“The Donald” and Hillary would be wise to “actively listen” to “We the people …”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would do well to understand the importance of “actively listening” to “We the people …” Openness, transparency, actively listening and continual feedback are critical to the success of any public engagement process.

Six steps to prepare your small business for a disaster

Let’s hope and pray that you never have a disaster however the chances increase daily.

Many of you reading this have most likely followed the looting and rioting that occurred following the Grand Jury’s decisions in Ferguson, Mo and New York City.  The actions of the rioters and looters on small businesses was deplorable and I sincerely hope, yet doubt, that those responsible for breaking into stores and looting will be arrested and prosecuted. Sadly, many of those businesses had not appropriately prepared for such an incident.

As a small business owner there are several things you should do in advance to protect yourself, your employees and your business during a disaster.

First, you must develop a disaster preparedness plan.

This planning is as essential as developing a business plan. Having a disaster plan in place will make the difference between being shut down for a few days, and losing your livelihood forever. The plan should be thoughtfully designed to cover all possible contingencies. You may never face a riot however the chances of an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado or even a robbery in western Kentucky is significant.

Second, get your insurances in order.

We recommend that you have a personal and ongoing relationship with your insurance agent. Choose one who understands the needs of your business and meet with him/her annually to assess and reassess your needs.

If you are in a store-front business such as a convenience store you will need business-interruption insurance. This is the type of insurance that replaces income lost when a business suffers downtime due to a covered peril, which means that you must understand fully what perils are covered.

Many insurance companies no longer cover such things as terrorist, rioting and looting events. Know and understand fully what you are paying for and be a good business person by shopping around for the right agent and a company that will meet your needs.

Here is what I mean by this – your agent is the person you will depend upon to facilitate and handle claims and settlements for you. This person’s behavioral, management and personality styles should at least be complementary to your own. However, if you tend to be a tentative person who will not fight for your rights, you may wish to ensure that you have an insurance agent who will and is truly on your side.

A few years ago, we actually changed our insurance agent even though the company we had insurance with at the time charged a lesser premium. Why? Frankly, this insurance agent would not promptly return our telephone calls, answer our questions with clarity or handle our issues and reimbursements quickly and fairly.

If this is your agent – he/she needs training in customer service and you are not paying him/her to be less than customer focused. Find an agent that meets your expectations and that you are comfortable with while understanding that you as a customer is of paramount importance to him/her.

Third, remember that normal hazard insurance doesn’t cover floods.

It is vitally important that you make sure you have designated flood insurance. Also, ensure that you fully understand what your insurance covers and what is not covered.

Fourth, as the business owner, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prepared to relocate temporarily? Where might we do this?
  • What would happen if my suppliers were shut down due to an emergency or disaster?
  • Do you employees know what to do in case of an emergency or a disaster?

For example, employees should know where all the emergency exits are located in your building.  A safety coordinator should be appointed and trained. This is the person who will take responsibility for making sure that all the fire extinguishers, security systems and close-circuit television cameras work and that all emergency exits are operational.

This person will plan and conduct safety and fire drills and develop evacuation and business recovery plans. Obviously in many small businesses this will be you as the owner!

Fifth, backup and store vital business records offsite.

Information stored on paper and computer, should be copied and saved on a backup hard drive at an offsite location at least 50 miles away from the main business site, advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This is where we would disagree with FEMA. We recommend using “cloud” computer services to back up your information so they can be accessible from anywhere at any time. Setup and use a password system and ensure that you and at least two other trusted employees have access to that password.

Sixth, develop a simple, easy to follow “business recovery communications” plan.

Assign key employees as facilitators who during a disaster will contact suppliers, creditors, other employees, customers, and utility companies to get the word out that the business is still viable and is in need of assistance in the recovery.

Get yourself trained and train at least one preferably two other persons to be a media spokesperson to keep the public informed of your rebuilding efforts, if necessary.

Finally, recognize and understand that the more strategic planning you do on the front-end the better. The last thing you need to be doing is planning for a disaster when it is underway or impending.

Our mantra about preparing and strategically planning for a disaster has remained the same the past 40-years: “Always plan for the worst, while praying for the best.”

It is overdue that all government agencies become open and transparent … The LBL Issue

LBL morning landscape

Land Between The Lakes

To Those Interested:

Sadly, it is once again time to have our elected officials at the local, state and federal level step to the plate and stop the US Forest Service at Land Between The Lakes from making a mockery of the commitments made to the former residents, users, visitors and taxpayers.

