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This issue of Communication Command contains an interview about "Crisis Management for Lawyers" and an article about "2020 Media Training -- 10 Tips for Developing Effective Spokespersons." We hope you will enjoy our e-Newsletter.
Winter
2019 / 2020
Media Skills & Spokesperson Training 
C4CS® is now offering innovative and fully customizable media skills and spokesperson training in partnership with Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation.
A recent article in the Pittsburgh Business Times that discusses the training services is available here.
Our training brochure can be viewed and downloaded via this link.
We look forward to working with one-on-one coaching and group training participants from corporate, nonprofit, government, and other sectors. Please contact C4CS® Vice President, Anne Linaberger, at linaberger@c4cs.com for more information.
Effective Presentation Skills for Lawyers
C4CS® Senior Vice President, Dianne Chase, will conduct a Continuing Legal Education class on "Effective Presentation Skills for Legal Professionals" for the Mecklenburg County Bar Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 31, 2020. Additional information concerning the session is available via this link.
If your organization would like to have C4CS® make a presentation or conduct a workshop, please contact us at info@c4cs.com.
IABC Charlotte Presentation
C4CS® Senior Vice President, Dianne Chase, and her fellow IABC Charlotte board members will host an event on “The Anatomy of a Disaster and the Road to Recovery” on February 5, 2020. Additional information concerning the presentation as well as event registration are available on IABC Charlotte's homepage and here.
Second Annual Big Table Participation
C4CS® is proud to join the #Pittsburgh region on March 18, 2020 for Leadership Pittsburgh’s second annual Big Table, a region-wide conversation to deepen our understanding of shared values as a community of caring residents, businesses, and organizations. Our firm will again co-host dinner and discussion with Sarah Heinz House, a member of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Click on this link to find out how to join a Big Table or organize your own. #BigTablePGH Connect. Converse. Community.
Continuing Legal Education Classes
C4CS® President & CEO, Oliver S. SchmidtC4CS® Vice President, Anne Linaberger, and KDKA-TV's Jon Delano will conduct a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on Crisis Communication for the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA) on April 3, 2020. Please contact us at info@c4cs.com for more information.
C4CS® President & CEO, Oliver S. Schmidt, and C4CS® Senior Strategist, Cynthia Cavendish-Carey, recently conducted a CLE class on Crisis Management that included a case study presentation by our partner company CSI Investigators. We would like to thank CSI's Vincent Beal as well as in-house attorneys and lawyers in private practice for their CLE participation.
Successful TRPRC Training Session
C4CS® President & CEO, Oliver S. Schmidt, and C4CS® Vice President, Anne Linaberger, conducted a Crisis Communication & Media Training for members of the Three Rivers Pollution Response Council (TRPRC) on November 12, 2019.
We would like to thank TRPRC's board of directors and the member organizations for more than 10 years of working with our team.
If your organization would like to have C4CS® make a presentation or conduct a workshop, please contact us at info@c4cs.com.
E4 Carolinas Presentation
C4CS® sponsored E4 Carolinas' Energy Communicators Event on December 12, 2019. C4CS® Senior Vice President, Dianne Chase, functioned as Day Chair and presented on effective message development and message delivery. The session also provided attendees the opportunity to conduct on-camera practice interviews.
C4CS® is an E4 Carolinas member company.
Local Emergency Planning Committee
As a member of Allegheny County's Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), C4CS® regularly participates in LEPC meetings. Earlier this month, C4CS® Senior Consultant, John Buckman, represented our firm at the most recent committee meeting.
The picture above shows LEPC members and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in front of Allegheny County's state-of-the-art Emergency Services headquarters building.
Our team looks forward to continuing the important work that Local Emergency Planning Committee members do in support of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, residents.
C4CS®
e-Learning Course
Professionals interested in our e-Learning course on Harnessing the Power of Social Media in a Crisis may download the course brochure via this link.
Congratulations to those who completed the course work and obtained a Certificate in Social Media Crisis Management Planning accredited by ICOR.
If you have questions concerning our e-Learning course, please contact us at training@c4cs.com.
Past e-Newsletter Issues
Please click here if you would like to access past issues of our Communication Command e-Newsletter, which reaches professionals in several dozen countries around the world.
Five Questions about Crisis Management for Lawyers

Nick Watson is a partner in the international law firm Keystone Law. The firm is headquartered in London, England.

