Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

July 13, 2012

Great blog post from James Garrow about how reporters are using Twitter to find sources. Also, great suggestion on using lists within Twitter to manage reporters and outlets you are following. Great stuff Jim!

Crisisblogger has moved

October 5, 2010

Crisisblogger can now be found at  Please do not add any comments to this site–but please do add them to the new site so I know you are there. We will get domain name stuff straightened out when my technical help gets back but in the meantime, wanted to invite you all over into my new place. See you there.


Crisisblogger is moving!!

September 27, 2010

After four years of living on a very basic WordPress template, we’re moving! Just to a different design. If all works according to plan all the posts and comments and history will move over to the new design. There’s a good chance by the time you read this the forwarding magic will be done and you’ll be seeing Crisisblogger in its new, slightly snazzier home (thanks Geoff!).

If not, and you want to comment–always very welcome–please go to the new crisisblogger.

A special day with Iraq-bound soldiers

September 3, 2010

This is off-topic for crisisblogger readers but wanted to share with you a very special day yesterday. As some of you know, I am a history buff, particularly WWII history and I was privileged to write the biography of a P-38 fighter pilot. What makes his story unique is that after he was shot down he, along with 167 other Allied flyers caught with the French Underground, were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. Hitler had declared them “terrorfliegers” and sentenced them to a cruel death. After two months and near starvation they were rescued by the German Air Force and sent to POW camp. Writing this book and going with the now 89-year old hero, Joe Moser, on numerous speaking engagements has been a great joy to me. But yesterday was something special.

We were invited to Joint Base Lewis McChord to address the 62nd Medical Brigade. It was unforgettable to stand in front of about 600 soldiers in battle fatigue and tell them Joe’s story and then have Joe speak to them and answer their numerous questions. This was their last meeting for many of them before two weeks leave and then deployment to Iraq–many for the second time. What meant the most to me was what a young soldier named Pangborn who came up to me after the presentation and said he knew that if and when times got tough for the soldiers in theater they would remember Joe and his story and take strength from it. It meant a lot for Joe as well, realizing that over 70 years after he joined the Army Air Corps he could be an inspiration for today’s young soldiers.

Some days are just worth the living and yesterday was certainly one of them. By the way, Joe’s book is called “A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald,” available at most bookstores or on Amazon.

God speed to all you brave men and women. And a special thanks to Frank Cisneros for inviting us and making this happen.

Here’s a study that shows people and relationships are important

August 12, 2010

At first when I read this study out of Northwestern University, I wanted to say, “duh!” But then I realized that with all the PR and marketing newsletters I read, there is very little discussion about the role of relationships in PR and marketing. Even all this stuff about social media and its role in both PR and marketing tends to forget that at best what social media is is a way to further extend and deepen relationship building. At worst (and this is how it works mostly in my mind) it is a time drag that disperses scare energy and resources into a greatly increased number of shallow relationships, leaving less time to develop the deeper, more significant relationships that matter. I’m speaking on both the personal and business level.

Thirteen years ago I wrote a book called “Friendship Marketing” that focused on the role of strategic relationships in building business. The concept was pretty simple. I had discovered that most businesses I worked with as a consultant could identify a remarkably small group of individual people who were incredibly important to their business. So in thinking about making a business grow, it made sense to focus on those people who, if you had the in-depth relationship with them that was of mutual value, could propel your business to new levels. The problem with this approach is that it is easy to slip into manipulation (the Amway problem). I call you up for coffee and you discover my hidden agenda is not to spend time with you as a valued friend but to sell you something or to get you to help me with my goals. The answer to that, and I saw this repeatedly in successful people and businesses was the transposition of value. In other words, if I place value on someone else because of what they can do for me and my business, I cannot help but be manipulative. On the other hand, if I see my work, life and business as the opportunity to get to know some amazing people, a few of whom might just be great friends regardless of any value they offer to the business, then the whole picture changes.

Think of it this way: when you sit on your rocker contemplating the joys and successes of your life, will you think about the great contracts you signed, the yachts you owned when you had the energy to get on them, the fancy cars you drove and expensive meals you indulged in? Or you will think fondly of the great time with people who meant so much to you as you journeyed through this land called time? Profits, as the great Peter Drucker said, are the right to do business in the future. And doing business continues your opportunity to grow relationships that are the true measure of a great and successful life.

Gulf Spill Enters New Phase

June 15, 2010

In the past few days, the media and the public have begun to show a weariness with the Gulf Spill. In a time when stories come and go like the spring sun between our incessant showers, and the media shows interest only in what is happening right now, the public attention on this event has been phenomenal. Certainly a tribute to the scope and magnitude of the event as well as nothing more major pushing the story off the front page (whoa, that’s an anachronism, isn’t it?).

Web traffic is beginning to decline after it seemed almost every day was reaching new peaks in either visits or data transfer. Other news stories are starting the nightly news casts and images other than oil on beaches or pelicans are on front pages.

