Acquiring informed consent from the people impacted by your work is critical to your professional success and that of your project. Doing so using the Collaborative Informed Consent Model for public engagement may well keep you out of the court of law and winning in the court of public opinion. #CollaborativeInformedConsent #CommunityRelations #PublicEngagement @DoctorDarryl
A OneNewsNow.com survey of 4000 churches in 2008 found that 75% of them had no security plans!
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“More guns are not the simple answer,” says Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org.
After the November Texas shooting, many small churches reacted by seeking a qualified Carry Concealed Weapons holder. A reaction is not a church safety and security plan.
Assessing your church’s vulnerabilities is the foundational step in understanding what your risks are and how to prepare.
Become Proactive Instead of Reactive in the Process
A thoughtfully written, communicated, and exercised plan of action for church safety and security is a much better and safer solution and it begins with a facilitated discussion with your congregation.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises identifying threats, developing goals, and planning courses of action. Then implement, review and consistently maintain your plan.
Take into account your geographic region. Are you subject to natural disasters like the New Madrid Fault in Western Kentucky or hurricanes at Tybee Island, Georgia? Perhaps you worship at a church in tornado alley, or you are subject to fires or floods.
Active shooters, disgruntled congregants, angry church members, sexual predators and hate groups are always possible threats.
Churches are “Soft Targets”
The American Crime Prevention Institute notes that criminals see houses of worship as “soft targets” for theft, robbery, embezzlement, vandalism, arson, and violence from hate crimes. They are “soft targets” because many don’t have security systems, are meagerly staffed, leave their doors unlocked, and never think of robbery when taking up an offering.
Jimmy Meeks, who retired after 35 years in law enforcement and has been a minister for 44 years, is a consultant with Sheepdog Seminars for Churches, a training firm focused on teaching church security measures. He notes that sexual abuse can and does occur in the church, citing 23 sexual crimes reported at Protestant Churches every day.
Sadly, the recent Texas church shooting points out the vulnerability of congregations when it comes to active shooters seeking revenge and the importance of being prepared even in a small country congregation.
Three Initial Planning Phases
Regardless of the size of your church, now is the time to implement a six-step emergency planning process starting with three general phases.
The first phase is to form a collaborative planning “ministry safety and security” team. Collaborative teams are made up of congregant volunteers who are willing to “co-labor” and get the job done. Choose this team wisely. We will discuss criteria for such teams in a future column.
This team should consist of your pastor, deacons, principal leadership, local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, an attorney, and your insurance agent. Others to consider are people with private security, teaching, counseling, and crisis communications experience.
Whenever possible, your team should have a right mix of genders and ages on this team because people in their 60s will see issues differently than those in their 20s.
In the second phase, facilitate your planning dialogue and risk assessment using the Collaborative, Informed Consent model. This model starts with the premise that the team “agrees” to provide their consent to the plan because they collaborate to design it and become well informed about its use.
Kay Armstrong, a senior consultant at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates, explains, “This engagement model uses a structured facilitation process that allows for a candid discussion about the pros and cons of having a plan for church safety and security. Participants can freely talk about their fears, current issues, and the perceived risks. This process helps them realize the possible emergency scenarios that could face the church; how to prioritize them; and how to develop options to handle them.”
Once the numerous situations are listed, discussed, vetted and prioritized, the committee can develop well-defined goals and objectives, which is the third phase.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and from experts in church safety and security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vital role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security – and to realize that just carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is not enough.
Find additional information including an introductory video on church safety and security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. anyone interested in participating in a pilot webinar can register at our website for future presentation dates.
Churches, like any other businesses in today’s environment, must take steps to ensure the safety of their congregations.
Because emergencies happen to all businesses, a thoughtful and resilient emergency plan of action is prudent.
As of December 19, 108 people were killed in churches in 2017.
When an active shooter on November 5, 2017, killed 26 people and wounded 20 at a rural Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, media, public, and political concerns reached a new high.
This church attack was the deadliest active shooting by an individual in Texas history and the fifth-deadliest in the United States. It is the most devastating active shooting in an American place of worship in our history.