 
Nick Watson

You are a partner in a law firm in England, but you have also worked as an in-house attorney. What does your career path look like and how would you describe your current legal practice?

I began my career in the world of corporate law, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions work. I moved in-house because I wanted more involvement in business issues. First, I joined Cummins, a global engines and power generation business. I then moved to Control Risks, a specialist risk consultancy.
 
At Control Risks, I came to appreciate the importance of crisis management and preparedness planning as risk mitigation tools. As in-house counsel, I was part of the internal risk management function. Fulfilling that role at a company that deals in hostage negotiation, business intelligence, crisis response, and armed security gives you a unique perspective on risk and crisis management. You become less risk averse and more risk-based in your approach to analyzing threats and issues.

Now, as a partner at Keystone Law, I leverage my in-house experience, and in particular the expertise I acquired at Control Risks, to help clients with a range of concerns. Most significantly, I work with clients to ensure they are prepared to respond to potential crises. 
 
Over the years I have learned that collaborating with other external experts, including well known firms in the strategic communication and crisis management space such as C4CS®, is critical to ensuring that our clients are better served. Immediate access to holistic advice that is rooted in profound crisis management and crisis communications expertise and incorporates diverse perspectives and experiences makes a big difference.


In your experience, what are the key challenges in-house attorneys and external legal advisors face when crisis hits? 

One of the biggest challenges for many in-house attorneys is simply ensuring that they are included in the process. It is difficult to help if you are not in the room.
 
Issues should not be crudely categorized as ‘legal’ or ‘commercial’. Business decisions have legal implications. And legal advice has commercial repercussions. The two need to work in harmony to achieve the best outcome.
 
At the same time, lawyers must demonstrate a willingness and ability to step outside their comfort zones. Lawyers have a natural tendency to define themselves as experts in a narrow sense. That can lead to some seeking the safe haven of their specialist area in a pressure situation. A lawyer’s role is obviously to bring their legal insight to bear. But lawyers have other qualities and skills that are useful in a crisis: the ability to assimilate large amounts of information, to triage and prioritize, to remain calm under pressure, to think strategically as well as tactically. You must bring personality and pragmatism to your legal role and your advice must be clear and actionable.
 
Responding to a crisis requires one to make decisions based on partial information, and working in conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty, as well as under time pressure. For some lawyers, this will be challenging. For others, it may be familiar territory. You must control the urge to know and contain every dimension of a situation. If you give in to that instinct, it can lead to paralysis and impede communication, precipitating an overly constrained and muted public response. This could be costly, because effective communication, both internal and external, is a critical success factor in crisis response.


What value does a lawyer bring to the overall crisis management planning process and what specific tasks should in-house attorneys and external legal advisors perform in order to increase crisis readiness?  

Preparedness is the key to good crisis management. If you want to effectively prepare for and respond to a crisis, three key constituencies must be represented: business, legal, and communications. Excluding any of these from your crisis planning, or your Crisis Management Team, would be to work against your own best interests.
 
The issues surrounding a crisis will naturally encompass duty of care, financial cost and a variety of regulatory and compliance issues. Many of these issues stem from legal obligations; all represent substantial legal liability and reputational exposure. If you don’t appreciate them, if you don’t anticipate them and if you don’t understand how to address them, your crisis preparedness and the resulting response may be severely compromised. 
 
In order to plan, you need to anticipate the likely origins of crises and their potential impacts on your stakeholders and the business. You should employ the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ by soliciting the views of a diverse circle of business leaders and experts, both internal and external to your organization. This will reduce the likelihood of a black swan event blindsiding you. It will also give you the best chance of understanding what levers to pull when crisis hits.
 