Is the communication job done? Hardly. In many ways the real work begins. BP launched shortly after the event a very impressive community relations effort throughout the gulf region. It would have been impressive in any event of anywhere near normal scope, but the dozens of quality people they have out meeting with the communities, individuals, elected officials etc. were dwarfed by the news stories and the sheer massiveness of the event. But that kind of one to one, person to person, company to community is where the real action will be in the immediate and much longer term future.

In the meantime, the political and now geo-political melodrama goes on. The president’s critics are do all they can to pin this event on the president. For every tail they wish to pin on him, he deftly dodges it and the pin sticks deeply into BP’s backside. He has found the ass he’s been looking for and is kicking it vigorously.

What is increasingly interesting is the way this is playing in the UK. New British Prime Minister Cameron is coming under increasing heat for not standing up to President Obama as he daily does his best to destroy what little reputation BP might have had left–called “vengeful posturing” in UK media. The cost for a great many in Britain is great.The $10b BP pays in dividends goes largely to pensioners so that 1/8 of all pounds paid out in pensions come from BP’s stock. There is no question, no question at all, that as much of a mess that BP is in, it has been made much worse by the presidential politics attempting to avoid the mud of Katrina. For those who want to blame Bush for everything, it might be fair to blame Bush for much of BP’s woes, for if the federal response to Katrina might have been better or at least less criticized, the current administration would not be so desperate to pin the tail on that BP donkey. The effort to avoid blame has casued the nation to lose all confidence–not only in BP but also in the response overall.

So I expect two additional things to happen with communication on the spill. The rhetoric will begin to tone down, for two reasons. One is that I have little doubt that already the president is facing some backroom discussions about the wisdom of forcing BP to suspend dividends and the impact this will have on cross-Atlantic relations. Second, with the federal government holding the boot on the neck of BP for so long, they are going to have to start assuming some level of public responsibility for their posturing. That means (and I am seeing some of this already) they are going to have to start telling what a good job they are doing–in everything from stopping the spill to getting claims paid. Yes, they will take full credit, as they are doing now for everything that BP or the response does, but the message will change.

I’ve been amazed that despite the political polarization in our major media, they have all essentially followed the same line. It’s been fascinating to watch the media blame game played new everyday (today it is the New York Times saying the response is chaotic) followed by a response from the administration, unfortunately using the Joint Information Center, to respond with a political message, followed by media reports on the president’s response, followed by new accusations. I certainly have wearied of this tiresome game and I think most less-interested observers have as well. I welcome this phase, at least as I hope it will play out.


A big change in messaging in Gulf spill–the feds are in charge

May 27, 2010

I just reposted my bog from Emergency Management on how can communication be good when public opinion is bad.

One point I made in that post is the messaging from the Administration that is very confusing about the role of the government in the response–telling everyone that it is all on BP when in fact it is Unified Command with all agencies working in concert. Right now I am watching the live press conference from the White House–the message has completely changed. He is making it very clear that the federal government was in charge all along and they are telling BP what to do or at minimum approving or modifying BP’s plans. While it may not seem significant, this is very huge. The truth is coming out. The problem with EPA sending its demand letter about dispersants even while they have been involved and approved all dispersant plans is now having to be explained by the administration. The “boot on the neck” message will not go away, but at least the meaning of Unified Command is now becoming clear.

Lessons from Deepwater Add Up

May 18, 2010

It’s almost impossible to keep track of all the critically important lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon spill (aka BP Spill). Since I and many in my company are involved, some of the most important ones will have to be discussed later. But a few quick notes:

Information Discipline of the JIC–NIMS compliance and the core function of the JIC calls for information discipline. That is that there be one and only one official voice for the event and that voice be fully and completely under Unified Command control. We’ve discussed here before how bad things can go when that info discipline is not followed. One tragic example was the Sago Mine incident where someone in the Command Post reported what they thought they heard from a radio about the 12 miners being rescued, directly to a family member in the church where families had gathered to pray. The families went wild with good news, the news media spread it around the world, and the Incident Commander unfortunately waited for many hours to provide the correct information. Information discipline in the Deepwater has been a challenge on many fronts, but the most visible breakdown occurred this past weekend. The NYTimes reported that scientists on board one of the research vessels identified a huge underwater plume. There was speculation about this plume, its make-up and where it might be headed as well as potential impacts. The vessel, brought into the response, was under direction of NOAA. The release of this information, potentially through a private blog of one of the researchers, has had significant impact. This kind of information absolutely needs to be verified and provided through official channels–to avoid important people being caught flatfooted. Ever since the story came out and was repeated by all major outlets, the JIC has been trying to address the highly speculative nature of the comments. A huge fear was created, potentially unnecessarily, and completely outside the control of Unified Command. Who is responsible? I understand that there are thousands of people working on this event. But each and everyone of them need to understand that only the Unified Command has the authority to release information about the event itself, the response, and the plans. Whoever brings those people in to help has a very serious obligation to get their full commitment to do so. And failure to observe this critical NIMs requirement could be and should be serious for the violators.