Such events disappear quickly from the front pages of mainstream media, and many people, including pastors and congregants, resort to thinking, “it can’t happen to us.” Hopefully, it won’t.
Although the chances that your congregants will be involved in such an attack are slim, church leadership must accept the possibility and plan for this and all other possible emergencies.
Having worked in the field of crisis communications, prevention, and management for 40-years, I believe in and practice with my clients “ praying for the best while preparing for the worse.”
Organizations that do so will survive and recover; those that don’t suffer severe and often irreparable consequences.
This series of columns will provide insight into the questions that church leaders and pastors must consider as they plan for the safety of their congregants.
Planning for the necessary personnel to respond, the communication of the event, training church personnel, and the event follow-up should cover issues such as:
- Why houses of worship need an emergency response plan and the types of emergencies to include.
- The importance of a facilitated dialogue with leadership and congregants about developing an action plan that includes law enforcement, emergency response, legal and insurance personnel a process we call “Collaborative Informed Consent.”
- Considerations of hiring professional security personnel or using volunteers, including a “talent inventory” from your congregants.
- Conducting a risk analysis and evaluation of your church facility, parking lot, and personnel.
- Why your institution is a “soft target” and how to “harden” it by quickly achieving “soft” and “hard” lockdowns.
- Having trained “screeners” and the options for action they must take when an incident develops.
- Understanding your internal and external communication needs and venues before, during, and after a crisis.
- Considering non-lethal and lethal options.
- How to gather intelligence and ensure confidentiality.
- How to protect children and seniors who are the most vulnerable members of your congregation.
- Understanding what an active shooter is and how they think.
- The times of day and the days of the week your church is most vulnerable.
- The role of active or retired military, law enforcement, and concealed carry permit holders on your security team.
- What you must communicate to your congregation about your plan and what they must do in the event of an emergency, including an active shooter.
- Whether you should post signage, and, if so, what should it say?
- Establishing proactive establishment of post-event counseling and recovery assistance.
- Teaching self-awareness and using the “see something, say something” strategy.
- Pros and cons of “Run, hide and fight.”
- The need for “Stop the Bleed” first-aid kits and training.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and those involved in church security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security and not just to conclude that carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is all you have to do to protect your congregants.
Interested persons can find additional information including an introductory video on church security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. A pilot webinar is under development, and those interested in participating in this pilot can register at our website to receive announcements of future presentation dates.
(L. Darryl Armstrong Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC, a firm providing crisis communications and consulting training nation-wide. Dr. Armstrong, who holds a doctoral degree in neuro-linguistics, graduated from Murray State University in communications and behavioral psychology and the Executive Security Institute with an emphasis in security planning. For limited speaking engagements and consulting, contact him at 1.888.340.2006, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ldarrylarmstrong.com.)
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.
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.”
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 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
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
Detective Frank Hunt has a distinguished 30-year career with the 110th precinct in New York City. He has seen most all of it when it comes to crime and crime scenes. And although he has been honored for numerous contributions that he has made to the department, perhaps he is best known for being an experienced and highly successful negotiator.
I had the privilege a few years ago to speak at the Coldwell Bankers Real Estate annual awards breakfast in Owensboro and my topic was, if you choose, how you too can learn to be a better negotiator during times of a crisis or not. After all sales personnel all need to understand the art and science of negotiations to be as successful as possible.
I first observed the power of a good negotiator when I watched my grandfather trade mules back in the 1950s. By the 1970s, I was negotiating my way through a government agency and then for the past 25 years I have taught these skills to managers, labor representatives, sales, law enforcement and military personnel.
Frank Hunt and I agree on many points that we have learned in our 40 plus-year careers.
To be a good negotiator, you must get and keep “rapport” with the other person. Rapport is a French word that means you have developed a relationship of mutual trust or, like-mindedness, fellowship, comradeship, camaraderie, sympathy.
Hunt says that under all circumstances you must be “relentless” in trying to develop rapport. The development of rapport is not always easy and yet even when we get it we also can lose it fairly quickly. We know we have rapport when the “feeling” of the moment is “right”. We lose rapport when we are not paying attention to what we are doing to keep the other party engaged.