In this process, a dispassionate and independent legal voice can be invaluable. Internal and external counsel should offer a friendly challenge to business assumptions and bring a fresh perspective to help identify all the potential impacts of a trigger event or scenario.
 
Attorneys are useful in this regard for two reasons: first, they have particular knowledge concerning types of exposure and the likely impacts. Second, they are good at imagining the worst. A natural consequence of a lawyer’s training is the ability to envisage what might go wrong in any given situation. That can make lawyers unduly conservative, but when it comes to the initial phase of crisis planning, it is a useful attribute.
 
Beyond this, you should introduce your legal and crisis communication teams to each other and have them go through crisis training together. Their rapport will be critical to the efficacy of any response strategy should a crisis arise. Each needs to appreciate where the other is coming from and to respect the valuable contribution each will make.


How should attorneys be involved in the response to a crisis and the recovery and learning phase that follows?

During the response phase of a crisis, the attorney needs to have a seat at the table so that the legal, regulatory, compliance and policy implications of any piece of information can be fully absorbed. The consequent decisions of the Crisis Management Team need to be informed, even if they are not always directed, by that insight. The TalkTalk cyber-attack is illustrative.
 
In October 2015, TalkTalk, a UK telecommunications and internet business, suffered a cyber-attack accompanied by a demand for ransom. Personal and banking details of up to four million customers were feared to have been accessed. The company decided to communicate openly and pro-actively with customers. At that time, there was no legal imperative to do this. Now, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, mandates prompt disclosure to regulators and affected individuals, if the likely impact is serious. 
 
TalkTalk eventually emerged with its reputation tarnished but intact. Its brand proved to be resilient enough to bounce back over time. Even so, the company has estimated that the incident reduced revenues by £15m and that it incurred around £45m of exceptional costs. Next to these losses, the fine of £400,000 imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office seemed inconsequential.
 
Now imagine the same scenario under the new framework of GDPR. Regulators can impose fines up to 4% of global revenue or €20million (whichever is higher). In the original TalkTalk scenario, although the brand proved resilient, it became apparent only days after the data breach that the situation was relatively under control. Out of the initially feared four million affected customer accounts, fewer than 160,000 were actually exposed. So, did TalkTalk go public too soon?
 
That is a difficult question to answer. It is clear that you need to strike the right balance between brand management, maintaining good relations with stakeholders and the authorities, and being mindful of your legal obligations and exposures. 
 
Perhaps, you might think, in the same situation you would choose to be more reticent. But bear this in mind: if a similar breach occurred today, the company’s potential regulatory exposure would increase from £500,000 to £70,000,000. That makes any such decision truly a high stakes call.
 
Whilst it remains only one piece of the jigsaw, getting the legal analysis right has never been more important.


What advice do you have for attorneys in regard to working with crisis management and communication professionals?

We all need to understand that the appropriate response to a crisis requires the right blend of skills and actions at the right times. That means attorneys must work hand in hand with experts in crisis management, crisis communication, and other disciplines. Management consultancies like C4CS® are comprised of dedicated professionals with a finely honed skill set. Lawyers should show experienced crisis professionals the same respect that we expect and appreciate from our clients and fellow attorneys. We do not act in the best interests of our clients if we place ourselves in opposition to those who are, in collaboration with us, seeking to manage a difficult situation to the best of their abilities.
 
Even if one does all that is required and to the highest standards, it is in the nature of a crisis to leave a sense that the situation could have been handled better. Whilst criticism and disagreement may be inevitable, we all have a job to do. We bring our diverse skills to bear with the same ultimate objective: return the client to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible with the minimum adverse effect on its operations, reputation and balance sheet. In seeking to achieve that, we will address the immediate and pressing concerns of human, environmental and social impact.
 
As a lawyer, it is vitally important to understand and accept that one’s own analysis of the best way to address those concerns and, hence, to achieve the ultimate objective, may not be the only, or even the best, way to go. Listening to and embracing the valuable contribution of other crisis experts is a prerequisite for any lawyer engaged in crisis management.