The most recent petition drive to stop the clear-cutting and burning at this 170,000 national outdoor recreation, education and resource management area is the latest eruption in the ongoing battle to get a federal agency back in line to serve its constituency.

Everyone should understand that the USFS actions directly impacts the local tourism economy of western Kentucky and ultimately the Commonwealth’ s economy, so I am sure the Governor and Kentucky State legislators are already in touch with the locally elected officials to stop these actions. If not, now is the time for them to step up and speak out.

I commend the work of Lyon Judge Wade White and Trigg County Judge Hollis White, and Professor David Nickell and others who have committed to engaging in openness and transparency to inform and educate those with an interest in LBL  – this is something that too many local, state and federal governments only say they will do.

They are effectively using social and traditional media to push their opposition on the USFS actions out to the people that count – the former residents, the taxpayers, the users and the visitors to this national treasure. They must keep up the openness and transparency and continue to inform, educate and collaborate with those they serve and insist that the federal managers come to the table to resolve this crisis that the USFS created.

Any well-read or TV-versed person knows that the Obama administration has demonstrated they are “big on hat, short on cattle” when it comes to openness and transparency and, therefore, it seems the US Forest Service can be the same. Well, USFS you are wrong! You have been called out.

I am not surprised that Land Between The Lakes talking head Jan Bush says U.S. Forestry officials don’t plan to attend the February 26th public meeting, but they look forward to the dialogue that follows. I have to ask, how will you know what that dialogue is Ms. Bush if you don’t attend?

Knowing how the federal government works, after spending almost two decades trying to make it an open and transparent government that sought out public opinion and dialogue before making decisions that impacted its customers, all I can say is “I am sure the USFS management and employees are waiting with baited breathe over at LBL to hear the outcome of this meeting.”

According to local media sources, Wade White of Lyon County and Hollis Alexander of Trigg County are encouraging community members to voice concerns at a public meeting they’re planning for February 26th in Grand Rivers. White says logging and burning ongoing in the northern portion of LBL makes the landscape look devastated.

“If we truly are a recreational area like what was promised back in the 60s, to draw in people so it helps our economies all around, that’s not happening,” said White. “That’s not going to happen if it becomes a tree farm.”

White has been publicly critical of logging and burning operations in LBL both on his and Lyon County’s Facebook page. He’s raising funds to bolster his efforts with a media campaign, says the tax funded National Public Radio website WKMS at Murray State University.

Judge White I strongly urge you to sit down with the all the tourism commissions in the area and voice your concern. Kentucky Western Waterlands, Inc. should be speaking up on behalf of the regional tourism businesses.

Also, Judge White and Alexander please contact the Southeast Outdoor Press Association (http://seopa.org); The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association (http://aglowinfo.org); The National Outdoor Writers Association (http://owaa.org); the Tennessee and Kentucky Press associations and outdoor writer association and such imminent and respected outdoor writers as Wade Bourne (http://www.wadebourneoutdoors.com/ ) in Clarksville, Tenn.; Steve Vantress in Paducah, and Bill Evans, Vice President of Operations and News at WPSD-TV and let them know of this egregious issue and the opposition and give them interviews, fact sheets, photographs and video. Take this story to the world and I assure you these people will respond.

We support Judge White and Judge Alexander; however, just as we saw with the US Corps of Engineers attempts to recently ram down a new policy about fishing below Barkley Dam without public input and consideration these judges will have to have the total support of Congressman Whitfield and Senators McConnell and Paul to stop this outrageous activity. Now, is the time to insist that the state and federal representatives publicly speak up and demonstrate their support of your viewpoints.

This time federal legislation must be designed to also include a provision that stops such excessive forestry practices and ensures that all roads to all cemeteries in LBL will be maintained and remain open at all times. The legislation should focus any agency that runs this project on operation and maintenance of existing facilities, confine them to the facilities they currently have with no more commercialization expansion and insist that they are at all times engaged with the public seeking input, comment and collaborative decision-making.

Make no mistake to stop this action will require federal legislation, supported by the state of Kentucky and Tennessee and the local and state elected officials.

As concerned citizens and taxpayers, call and write your federally elected officials, your Governor and state legislators and insist they attend this meeting. Ask them the federally elected representatives to intervene legislatively and insist while they are at it that they insist the USFS demonstrate enough courage to come to these meetings and hear the public’s views, issues, concerns and dialogue.

It is time that government at all levels actively seek out and engage those who pay their salaries and fund their budgets — the taxpayers. In fact, that time is long overdue!

Finally, drive over to LBL and see this situation for yourselves. Call Judge White and Alexander and talk to them and express your opinions, attend this meeting on February 26th in Grand Rivers; call WPSD-TV, the Paducah Sun and your local newspapers and insist they attend.