Effective negotiators “get up close and personal” with the other party, Hunt says. And I would add that it is always the “one-on-one” that makes the most successful relationships during negotiations.
As a hostage negotiator Hunt says, you must “deal with the situations as they happen” and show the other person involved that you too are a “real person” that cares about the outcome of the experience.
My own experience has demonstrated over the years that if you negotiate for purely selfish reasons and don’t find a mutually successful outcome such discussions usually fail on all fronts. During a crisis, I can assure you that the other party involved can quickly distinguish a skilled manipulator over an experienced negotiator.
“You also must place your ego to the side,” Hunt admonishes. And experience has shown both of us that when you can’t do that you simply can’t be effective.
“I believe that to be most effective you must be able to show the other party that you are willing to cross the line with them,” Hunt notes.
Roger Dawson, author of the The Secrets of Power Negotiators, points out that irrespective of how much you study or what you do that the best teacher is “experience”.
Of course, that would not be the case with hostage negotiations yet most of us have tried now and then to develop our skills by actually practicing them. Think about it. Ever bought a car and made a different offer than the “asking price”? You opened the door for negotiations but did you walk through it?
Some basic tips to follow if you decide to engage in negotiations:
- Go into the situation thinking and acting positive
- Be aware that if you think negative, you will come out with a negative outcome
- Remind the other party that they are not alone – it is you and them working together for a mutually satisfactory outcome
- Propose often by using language such as “Why don’t we try this …”
- Remind the other party frequently “We will work this out”
- Remember negotiations require time – time is on your side
- Create a ‘win’ of some kind for both sides
- Deal with the moment and get personal when you can
- Pull them out of the situation psychologically not physically
- Keep the playing field level whenever possible
- Let the other person tell you how to best deal with their complaint or issue
- Keep asking for their advice and help
- Help the other person to make decision along with you
- Be a good listener and repeat now and then exact words back so the other party feels honored by your listening skills
- Be sensitive to all situations – what might not be important to you may be to the other party
- Project and instill confidence in your discussion
Finally, with all due respect some people simply can’t be good negotiators. That is a fact of life. Those people should proceed to develop other skills they may possess.
And remember, as Hunt is apt to share, “If you only have a hammer in your tool box then every problem has to be a nail.”
Develop as many of your negotiating skills and talents as possible and use them to develop a wealth of experience to be successful. Finally, the time to develop and practice these skills is not during the times of a crisis. Plan, prepare and train in advance to survive.
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:
Do you want to become a respected crisis manager? If so, keep reading.
By Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong APR CCMC CAMT
In 1973 on my second week at work, I had to manage an alleged “kidnapping” crisis. News stations from as far away as Nashville and Evansville convened on the front-steps of the trailer where my office was. For more than 8-hours, we were the center of regional attention by every news media organization in a 100-mile radius, and, of course, by our community and our customers. Newspaper, radio and television stations were camped out waiting for my every word. That may sound exciting, but believe me it was not.
My employer and I survived that crisis and learned from it. The experience that I gained shaped the way that I have handled a crisis situation ever since. At that time, I worked for a large federal agency: today my firm works with small businesses, large corporations, universities and government agencies. Our job is to ensure that they have adequate plans to handle any crisis in advance. In order to do this, they must have trained and respected crisis managers within the organization.
It seems as if it were only yesterday that we were all engaged in learning how to deal with a 24-hour news cycle. Today, it makes no difference if you are a “Mom and Pop” convenience store or a Fortune 50 company. When a crisis occurs, you become the focus of the news and social media, and of your employees, customers and the community. You become a 24-hour news story. How you handle a crisis makes the difference in whether you resume work and prosper, or ultimately are perceived negatively in the public’s opinion. Being perceived negatively is not a good thing and can lead to litigation or even bankruptcy.
With the onset of citizen journalists, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube, the proliferation of blogs and smartphones, innuendoes, gaffes and just out and out blunders can achieve viral status in minutes. Don’t believe me? Just ask Vice President Joe Biden!!! Remember when he said, “This is a f#@%ing big deal” in describing Obamacare?