2020 Media Training - 10 Tips for developing Effective Spokespersons
 
Corporate reputation, and how external and internal stakeholders perceive companies and their leadership, are significantly influenced by media coverage. And while the use of social media as a source of news has sharply increased in recent years, offline and online print and broadcast media content continues to play a critical role in shaping stakeholder perception and impacting brand equity, reputation and the bottom line.

As a result, organizations around the world recognize that the ability to represent themselves effectively before the news media is not a nice-to-have but a must-have in the 21st century. Skilled spokespersons who know how to make the most of media interview opportunities are in high demand.

But how can we turn otherwise successful managers into experienced spokespersons regardless of their professional training and the functional areas they represent? The answer is recurring media skills building in the form of on-camera media interview group training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching.

Here are 10 tips for optimizing on-camera media interview and spokesperson skills building.

1. Customization is essential

Neither group media interview training nor one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching should follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, format, content and delivery must be tailored to the company’s and the individual participant’s needs. Tools such as a pre-training questionnaire and phone interview should be used to assess training participants’ media interview experience, strengths and weaknesses, etc., and to customize each session.

The objective is to provide skills-building that is challenging but not too advanced. Once a preliminary outline has been produced, the proposed format, content and materials should be discussed, and each training or coaching component fine-tuned. After each skills-building session, participant feedback should be collected, analyzed and used to improve future media interview group training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching.

2. A pleasant and realistic learning experience

Creating a supportive media training and spokesperson coaching environment that enables constructive feedback and builds confidence along with competency is critical. Participants should embrace the idea that media interviews present valuable opportunities to deliver targeted messages to specific stakeholders using the reporter or blogger as a filter. Following the investment in media interview skills building, managers should have the confidence and ability to seek media interview opportunities and make the most of them.

To achieve this goal, media interview training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching must cover message development as well as non-verbal and verbal message delivery. Each session should include enough on-camera practice time, reviews of taped practice interviews, and real-life interview examples that illustrate good and bad media interview performances.

3. Experienced trainers and coaches

In order to prepare managers to conduct effective interviews with print, broadcast and social media, utilizing trainers and coaches with deep media training and journalistic experience is vital. In addition to conducting on-camera media interview practices that introduce different types of media interviews, trainers and coaches must be able to convey fundamentals, including the role and needs of print, broadcast and social media.

Trainers and coaches should also be involved in the pre-training assessment as well as skills-building session follow-up and evaluation. Furthermore, participant feedback provided verbally and via a post-training questionnaire should be actively sought to improve future media interview group training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching.

4. Overcoming media interview uneasiness

Many managers are reluctant to conduct media interviews for a variety of reasons. Chief among them are the unfamiliarity with the task at hand and the corresponding fear of failure. That is especially true in times of crisis. “Is the reporter out to get me?” is all too often a debilitating thought in the back of the employee’s mind.

While the feeling of uncertainty and the perceived lack of control over the interview process and outcome are both real and hard to pin down, the recipe for media interview success is clear: those who go through recurring on-camera training, prepare thoroughly for each media interview opportunity, and stick to their key messages during each interview, tend to do well.

5. Training and coaching frequency

How frequently group media training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching should occur depends on several factors including the participants’ level of experience, the number and importance of upcoming media interview opportunities, and the anticipated emergence of strategic issues that may result in heightened media attention and stakeholder pressure. In the corporate world, offering training to designated primary and backup spokespersons, as well as to topical experts, at least once every year is common practice.

In many cases, key managers new to the company are automatically enrolled in group media training but may elect to go through one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching instead. In the end, practice makes perfect. Simply put, recurring media training and spokesperson skills coaching, along with seizing media interview opportunities, will inevitably enhance media interview skills and lead to better interview performances.

6. Ideal number of training participants

A key consideration for any group media training is how much on-camera time and instruction participants will need to acquire the desired knowledge and skills. In general, the more on-camera time and individualized instruction are needed, the fewer participants should be included in a group training. In some cases, it may be advisable to switch from a group media training format to one-on-one spokesperson coaching sessions in order to maximize individual learning.

