Realism provided by Nusura’s Simulation Deck Technology

Animated Don't Panic

All organizations these days are subject to crisis and emergency management disasters. Those that take the time to plan for their worst-case scenarios and be prepared in advance will survive and even thrive. Those that believe it “can’t happen to us” will not.

Perhaps equally important, whether they are nonprofit organizations, local, state or federal agencies, large or medium size businesses, or universities and colleges, those folks that don’t understand the impact that social media can have on crisis and emergency management are destined to suffer even more serious consequences than they may realize.

It has been said that imagination is the true sign of intelligence. When it comes to technology and crisis and emergency management, which is evolving daily at speeds often beyond our comprehension, there can be no argument that imagination often makes the difference between the mundane and the next level of creativity.

Recently we teamed with a relatively new company based in Denver, Colo., Nusura, Inc. – “nusura” is a Swahili term meaning “one who survives” – this company is one of the newest innovative companies on deck offering a way for organizations to test their social media and public outreach skills through the use of a training tool they call SimulationDeck.

SimulationDeck is a secure Web portal that replicates online communications tools, including such social media as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as organizational websites and blogs.

As many of my readers know, for years my firm has offered strategic crisis planning and issues management alongside emergency operations planning, training and webinars. When we were asked by a client to consider how best to bring them into the real world of social media we sought out and found Nusura, Inc. The teaming partnership has resulted in a significant contract with a federal agency. We believe our combined resources, talents and experience and a similar set of values on how to handle clients and business in general brought us to the front of the bidder pack.

Nusura’s president is Jim Chestnutt, an experienced public information officer formerly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Chestnutt and his team of former FEMA employees set out to train people on how to get information out to their stakeholders in a timely, accurate and coordinated fashion during emergencies.

We saw benefit and value to application of their technology for not just life-threatening situations, we also saw the benefit to planning for the always prevalent developing crisis around such internal issues as reorganizations, downsizing, sexual harassment charges, ethics charges and legal entanglements that any organization can face.

Chestnutt and I both found that in after-action reports from actual and exercise events – be it an internal crisis or an external emergency – that the public information function in major exercises was not being tested in a realistic way, which is what set me out to find a way to correct the issue for my clients.

Chestnutt says that the pressure created by mock media and those tasked with testing the public information element in mock exercises didn’t compare to the reality of handling even a small emergency.

Nusura, Inc. has former public information officers and field agents from all levels of government who have experienced all sorts of internal and external crises and emergencies. SimulationDeck is the creative offspring of this group of talented professionals to mimic what happens online and in the media during an actual crisis or emergency.

The simulation Web portal has nine websites which emulate social media sites: SimulationBook includes Facebook’s core features; Bleater simulates Twitter; the blogging platform is called Frogger; their YouTube look-alike is Ewe Tube; there is a site for agency or organizational news; incident information; the Exercise Times Daily, a Web-based newspaper that features live reader comments; SimDeck News, a Web-based TV station; and KEXN Radio.

SimulationDeck doesn’t require special software, so it can work on any platform or Internet-connected device. Chestnutt notes that one person working the SimulationDeck could act as 10 people. This person can file a newspaper article, then post on the agency’s website and then act as the Governor’s press secretary and announce a surprise press conference.

Chestnutt told emergencymgmt.com that “Things happen instantly, and any simulation player can generate an enormous amount of injects, as fast as they can type and enter it.”

The tool was recently used during the Vibrant Response 13, a U.S. Army North national-level field training exercise that had 9,000 service members and civilians from the military, as well as state and federal agencies.

Dan Manuszewski, Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army North, told the editor at www.emergencymgmt.com that it’s increasingly important to practice all forms of communications and that includes social media as it becomes increasingly popular.

We note that many of our college and university clients, who have been reluctant to engage in social media as a communications tool, are becoming aware of its importance when they see that their students and staff are more quickly informed through Twitter and Facebook Smartphone communications than the organization’s systems. We see great opportunity to bring these folks and many other organizations and agencies into the real social media and mass media world through such applications as SimulationDeck.

Like it or not, social media is becoming a major communications platform, especially for the current generations. Those organizations that fail to train their employees in the proper use of social media are doing a disservice to the employees and their stakeholders.

Manuszewski says that we need to make sure we understand the entire information environment – from the traditional media to the media that people are using now, like social media.

Chestnutt says that the company is listening carefully to feedback from its users and continually making improvements.