Protecting your brand and reputation in a global environment requires a multifaceted strategic plan of action that starts within the organization and is executed before brand/reputation damaging occurs.
The proverbial “seat at the table”
How many of us who have worked in management have wanted, and often fought for, that “proverbial seat at the management table?” Having to fight for a seat as a crisis manager may seem ironic these days since all polls show that that the public wants executives, managers, and especially government officials to be more transparent and more engaged. The public expects officials to have communication and crisis management skills, and they want them to actively seek communications and crisis management counsel.
Although most recently the President has said that “…there is not a smidgen of scandal…” in his administration, the polls show that his own behavior has not served him well as a crisis manager.
President Barack Obama and his administration would be wise to follow the advice and counsel of one of his often mentioned heroes, President Abraham Lincoln. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
I have always counseled that when you make a mistake and you know you have, simply own up to it; be contrite and humble, apologize, and be very clear that you are doing so.
Then immediately commit to fixing that mistake. The public, be they the American people or your customers or clients, will respect you for such behavior and will most likely be more forgiving.
A study that the public relations firm SpencerStuart and Weber-Shandwick conducted in 2010 found that “whether management says so or not, when a crisis occurs, management is expecting corporate communications crisis managers to be proactive internally, to coordinate key stakeholders, and to develop and implement a communications plan.”
In the more progressive organizations, crisis managers within the communications group have begun to rise in the ranks to executive positions. Some companies even have their own Corporate Communications Officer (CCO). These communication executives, who often serve as the organization’s crisis managers, must understand the business and its financial operations. They must serve as confidants, coaches and cheerleaders.
As Renee T. Walker, an Accredited Public Relations (APR) professional says in The Strategist Summer 2012, “…being adept at each of these roles can help crisis managers manage the often competing agendas of the executive team.”
No, mam it is not just about the facts
Just because we may have the “facts” as best we know them during a crisis, and we can manage the media to some degree, it does not mean we have the management or the public’s support. Knowing the “facts” also does not necessarily demonstrate transparency or promote integrity and social responsibility. We might have a “seat at the table” as far as the public and management is concerned; however, we have yet “to win their trust.”
It is one thing to say, as the current Presidential administration has said for more than 6-years, that “we are the most open and transparent administration ever”. It is another thing entirely to actually exhibit the behaviors that back up the rhetoric.
The public will expect you to “walk your talk.” This is where a veteran and experienced crisis manager and communicator within the organization becomes exceptionally valuable. Such veterans understand the importance of navigating their way through the “court of public opinion”, while staying out of the “court of law.” By doing this, they protect their organization’s reputation/brand while managing potential litigation.
As one of my colleagues who is currently the Director of Public Relations at one of the nation’s largest utility once said, “…this requires a delicate balance and the ability to work with a legal team as well as the communications team.” Such an experienced crisis manager/communicator is greatly coveted for their knowledge and experience. This knowledge and experience will enable them to address the potential impacts on revenue, stock value, reputation, competition, market share, and executive compensation.
When in doubt, go on the offense
Invariably, when a threat is perceived or an attack on the organization occurs, our organizations and their executive leadership either want to stand and fight (we will sue the bastards) or run away from the situation.
In behavioral psychology, we simply refer to this as the “fight or flight” response, the throwback behavior to our early days as cavemen. We see this all the time. Our organizations either “ignore the issue,” hoping it will go away, or aggressively attack the accuser to deflect the issue. Resorting to the time honored and terribly ineffective “no comment” invariably makes the organization appear guilty as charged!
Failing to feed the media the information or ignoring the situation by not commenting just increases the public’s interest and objections. All of these responses ultimately result in heightening the negative reputation/brand and in preventing the organization’s voice from being heard in the media and marketplace.
Sadly, many of our friends who are lawyers don’t understand that it is important to “manage the court of public opinion”, even if the organization is likely to end up in the “court of law.” When you don’t manager the court of public opinion, you can and often do lose in the court of law! I have often advised my clients to “do the right thing” because when the public sees you trying to do so, they will be more understanding and lenient in their judgment.
