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This issue of Communication Command contains an interview about the City of Calgary's Communication during the 2013 Flood as well as a Q&A about Media Training (Part 2). We hope you will enjoy reading our e-Newsletter.
October 2013
Eastman Chemical / TRPRC Joint Drill
C4CS® recently participated in an Emergency Response Drill that was put together by Eastman Chemical Company and the Three Rivers Pollution Response Council (TRPRC). As part of the drill, which took place at Eastman Chemical’s Jefferson Site near Pittsburgh, C4CS® posed as media representatives who interacted with site security and participated in a mock news conference. The photograph above shows emergency response drill participants during the post drill debrief.

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IABC Southern Region Conference Tour
C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne Chase, Chair IABC Southern Region, IABC Barbados chapter president, Lynda Holder, and IABC International Chair, Robin McCasland, at the IABC Southern Region conference in Barbados, the second of four conferences held this year as part of the 2013 Southern Region Tour.

C4CS® Recognized as Conference Champion
C4CS® was recognized as a Conference Champion for its contribution to the 2013 Emergency Preparedness & Hazmat Response Conference that was held in Baltimore earlier this month. C4CS® Managing Partner Oliver S. Schmidt accepted a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the firm.

Our next e-Learning course on 'Harnessing the Power of Social Media in Crisis Management' will be conducted November 11 through November 22, 2013. Congratulations to those who completed the course work and obtained a Certificate in Social Media Crisis Management Planning accredited by ICOR. The course brochure can be downloaded via this link.
If you have questions concerning our e-Learning course, please contact us at training@c4cs.com.


August 2013 Communication Command e-Newsletter
Please click here if you would like to read the August 2013 issue of Communication Command.


Five Questions about the City of Calgary's Communication during the 2013 Flood 


Benjamin Morgan is the Supervisor Crisis Communications for the City of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. By utilizing state of the art technologies and communication channels including traditional and social media, he and his colleagues respond to crises to ensure the safety of Calgarians.
 
Previously, Benjamin served as the designated spokesperson for the City of Calgary Emergency Medical Services. In addition to daily interactions with local and national media, he wrote communication plans, created public education programs, and coordinated community events. While in this role, Benjamin also developed a comprehensive media relations training program that has been attended by professional emergency professionals from across the province of Alberta. Benjamin created lasting relationships with members of local media outlets which, along with his successful training program, became the foundation of his consulting firm, Both Sides Media.
 
As a member of Toast Masters Speakers Guild and the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, Benjamin has delivered several keynote addresses and has been a guest speaker at a number of events. He holds a Masters Degree in Professional Communications from Royal Roads University.



Benjamin Morgan

How well was the City of Calgary prepared in regard to crisis communication when the devastating flood happened in June of 2013?

The City of Calgary communications team had previously responded to several crisis events. These events were managed well and those who performed communication tasks had primarily utilized traditional communication channels. However, over the last couple of years there had been an increase in regard to social media utilization by the City of Calgary that has resulted in a large and growing number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
 
Recognizing evolving technologies, infrastructure, and citizen expectations, in late 2012, the City of Calgary approved funding for a dedicated crisis communication staff resource. This role was tasked with updating the municipal crisis communication plan and restructuring the crisis communication response team. These initiatives were under way when Calgary experienced the 2013 flood.

Fortunately, the City of Calgary Customer Service and Communications Team is comprised of professionals who are experienced in various communication disciplines including crisis communication. As the flood waters rose in Calgary, this group of professionals was called into action to support a multitude of communication tasks. Relying on past experience, instinct, and professionalism, Calgary's team of communicators exceeded the expectations of both internal and external stakeholders.

How did you and your colleagues handle communication during the emergency?

The first City of Calgary news release about the approaching flood waters was sent out at 8:02 a.m. on Thursday, June 20, 2013, announcing that the Municipal Emergency Plan had been activated and that the Emergency Operations Centre was open. The best way to understand what subsequently happened is to go online and look at a timeline page we created in order to illustrate our response. (Please click here to view the timeline page.)
 
In general, as the severity of the flood increased, the number of communication channels utilized and messages conveyed increased. To ensure that as many Calgarians as possible received critical messages, The City of Calgary deployed a multitude of communication tools and vehicles that included the following:
 
· Traditional media via news releases
· Mobile applications (internal and external facing): push notifications
· Social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, blog
· Banner alerts on Calgary websites
· Digital Display Unit alert banners
· Scrolling route signs on transit buses
· Door to door knocking by police and other responders
· Public announcements (police cars, helicopter)
· Door hangers
· Information brochures, leaflets, etc.
· 311 City Call Centre
 
While disseminating information, the critical challenge was to ensure that our messaging across all channels was accurate, consistent, and interlinked.
 
