens to tweet straightforward directives like "runners in bars and restaurants near the marathon, need to remain indoors until a street sweep for possible explosives can be made" and "people should get away from the area as quickly as possible."

CommCore notes that the same communication vehicles used so positively to help a frightened populace also produced unconfirmed reports and premature speculation — further compressing the cycle of reaction and production of misinformation about the disaster.

The day after the Marathon, the front page of Google had a link called Resources Related to the 2013 Boston Marathon Explosion. It featured a central location for key phone numbers and websites for victims and their families to use. And there's a 'Google person finder ' - a Google project - that is currently tracking more than 5,000 records of people trying to connect. Imagine if that resource had been available on that in New York or Washington on 9/11.

Prediction: As social media evolves we will figure out how it can help (or hurt) in moments of crisis. Social networking techs will find more ways for their sites to become critical emergency tools when cell phones go down.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“Is This Another One of Your Crazy Drills?”

When the Emergency Room staff at Boston's Tufts Medical Center heard of explosions at the Boston Marathon, Emergency Management Chief Robert Osgood said staffers turned to him and asked, "Is this another one of your crazy drills?"

He told them, "This is for real. Let’s huddle up."

At Tufts, Massachusetts General, Brigham & Women’s and other Boston hospitals the scene was likely the same – emergency disaster protocols being enacted by highly-trained staff in preparation for the flood of unexpected casualties – triage stations being set up; elective surgeries being postponed and patients, doctors and families being notified; extra trauma staff, orthopedic specialists and psychologists being called in; phone banks being set up; etc.

How often do we pay lip service only to so-called "routine" office building or school fire drills, or at the flight crew evacuation instructions we usually doze through on airplanes? At CommCore we remind our clients that check lists, drills and simulations are essential to any crisis response and communications plan; a plan is only as good as a team's ability to execute it as seamlessly as possible under stress.

Simulations are particularly important to ensure that an organization's crisis communications function is ready to spring into action within minutes:

·        In today's social media environment, news (and misinformation) travel so quickly that there is no time to practice crisis communications in real-time

·        Simulations help reinforce a team's specific internal and external communications assignments that have been designated in advance, including coverage in case of absences

·        IT and website staff can test off-site contingencies that are in place should Internet, mobile and electronic communications be disrupted

·        Practice ensures that designated Spokespeople, Department Heads, C-Suites and key Subject Matter Experts are trained to communicate effectively and on-message with media and internal and external stakeholders

Drills and simulations are essential so staff won't be uncertain when they hear the words, "This is NOT a drill."

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Big Mac's Simple Focus

The story behind McDonald's new focus on improving service is informative for professional communicators on several fronts:

·         McDonald's executives reduced their analysis of the company's recent earnings slump with a PowerPoint slide that had three, plain non-jargon words: "Service is Broken." If that ain't clear, we don't know what is. At CommCore we advise our clients that complexity must be reduced to effectively communicate messages that will resonate rather than confuse, and lead to actions and a solution. Kudos to the executive team for breaking their "problem" down to a simple core message that defines the issue starkly.
·       The executives recognized that customers now have more ways to supply quick feedback about poor service, including e-mail, the Web and social media. In today's world of real-time electronic communications a problem can turn to a crisis in a nanosecond if it isn't recognized and dealt with quickly. Prompt engagement of customers and employees across multiple communications platforms is critical to any successful organizational campaign.

·        They immediately pinpointed the nub of the problem – 90% of McDonald's 14,000 stores are independently operated. That helped identify the challenge ahead as McDonald's seeks to redress its second-to-last ranking in quality of customer service – communicating with and motivating the franchisees to commit to improving service.

The writer George Bernard Shaw famously said that problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.  Astute internal analysis and laser-like messaging such as McDonald's ensures that all stakeholders get the message. Now the challenge is what they do with the message and suggestions for improvements.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Public Speaking Lessons from the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Isn’t the goal of any speaker to motivate the listener to respond to the information and take action?

With few exceptions, we’re not just there to hear our own voices – we want results.

The men’s NCAA Basketball tournament is replete with many stories – triumph, defeat, overcoming injuries, Cinderalla’s. Perhaps my favorite this year is about University of Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander.

A former Harlem Globertrotter and a true “character” in the positive sense, Alexander would be a fine CommCore instructor with all of the techniques he employs to get the most out of the Wolverine players.

He uses props such as potato chips and nutcrackers, humor, serious talk and he’ll even lie on the floor if that gets the players to give one more ounce of energy in a basketball game.

Proof of his skills: the last coach to speak before storming out on the court to take on a worthy opponent is not the head coach, it’s the assistant with the charm and persuasiveness.

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