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

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Kathy Griffin, a victim?  How  lawyers tried to reposition pathetic behavior for their client

The Kathy Griffin debacle is the drama of the week for Hollywood celebrities attempting to regain purchase with the American public. Posing with a decapitated head of the President with blood dripping to the floor and a smirk on her face, Ms. Griffin somehow equated this with comedy and art giving no concern to the horrors that many families who have been defiled by ISIS in the same manner nor the trauma brought upon the President’s son.

Of course, her followers and those of her ilk also believe that an upside down crucifix in a bottle of urine should always be prominently displayed to reinforce the importance of art and their First Amendment rights of freedom of expression. Before you read further, I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of our Constitution. Many good men and women have died defending this document and your and my rights to freely express our opinions.

However, interestingly, I seem to recall from my journalism law classes that “screaming fire” in a crowded theater is not covered under the First Amendment of our Constitution nor are behaviors that can be deemed “true-threats.”

Kathy Griffin

Photo source: https://twitter.com/kathygriffin

I am sure someone as revered and influential as Ms. Griffin, who has already humiliated herself by apologizing for her tasteless art would not be held legally accountable for inciting violence, or would she?

Had Ms. Griffin stopped and exited stage left after her “eye-rolling” apology, shown some genuine contriteness and even called the President to apologize personally I postulate she might have been able to continue her moderately successful career.

Instead, taking a page from Hillary Clinton, she becomes the “victim.” She engages her lawyers. They advise her to quickly “apologize” for fear of further legal ramifications. Then as fast as possible her lawyers prepare her a script including the production of “crocodile tears” and delivering with much emotion as possible line “I’m broken.”  Ensuring she looks haggard, and with no makeup, Griffin trots out, and they stand beside her for moral support and to provide direction to observe how well she throws herself upon the victim wagon.

By the way, did anyone see how her press conference touted her legal expertise companions behind her on the marquee as if they were selling fresh meat of the week?

Kathy Griffin now proclaims through her anguish, all the while reminding folks she apologized because it was the “right thing” to do that she “feels” has been “broken” through a conspiracy of the President and all his family.

No, Ms. Griffin, you are a victim of your loutish behavior and shallow thinking. You broke yourself. You simply didn’t realize how broke you would be!

You have allowed your self- importance and belief that the art of comedy has no bounds. Perhaps, next time you should take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy the Malibu ocean view before inserting your foot into your proverbial mouth. Your sophomoric and boorish behavior should cause you some fear in reflection since you may have well crossed into the “true-threat” area of free speech which does have certain prohibitions.

There are, and always will be consequences to your behavior.

Anderson Cooper dumped you like day old milk so fast he didn’t have time to say anything; CNN drops you from the New Year’s Eve celebration after a day and a half of consideration, of course,  and I suspect there will be other consequences. Did you not learn anything from Michael Richardson affair (http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/michael-richards-my-racist-outburst-in-2006-was-a-reality-check-20152310) .

When Richardson overstepped the “societal” bounds and used the “N-word”, he was forced to apologize on national TV and do rounds with Al Sharpton, the Godfather, and Priest who can give redemption to all offenders.

All Presidents get their share of ridicule and abuse, Ms. Griffin. They are burned or hanged in effigy by protesters all the time who for whatever reason don’t agree with their politics. Your behavior went a tad bit too far.

The clarity of “true-threat jurisprudence remains a muddled mess,” even after a decade of trying to sort it out at the Supreme Court level. However, one thing I know Ms. Griffin your “shock and awe” came back to haunt you this time.

Are you a victim like Hillary? Not even close to playing it like her, kid!

Perhaps, the two of you can have tea one evening and cry over the spilled milk, and she can help you make a list of 101 reasons the public as a whole should forgive you since it wasn’t your fault but that of the President and his family.

I recommend that you look to one of your own for your next press conference statement instead of a bunch of lawyers.

“I felt ashamed for what I had done. I don’t have any excuses. I did what I did. I take full responsibility for myself and my actions. I wouldn’t pawn this off on anybody. I’m sorry it happened. And I hurt people.” Louie Anderson

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong is a crisis prevention and management consultant. 1.888.340.2006 www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

 

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to success

branding-art

Art source: www.aboutbranding.co.za

Most companies simply will not allow haphazard uses of their logos or brands. Break those rules and you are in serious trouble.

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to “branding” and maintaining controls around variance of messages.In fact, once we have standardized our systems (think purchasing,hiring, interviewing, community outreach, media engagement, crisis and issues management, communications) we are able to be more efficient, effective and save time and money.