Our mayor Naheed Nenshi had a simple philosophy that guided our messaging: “If we know about it, then Calgary should know about it.” This phrase reflects the City of Calgary’s commitment to open, honest, and transparent government.
 
Information was gathered from appropriate sources and because the City of Calgary's blog became the primary communication channel, new information was typically provided in the form of a blog post. That same blog post was later referenced and used to create tweets, Facebook posts, media briefings notes, and press releases. To ensure the accuracy of any published information, there was one point of contact within the City’s communication group who liaised with the Director of the Emergency Management Agency (EMA). The EMA Director was the ultimate message approving authority. This approval process ensured that all published messages were accurate and consistent.
 
Working with partner agencies was another important success factor concerning Calgary’s communication response. The Calgary Police Service has a strong Twitter presence within the Calgary community. Consistent messaging between the Police Service and the City hence increased the overall social media reach immensely.


Given the level of crisis communication preparedness you described, are you satisfied with how the communications team performed during the crisis?
 
I believe that the City of Calgary communications team far exceeded the expectations of the Calgary community, crisis responders, the mayor, and city council. The exceptional performance was nurtured by senior leaders who empowered and encouraged the creativity and expertise of individual communicators. The communications team's performance was underpinned by an inherent spirit and pride of being a Calgarian.
 
Several of Calgary’s communications team members who did not play a key role in the communication response found other ways to contribute by volunteering for city-wide clean-up efforts, providing temporary residence to those displaced from their homes, etc. It is therefore fair to say that the entire communications team was affected and responded above and beyond the call of duty.


How did you evaluate the crisis communication performance?

Metrics played a significant role in our communication evaluation process. Between June 20, 2013 and July 4, 2013, the City of Calgary accomplished the following:
 
· Published more than 140 news media releases
· Supported daily update press conferences
· Supported daily mayor update press conferences
· Provided media representatives with tours of affected areas
· Created a pool of video and still images for media outlets
· Registered nearly three million visits to Calgary’s websites
· Saw a 6.2% increase in Facebook likes with a 57.85% increase in the number of Facebook friends
· Registered an increase of 26,000 Twitter followers
· Tweeted over 1500 tweets with 12,000 re-tweets
· Posted over 270 YouTube videos which generated more than 460,000 views
· Posted over 280 images on Flickr which generated more than 1000 additional community posts
· Pushed a large number of information notifications through mobile apps
· Created information notices, bulletins, signage, and brochures
· Authored and shared “good news stories”
· Produced various informational videos
· Carried out two significant marketing campaigns: “We’re Back” and “Runs Deep”
· Processed over 100,000 phone inquires (311 City Call Centre)
· Created over 3000 hot topic service requests
· Enhanced 311 City Call Centre mobile app to allow for more service requests
 
At the time of this interview, the debrief process from the communication response to the flood has not been completed. Due to the magnitude and complexity of Calgary’s communication response to the 2013 floods, an external business process consultant was hired to assist with the internal debrief process. 
 
With this in mind, a significant indication of Calgary’s communication performance is the feedback and recognition from our local, and in fact the global, community. The feedback our team of communicators received has been extremely positive and the opportunity to contribute this interview to C4CS' Communication Command e-Newsletter is another achievement we value highly. It is further testament to the successful work done by our team.


What are your key takeaways and what will change in terms of crisis communication preparedness on the heels of the devastating flood?
 
The City of Calgary was very fortunate that the construction and staffing of a new state of the art Emergency Operations Centre was completed in 2012. The Emergency Operations Centre housed representatives from all responding entities in one location, and the close proximity critically enhanced the information gathering and verification process.
 
As previously mentioned, a new crisis communication plan and crisis communication response team structure was under development at the time of the 2013 Calgary flood. As such, the City of Calgary is now looking at a valuable opportunity to incorporate identified successes and learning opportunities into the yet to be completed crisis communication plan.
 
That said, one significant takeaway is that a crisis communication plan should provide a framework, guidance, and direction. However, the plan should be simple and allow room for professionals to utilize their expertise and creativity. A crisis communication plan cannot effectively address every possible scenario and therefore must be easily adaptable. As one of our leaders reflected, “It does not matter what tune you have practiced, a crisis will always make you sing a different song.”
 
Another important takeaway for the City of Calgary is the need for communication capacity. In addition to all of the front line communication needs, we were required to provide 24/7 communication support at nine reception centers (evacuation centers) throughout the city, which greatly impacted our staffing resources and capabilities. To achieve all of our objectives during the 2013 Calgary flood, we required the ongoing expertise of more than 90 communication professionals. Looking forward, we will find unique ways to build in significant communication capacities so we will be prepared should an event of this magnitude occur again.