The number of media training participants in one session is also determined by other factors such as the desire to have a specific group – for instance those recently appointed as spokespersons or the members of the crisis response team – attend the same training session. However, to allow enough time for on-camera interview practice and review, the number of participants for a full-day group media training should not exceed eight.

7. Utilizing a professional videographer and studio

A professional videographer and high-tech recording equipment make on-camera media interview practices more realistic and typically produce superior quality video clips for performance review. Likewise, the use of a TV studio and a radio studio to prepare for important broadcast media interview opportunities often results in better training and coaching outcomes that improve the probability of a successful media interview.

In addition, an experienced professional videographer can share important tricks of the trade. This could include explaining what clothing colors and patterns are most suitable for TV and at what angle the best camera shot can be taken. Similarly, a radio veteran will be able to shed light on how to best conduct a radio interview. Such advice increases the likelihood that media interview training and spokesperson skills coaching participants will conduct more effective media interviews in the future.

8. Advantages of scenario-based training

Using realistic scenarios in on-camera media interview group training and one-on-one spokesperson skills coaching is another way in which participant learning can be increased. Depending on the organization, media interview group training that is centered around a crisis scenario may also be referred to as scenario-based crisis communication training.

The inclusion of training scenarios in media interview training typically involves decision making across multiple functional areas and business units, enhances training participant collaboration, and regularly leads to better results regarding message development and media interview performance. Even managers who meet for the first time at the beginning of a full-day training session often find a way to work as a cohesive unit by the end of a scenario-based media interview group training.

9. Social media training content

Due to social media’s continuous rise in importance, and because shrinking newsrooms increasingly result in journalists with traditional media outlets turning to social media for story ideas, fact-checking, etc., comprehensive media interview training and coaching must include information on social media. The related training content should, for example, explain social media characteristics, highlight differences between traditional and social media, and may also include a mock interview with a blogger.

Additionally, media trainers and coaches should share how bloggers work and what it takes to successfully pitch to them. Information concerning the latest use of Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms, as well as reputational risks associated with social media, should also be addressed.

10. Further enhancing media interview skills

It takes a lot of practice to become comfortable with developing compelling key messages, distilling them into memorable sound bites, and staying on message during a media interview. That is especially true when the interview is being conducted in response to a crisis. Tip sheets on “Media Interview Preparation Steps” and “Reporters’ Interview Techniques and How to React” are therefore appreciated by managers no matter how many media interview skills-building sessions they have participated in.

Other proven tools to increase media interview performance are lists of what to do and what not to do when talking to reporters, as well as information concerning what stakeholders need to learn during a crisis. Finally, developing a good relationship with one’s media interview trainer or coach, and turning to them when the need for advice arises outside the training room, are recommended.

Without a doubt, being a spokesperson is a tough job. Not only must spokespersons speak and think well on their feet, but they also have to keep pace with the dizzying amount of information from within the organization, as well as more and more traditional and social media content.

Organizations that enable their official spokespersons and executive leadership to develop media interview skills before media interview opportunities arise are much more likely to reap the benefits of successful media interviews. It is hence a good idea to devise a formal media interview and spokesperson skills-building approach and implement an annual group training and one-on-one coaching schedule as soon as possible.
 
This article was written by C4CS® President & CEO, Oliver S. Schmidt, and recently published by Bulldog Reporter. If you would like to access the original article, please click on this link.

C4CS® regularly conducts on-camera group media training and one-on-one executive media coaching for corporate, government, and nonprofit client partners. For additional information, please contact us at info@c4cs.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
 
Food For Thought
 

“After an accident in which people have been injured
or killed, companies need to express sympathy for
victims and their families, explaining what they
are doing to help and provide a contact
for anyone affected by the crisis.
Companies need to announce what investigations
they are setting up and which regulatory
authorities they are assisting.”

Michael Skapinker, Contributing Editor Financial Times


 

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Leaders in Strategic Communication
and Crisis Management


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