When variances show up on the bottom line, we can check them against our standardized processes.This is what our financial people do on a regular basis. This brings standardization to the organization.However, most companies still don’t standardize their leadership best practices.

 

They may have dozens of ways to interview and hire, solve the same problem in five different ways in various divisions, and simply spend a lot of time and energy needlessly identifying and solving the same problems repeatedly in many different ways.

Those companies who do standardize their leadership processes and training create a path forward map to help every leader in the company to be successful. In simple terms: Develop your road map and follow it, or as I tell clients who seek strategic planning assistance from me, “Write your plan based on best practices and work your plan.”

Why don’t companies do this?

Research shows that many companies don’t have a unified leadership process in place because:

  • The leaders don’t have the training they need to succeed.
  • There is no objective accountability system.
  • The “dots are not connected” for employees in respect to purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.
  • The companies are not using a sequenced mapped approach.
  • There is no process for managing high- and middle-level managers.
  • There is no process in place to address the problems with low performers.

To determine if your company needs to standardize your leadership system, Quint Studer in his book, “Results That Last,” suggests we ask ourselves such questions as:

  • How many different ways do we have to interview a candidate?
  • How do we know that when our leaders have left a meeting we have accurately and completely conveyed the messages we want them to carry back to the employees?
  • When employees are asked tough questions, how do we know they are not giving us just the answers they think we want to hear?
  • How do we measure the performance of our employees in such a way as we can determine they are low, middle or high-level performers?
  • What process do we have in place to assess the performance of employees and their accountability against the overall organizational goals?

Six ways to improve our leadership programs

Leadership programs can be standardized and improved.

When we standardize our programs, we provide a path forward map for all our leadership, which saves time and money and makes organizations more successful.

How do we do this?

1. Use a common agenda. While Studer recommends that all agendas be organized around his “Five Pillars of Excellence,” (People, service, quality, finance and growth) even more important is that for every meeting there is a standardized agenda used by all leaders in the organization. By using such an approach, we can align all staff to our organizational goals, which then allows us to help them connect to the organization’s vision and mission. This approach also gives us the means to communicate to our team the critical success factors within the organization and in their individual work areas.

2. Align your evaluation process to Studer’s five pillars or the organization’s critical success factors. When developing goals for our organization, they must be objective, measurable, meaningful and aligned with the organization’s pillars or critical success factors. They must also be focused on results.

3. Provide consistent packets of information. When leaders leave meetings, they should have a prepared packet of information they can share with their employees so that everyone hears the same messages. Studer notes that many companies use “Flip and Tell” books to package the information.

4. Choose a single method of interviewing and hiring employees. All applicants should be asked the same three or four behavioral-based questions no matter what job they are applying for in the organization. It would be prudent to choose questions geared toward values and ownership.

5. Collect tough questions from leaders. Every leader should be asked on a regular basis to share with the team the tough questions they hear from their staff. Then work with your leaders to develop a consistent set of answers that will be used by all leaders. This develops a consistent message that can be communicated by everyone. Consistency builds confidence and provides employees evidence that the leaders have the information needed to answer their questions.

6. Make sure your leaders are trained in basic competencies to perform. Many leaders are not comfortable delivering messages without appropriate training.

Those companies who annually train their leaders in such competencies as meeting facilitation, negotiations, conflict prevent and resolution and presentations skills are more successful because they are providing the essential training all leaders need.

Research shows that repetition is essential to build integrity and credibility within an organization. Great leaders never tire of repetition. When leaders become better at using their skills, they become more efficient and effective at doing it. They will get better with practice.

Organizations that use this six step approach have longer lasting results, improved organizational efficiencies and greater innovation.Key points to remember:

  • Stop the variances. When an organization has variance in its leadership approach it produces inconsistencies within the organization making it more difficult to achieve excellence. Alignment among the managers and employees improves performance and enhances customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Standardize behavior. Leadership behavior is challenging to quantify and many organizations find it a challenge to standardize behavior. Many organizations fear that by doing so they will intrude on the leader’s autonomy and creativity. However, organizational goals come down from the top and include clear visions and missions. Any single leader’s independence is less important than the organization’s mission.
  • Eliminate barriers. Barriers that can get in the way of standardizing leadership behavior include: Lack of critical mass; lack of a balanced approach; insufficient training; no objective accountability; no path forward map which connects the dots; no process in place to manage middle and high level performers; no system to address quickly and efficiently low performers; an inability or unwillingness to standardize best practices across the organization. These barriers must be systematically eliminated.n Identify and eliminate inconsistent practices.