Q&A on Media Training (Part 2)

C4CS® regularly conducts on-camera media training and spokesperson skills coaching, which we customize to fit our client partners' needs. After the publication of our first Q&A on Media Training in August (please click here to access the August issue of our Communication Command e-Newsletter), we received follow up questions of which five are addressed below. We hope the information is of interest to our readers.

What is the recommended number of media training participants?
 
As mentioned in the first Q&A on Media Training, format, content, and delivery must be tailored to the client partner's and the individual participant's needs. Therefore, C4CS® media trainers and spokesperson skills coaches carefully assess training participants' skills and experience and customize each session accordingly.
 
A key consideration concerning any group media training is how much on-camera time and individual instruction each participant will need to acquire the desired theoretical knowledge and communication skills. In general, the more on-camera time and individualized instruction is needed, the fewer participants should be included in a training. Consequently, we may recommend switching from a group media training format to a one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching session in order to maximize individual learning, especially for key executives and spokespersons.
 
The number of media training participants in one session is also determined by other factors including the client partner's desire to have a specific group of managers - for instance those who have recently been appointed as spokespersons - attend the same training session. However, in order to allow sufficient on-camera time the number of participants for a full day media training should not exceed eight.


How does the use of a professional news videographer enhance media training?

A professional news videographer makes the on-camera media interview practices more realistic and produces higher quality video clips for media interview performance review and critique. Using a professional news videographer and professional video equipment also enables training participants to be better prepared for actual media interview situations.
 
In addition, an experienced professional news videographer is in a position to share important tricks of the trade. This includes explaining how they use light, what shirt and tie or blouse and scarf color patterns are best for TV, and at what angle the best camera shot can be taken. Such advice increases the likelihood that C4CS® training participants will make the most of upcoming interview opportunities.
 
In order to make the preparation for TV interview opportunities even more realistic, we recommend that our client partners consider the use of a TV studio. The additional cost associated with the use of a TV studio is justified, and should perhaps even be viewed as necessary, if it is already known that designated media training participants will conduct important TV interviews in the near future.
  

Should media training be designed around issue specific scenarios?

The use of realistic scenarios in on-camera media trainings is another way to increase participant learning. In our experience, issue specific scenarios that involve decision making across multiple functional areas and business units improve training participant collaboration and often lead to better results in message development and message delivery.  
 
Issue specific scenarios also enhance team building. We have, for example, provided scenario based media training to managers who had never met prior to the training. By the end of the training, however, participants had found a way to work as a cohesive unit and understood one another's areas of expertise, approach to problem solving, public speaking preferences, etc.  
 
These positive outcomes are also the reason why C4CS® recommends the use of realistic crisis scenarios in its crisis communication training. While even half day media training and crisis communication training sessions will become more effective due to the use of a realistic scenario, we generally recommend that a scenario be used for training that spans at least one full day so participants gain as much as possible from each customized training session.


How much information on social media should be included in on-camera media training?

Because of social media's continuous rise in importance and the fact that shrinking news rooms result in reporters with traditional media outlets increasingly turning to social media, our media training includes an optional component on social media that keeps growing in size and relevance. The related training content first of all discusses social media characteristics and highlights important differences between traditional news media and social media.
 
In addition, our media trainers share how bloggers work and what it takes to successfully pitch news to them. Information concerning the latest use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as reputational risks associated with social media is also addressed in our media training.

Social media related on-camera practices include mock interviews with bloggers that make use of Skype and other online technologies. And finally, C4CS® also uses training materials that convey how traditional news releases differ from those that are written for social media.
 

Is there anything else that C4CS® does in order to increase the value of its Media Training?
 
We tell our client partners that an informed and proven approach to selecting spokespersons will yield the best results. As such, we design our media training in a way that also enables spokesperson identification and generates recommendations as to which training participants are best suited to be considered as potential spokespersons.

In order to simplify the planning process, we encourage our client partners to utilize a formal Media Training schedule. The training schedule typically covers a full calendar year and identifies the number of on-camera media trainings for each month as well as training parameters including the maximum number of participants and where each training will be held.

It takes a lot of practice to become comfortable with developing key messages, distilling them into memorable sound bites, and staying on message during a media interview. That is especially true when cameras are involved. C4CS® media trainers and spokesperson skills coaches are hence not only available for structured training, but they can be contacted at any time for immediate consultation and assistance in preparing for a media interview opportunity as well as serving as media liaison and spokesperson when needed.  
 
Should you have any questions concerning our group media training and one-on-one media skills building services, please contact us at info@c4cs.com. We look forward to hearing from you.


Food For Thought

“We have to remember that reputations
are won or lost in a crisis.”


Ken Chenault


 
Copyright © 2013 C4CS, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leaders in Strategic Communication
and Crisis Management


info@c4cs.com
www.c4cs.com