Another lesson–adequate preparation. One of the main stories of today, May 18, is that BP was unprepared for an event of this nature. That means that every oil company in the world may be asked if they are prepared. One elected official, quoting I think Apollo 13 stated that what we have here is a lack of imagination. Clearly, with all the worst case scenario planning, there are events of such magnitude that if they were imagined they would be considered ludicrous. It will be up to the experts to determine if this applies to this event. All I can say, having worked with many oil companies over the past ten years that there is no industry–bar none–that spends as much time and money on preparation and practicing response, is so incredibly safety conscious, creates an almost overwhelming culture of safety, than anyone else. If BP is unprepared for an event of this magnitude, the reporters looking to place the blackhat on them, ought to ask that question of every other company or agency where the unimaginable can happen.

One more comment–several analogies have emerged trying to communicate the scale of this event. In terms of media and public focus, this may be the biggest since Katrina or 9/11. In terms of the technical challenges some of the leaders have said this is more like Apollo 13 than ExxonValdez. And of course the ExxonValdez comparions are obvious. My thought–this is the Three Mile Island for the oil industry. As Three Mile Island put us hopelessly behind the rest of the world in terms of use of nuclear energy, this no doubt will have similar long term effects on the oil industry, energy independence, and the strength of our nation. Did anyone notice that a few days ago China and Nigeria announced plans for $23 billion in new oil refineries in China. I’m very concerned and quite certain where this event will lead us as a nation.

An idea and dream realized

May 12, 2010

The news out of the Gulf seems unremittingly bad. The spill continues unabated and continues to threaten sensitive areas, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. There are families–too forgotten I feel, grieving the loss of eleven men. What the long term damage and cost will be is still far from certain. The media are doing their typical thing of finding any and every reason to get people to get eyes on their screens or pages. The politicians are playing their roles perfectly–wringing their hands in righteous indignation and trying hard to pin blame, while their staffs are busy working at piles of new laws and regulations. The White House has a clear strategy–make certain that the government is blameless in all regards and make certain this is not the president’s Katrina.

From an inside/outside perspective it is amazing to me what is happening and the lessons learned. I spoke yesterday to a group of Public Affairs Officers from the National Guard and pointed out that this event will be one of those we look back on that changed our world. But right now we are in it, deep in it.

It was just about eleven years ago that the event from which PIER was created happened. Being involved in the communications in that large pipeline event, I saw that there could be and had to be a better way of communicating. A few key beliefs emerged:

– all communications had to be conducted on a web platform because as George Gilder said a long time ago, the network is the computer. Web-based meant completely portable and facilitate collaboration from wherever.

– Everything had to be in one place–contacts, background info, team members, web content, distribution methods, reporting, tracking, etc. Can’t use multiple systems when the world is crashing around you.

– web service had to be incredibly robust–even eleven years ago it was obvious the web would be the primary way of getting info. It is.

– Had to manage communication with everyone, not just the media. All stakeholders expect and demand the latest and best info. The media in this view was one of many many important audiences for the info.

– Had to automate basic processes–like building a list of those who want to get your updates.

– had top be able to manage interactivity–there will be a lot of people including reporters who have questions, some will have comments, some will want to vent. In their own minds, they are all important–and they are absolutely right.

PIER became the system we developed out of those beliefs. While the world may be in shock and expressing outrage over the events, and while there remain serious internal obstacles to getting the right info out fast, from my perspective the beliefs were right and are now being played out on a scale I could not have imagined 11 years ago. The dedicated communicators from many different organizations and located at different parts of the globe are collaborating with quite remarkable effectiveness. A steady stream of meaty information releases is going out to the tens of thousands who have registered themselves to get those updates (register yourself at There are thousands and thousands of individuals who have submitted questions or comments–many are helpful suggestions, some are expressions of support, many legitimate questions, and thousands have used the opportunity to express their disdain, hatred, political views and threats of harm. All but the most abusive have been personally and directly responded to. Monitoring is part of the function and is being done. Social media is being used to great effect. The processes for creating, editing, reviewing and approving information are proving their worth–even as approvals get increasingly convoluted.

And some are taking note of how this working and the effectiveness of it. An article in Nextgov highlighted PIER’s use and yesterday I was interviewed by the New York Times technology reporter on how web-based technology is being used in this response (still waiting the report to publish).

I remember the line from the A Team, Hannibal I think it was who said, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Eleven years later, though very far from perfect, I think the plan has come together.

A No Comment Comment on the Deepwater Horizon spill

May 5, 2010

Crisisblogger readers may be wondering about my silence on the Deepwater Horizon (otherwise known as the BP Oil Spill) event. This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions–the “mother of all crises” said one of those involved. Because BP, the Coast Guard and US Dept of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, the three key agencies leading the response, are all PIER clients and our staff is very involved in the response, I will withhold comments for the time being.

There are many lessons being learned however, the most significant to me at this point is whether NIMS can survive the inadvertent damage that it is undergoing. I will say this: if NIMS is to survive and will be the way in the future for multi-agency and public/private partnerships in major responses, the entire emergency management community must unite in educating elected officials, agency representatives, the pundits, the media and the public on what NIMS is, what it says about responsibility, who runs a response, how communication is done. The profound lack of understanding from the highest office to every newsroom is seriously impacting public perception about this event.