Carefully scrutinize all your practices in interviewing systems, messaging to employees, leader responses to crises, varying leadership performances and ineffective leadership evaluations.

Every organization should strive to create a self-sustaining culture with energy and vision to achieve excellence, Studer says. This can be accomplished by renovating your leadership evaluation system, applying key leadership behaviors, which will inspire self-motivation (the most powerful motivator of all), and developing standardized processes which will hardwire excellence into your organization.

Sources: “Results That Last” by Quint Studer

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or http://www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

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/

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

This is a series of articles that will help you understand mind mapping crisis messages. This process when done appropriately and successfully will ensure you will succeed.

Article 1 in this series – Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Do you know what you will say when:

¡  You have an active shooter on campus

¡  How about 3-hours into the incident?

¡  A gas line leak causes you to evacuate a dorm

¡  A flood watch is issued and flooding appears imminent

¡  When power fails and an all out effort to restore power is delayed by a strike

¡  When a student is raped, kidnapped, or simply disappears into the night

¡  When workplace violence hits your organization

A crisis grows, changes, and often deepens over time. Like all things in life – a crisis has a starting point, a middle phase and an ending. What you choose to say, who you will talk with and how you will reach them in these days of social media will change at every stage of the crisis.

Some of the worst mistakes are made by crisis communicators because they try to create the messages in the heat of the moment. Ineffective and hurried communications create major blunders and failures.

Simply, when the stuff hits the fan, stress levels are running to the extreme, managers and executives, administrators and supervisors are all uptight and tense, everybody wants to approve and contribute to the messages and if you are the crisis communicator you know you have an incredible feat at hand.

Over the next few blogs we will look at the seven stages of a crisis and how you can use a technique known a mind mapping messages at every stage from the early stages of warning, to assessing the risk, to responding, resolving and recovering.

If you take the time to learn the technique in advance you can create clear, concise mind maps that will help you at every one of the seven stages.

Here are the seven stages we will discuss and help you understand:

¡  1. The advance warning and/or advance intel stage

¡  2. Situation assessment – the stage where you assess pros/cons, good/bad/ugly

¡  3. Communicating the response – how to communicate and to whom

¡  4. Operational management – handling the operations to survive

¡  5. Resolution and path forward prevention – resolving and moving forward to continuity

¡  6. Business continuity – recovery – ensuring a recovery and ensuring continuous movement forward

¡  7. Lessons learned  – recalibrations – learning from what went right, what went wrong, the deltas needed and how best to recalibrate and be resilient

We will explain each stage over the next few blogs.

www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

Strategic planning can resolve or prevent a simmering, emerging or latent crisis

Strategic crisis communication planning and thoughtful preparation can help you deal effectively with those simmering, latent and emerging crises, disasters, emergencies or other unusual events that may cause unfavorable publicity or perceptions of you and your organization even if you have created the crisis yourself …

  • Be prepared – Although emergencies by their very nature are unpredictable, unless of course you create the crisis either intentionally or unintentionally by your behavior, it is possible to list and prepare for those potential negative scenarios that might occur during chapter activities. It also is possible to set up a communication system that can be activated in almost any emergency situation.
  • Do the right thing – In any emergency situation it is imperative that you put the public interest ahead of the organization’s and your personal interest. Your first responsibility is to the safety and well being of the people involved. Once safety has been restored, face the public and face the facts. Never try to minimize a serious problem or “smooth it over” in the hopes that no one will notice. Conversely, don’t blow minor incidents out of proportion or allow others to do so.
  • Communicate quickly and accurately – Positive, assertive communication focuses attention on the most important aspects of the problem and moves the entire process forward to resolution, even in a negative environment or with an antagonistic news media. Understand that the main stream media representatives have an obligation to provide reliable information to their audiences, and they will get that information whether or not you cooperate. If you won’t comment on the situation, you can be sure someone else will. You maintain some control by making sure you are at least one of the major sources of media information in a crisis. Give factual information, don’t speculate.
  • Use social media – If you have established electronic relationships via Facebook and Twitter in advance of the crisis, now is the time to use social media to shape the message and quickly correct any mis-information being relayed by other sources.
  • Follow up – Make amends to those affected and then do whatever is necessary to restore your organizations reputation in the community. Change internal policies or institute new ones to minimize a repeat of the crisis situation. Also, revise your crisis communication plan based on your experience.
  • Successful communication will depend, in large part, on the preparations and relationships you have established long before the crisis occurs.
MOre information is available at: www.ldarrylarmstrong.com