Ms. Walker says that a well-planned and well-executed offense enables the organization to insulate its reputation/brand. This offense will support its future litigation strategy, demonstrate its values, and show compassion and empathy along with integrity in the media as well as in the court of public opinion.
Remember that “kidnapping” that I handled in 1973?
My organization came out of the media spectacle and the crisis with the respect of the public because we immediately stepped to the plate with a thoughtfully tailored offense:
- We reassured the public that, “we were cooperating with all the law enforcement agencies to ensure the incident was resolved as quickly as possible.”
- The safety of the victim, the alleged kidnappers, our customers and employees were of paramount importance to us and would not be compromised.
- We understood and empathized with the parents of the victim and assured them we would reunite them as soon as possible “once the situation was under control.”
- We assured the media that “we would be open and transparent and forthcoming with verifiable information as soon as we could”, and we asked them to not speculate or use information other than that provided by us since it could place the victim and the investigation in jeopardy. They did honor this request by the way because we “walked our talk.”
- We updated the media (and therefore the public) every 60-minutes, even if we had no further details.
“The Art of War”
‘Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought,” said Sun Tzu author of The Art of War. Organizations with a well thought out and executed internal/ external plan of action, as well as a communications protocol for a crisis situation, will ultimately successfully manage the crisis. However, just having a plan is not enough. You must develop a mutual trust with the executives and leadership before you can successfully, as the crisis manager and communicator, direct the response of the organization during the crisis.
Tenet – something accepted as important truth: an established fundamental belief.
There are seven basic tenets that a crisis manager and communicator must follow in order to help an organization successfully survive a crisis:
- You must become “a coveted advisor.” A coveted advisor understands the organization from many different perspectives. He or she must understand the culture and strategic alliances within human resources, the legal team, operations, supply, transportation, and others. Only then will he be able to ensure that they can help management navigate their way to the end of a crisis. A coveted advisor provides good counsel before, during and after the crisis and has developed sufficient rapport and respect to “speak the truth even when it hurts.”
- You must know those people who can “influence the situation.” Within any organization there are those people who can exert significant influence during a crisis due to their title, their position, their skills of persuasion or simply because they are “natural born leaders.” To be a successful crisis manager, you must know who these people are, how they operate and what motivates them.
- 3. You must build “strategic alliances.” You need to know the more influential people within the organization, and you must also build mutual trust, respect and relationships with them. A strong support system and informational, intelligence gathering network is essential to be successful in handling a crisis.
- 4. You must become “partners with your legal team.” A strong, respectful and supportive relationship between the communications and legal team can literally be a game changer when building strategy during a crisis.
- 5. You must “understand the rules of engagement.” Before engaging in the management of a crisis, you must understand how and who within an organization makes the decisions. Who shares information? Who secrets information? What is the reward and penalty system for each? What are the organization’s values? Once you understand these rules, you stand a better chance of successfully managing the crisis.
- 6. You must implement a “positive and affirmative response strategy.” The going always gets rough with emotions running high during a crisis. The exceptional crisis manager will always maintain composure and objectivity, make careful decisions, and always consider the short and long term implications of those decisions. Managing that always-delicate balance between the legal and communications teams is also imperative. It is always important to help your executives understand what the media is doing, what the media’s needs are, and what the “media speak” is really all about, in terms they can understand.
- 7. You must ensure that “expectations are realistic and aligned with outcomes.” Crises are challenging. The expectations of your management must be realistic and based on the circumstances of the crisis. Those expectations must be directly aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities, basic tenets, values and philosophies.
Ms. Walker notes that often the right response in a crisis will seem counterintuitive to the leadership team. However, if you have become a coveted and respected crisis manager, you will have come to know and understand the influencers within the organization, and you will have built strategic alliances with them. Then and only then will the leadership team heed your advice and counsel.
To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, during a crisis is not the time to try and fool any of the people.
Sources: www.ldarrylarmstrong.com; The Strategist Summer 2012
Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong is a crisis and emergency communications and management consultant. He can be reached at email@example.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.