Use your own personal social media sites to get your messages and opinions out there, whatever they might be and insist that the USFS become open and transparent.

Finally, Judge White and Alexander file Freedom of Information Acts requesting all documents dealing with this and all management issues of concern and if it is found that someone sitting in the southwestern United States wrote this management plan reveal that fact to the public.

Go to these sites to learn more and attend these meetings to voice your opinions, your outrage and or your concern:

https://www.facebook.com/lblcoalition

http://lblcoalition.org/wp/2015/02/please-take-a-drive-to-see-for-yourself/

Preventing a Crisis: Ebola, Campus Riots, Pandemics – What Professionals Must Understand About Working with the Media

Regrettably, the Ebola crisis will continue to be a top of the page story for the next several months.  The conflicting messages given by the medical profession and the media have made sure of this.  The medical profession has created this crisis by providing experts who are not necessarily good communicators to communicate about the disease and the infected patients. Although doctors may be experts at medical issues, they are not necessarily good communicators with the media and the public at large.

Doctors are usually well experienced at diagnosing and treating disease.  However, few are experienced in talking to the media and the public.  As a result, while they don’t plan to create a crisis, they often do just that. This often occurs when there has not been adequate time taken to create key messages, trained on those messages and ensure that everyone is on message.

 For example, the medical profession and the President often contradict each other.

Obama says: “You Can’t Get Ebola Sitting Next to Someone on a Bus”.

CDC announces: “Avoid Public Transportation”. (cnsnews.com)

In his video to residents of West African countries experiencing Ebola outbreaks, President Obama dispensed advice on how to avoid the disease, “You cannot get it (Ebola) through casual contact like sitting next to someone on a bus”.

At the same time, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is advising Americans who travel to the Ebola-stricken nations to “avoid public transportation”.

Listeners must ask themselves which is the correct message? As this story has evolved, it is too reminiscent of the old Abbott-Costello routine of “Who’s on first”?

To avoid the crisis mentality, media training and practice is required for doctors (and all professionals who are going to speak to the media) so that they know how to respond when called upon to answer questions at a media briefing. Every doctor or designated spokesperson should be trained to follow the same rules. Some doctors and now even the President have stepped outside the “agreed to” principles of conduct during this crisis, and they and their employers and their audiences have suffered the consequences.

Most of us are familiar with the acronym HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the rules that govern patient privacy. And we are familiar with the requirements to read and sign a form that clearly articulates what information can and can’t be released by your doctor. These Federal rules essentially keep a doctor or an employer of the health care facility from talking about a patient or an issue.

But when the issue is Ebola, E-coli or the Avian Flu, the media demands details, because of HIPAA, doctors often cannot provide these details. Doctors who are media trained and practiced can assist in preventing a crisis by sharing a carefully crafted answer with the media…an answer that explains the situation and the parameters around the answer.

The blog post at Gerard Braud Communications suggests that a media trained doctor can artfully reply, when asked about a patient’s condition during an outbreak of the Ebola virus, “Please understand that due to Federal law – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – HIPAA – I am not permitted to discuss specific health conditions about our patient, and neither should the media share such information. I can in general say that a patient with the Ebola virus can be safely quarantined because the virus is not transmitted by breathing in the infection.   It can be transmitted only by contact with blood or other body fluids.”

Simply stated, reporters need a sound bite or a good quote. The key for crisis prevention managers is to write sound bite answers in advance for “tough questions” and then assist the doctor in learning how to masterfully deliver them. The “get on message and stay on message” concept is causing great difficulties with the current administration and its appointees.

We insist that our clients develop the “toughest of the tough” questions — those questions, which I call “keep us awake at night” — and that we write simple, easy to understand and communicate answers. The same principle is true when we assist clients with development of crisis plans. Prepare for the worst-case scenario and you will be able to handle anything.

Although doctors are highly trained in the medical field, they need advice, counsel and training before working with reporters. The same is true for any specialized profession be they engineers or bank presidents.

Professionals in any field will be well served to collaborate with their communicators and public relations teams well in advance of engaging in any media conference. In order to be successful in today’s world, professionals should obtain the information and practice their delivery before they perform in the media arena.

END

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong is a crisis and emergency communications and management consultant. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1.888.340.2006. Dr. Armstrong is available for speaking engagements and conducts training workshops. Visit his website at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com where you can find even more free resources including the FREE white paper The 11 Steps in Crisis Communications.

References: www.ldarrylarmstrong.com and www.braud.com