Is This How Pittsburgh Goes Down?

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The City of Pittsburgh and the region have been nothing if not resilient.  I graduated college in 1981 as the steel industry was collapsing and the entire Pittsburgh region was being drained of population and talent.  I was lucky to land a job at a local newspaper as a reporter and was able to stay in the city I had grown to love.

Yes I left Pittsburgh for the sunshine and beaches of Southern California for a bit, but (perhaps foolishly) longed to move back to my hometown, which I did.  At one time I worked at a nonprofit called the Greater Pittsburgh Office of Promotion and handled all the publicity for the opening of the new airport in 1992.  I’ve watched the city endure many down periods and two projects called Renaissance because they were so transformative.

But until recently, I don’t think that Pittsburgh had really begun to realize its full potential.  Recent gains in the technology sector, a new reputation as a town for foodies thanks to innovative chefs and restaurant managers, world class healthcare and education have turned Pittsburgh into a hip place for younger folks to move with their families.

And now this.

And I don’t mean Covid-19, though I guess we can call it a contributing factor.  No, I’m talking about the absolute and total destruction of our economy in response to the virus by the governor and other political hacks in this commonwealth.

The decision making has been breathtakingly idiotic and instead of correcting errors, admitting mistakes and shifting strategy, our leaders instead choose to double down and make even more damning decisions.

When the city and county basically canceled summer last week by closing pools, canceling sports leagues, camps and more, I thought we had hit rock bottom.

But then the Governor is asked if salons and barbershops will be considered to be open before his magical green phase – for which, by the way, there is no timetable, plan or data points to hit and there may never be any – he said “no, not before green.”  He and the county executive have begun a narrative that “not very many people were out” on the first day of “yellow” so clearly there isn’t a demand for things like salons and restaurants.  Uh, if everything is still closed in yellow, what makes you think that anyone is going to be wandering the streets of Pittsburgh looking for an open door when they know they are all closed?

And the city’s mayor has now said he wants to explore closing roads and putting tables in the streets to allow restaurants to serve.  But his plan is to put out a bunch of tables and have diners choose which restaurant they want to dine in, as if there will be a cadre of wait staff who can serve for any restaurant and every restaurant will be fully prepared to serve meals to either ALL or NONE of those tables.  Are you kidding me?  Oh and, it will probably take him a month to get this plan going because you know, he has been so flipping busy the past two months closing pools and ruining summer for all the kids in the city.

Twenty years ago, I was a communications professional with a great job, a 1 ½ year old daughter, living in a house we had just built in a great suburb of Pittsburgh. I had many opportunities to leave the city for jobs in other parts of the country but chose to stay in Pittsburgh to raise my family.  If this current crisis had happened 20 years ago, I’d be gone.  I would bide my time until a good job offer came from nearly anywhere else in the country and I would run screaming from the mess that these politicians have created.  Hell, if it happened two years from now when my youngest child is out of high school, I would probably do the same. When the young people who had begun to flock to Pittsburgh make this choice to get out to a city, a county and a state that supports their dreams of entrepreneurship instead of killing it, we will see these same leaders wringing their hands and wondering why it happened.

The collapse of the steel industry couldn’t do it.  The bank crisis didn’t do it.  Even 9-11 and its impact on the hub status of our airport and huge loss of jobs didn’t do it.  But in a few strokes of a pen to veto bills, close pools and tell us all to stay home, stay safe and stay scared, the state, county and city government officials all have a hand in killing this vibrant, growing city.

 

 

Crisis Communications Tips – good for Coronavirus – and everything else

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Preparing for that Day

Surely you have seen some pretty crazy interviews during this time of crisis in America. From hysterical pronouncements to over-reactions and under-reactions, it seems like every interview is one step worse than the next. If you are a small business, or big corporation dealing with the realities of Coronavirus, you may find yourself being interviewed by a member of the press.

So here is a revisit of a blog I wrote a while back about preparing for a crisis. It is as valid today as it was then. And hopefully you can learn something from it.

Crisis doesn’t always take the form of mass violence or major tragedy. From data breach and system failure to corporate or officer wrongdoings, legal issues and employee accidents, crisis has many faces, comes without warning and discriminates against no company, school, non-profit organization or office building. A crisis can happen at any minute, in any place, including at one of your organization’s locations as evidenced from this week’s tragedy at Ohio State. And on one fateful day a year ago in San Bernardino, a crisis of unspeakable horror reached a small office park.

“Just another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic, and fear. This time, in the city of San Bernardino….” is how the BBC began its coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

Sure the correspondent didn’t know at the time that this was a terrorist attack and he could be forgiven since some talk in the U.S. media was around “workplace violence” which of course turned out to be painfully untrue. But the fact is that an everyday part of American life – the workplace, a Christmas party – was the site of an attack by brutal terrorists with no regard for human life.

And for employers, this was a wakeup call on many fronts. From basic safety and security to being on point with its crisis plan right down to the right communications protocol when the unthinkable happens.

Office workers not in the line of fire talked of terrifying sounds and sights and not knowing what to do despite reports of active shooter drills just weeks prior. There is no doubt that in the moments of a surreal, unbelievable event like this that the last thing most people are thinking about is communications.

But that is why it is so urgent to have a crisis communications plan in place – with very specific protocols on what to do when faced with the worst.

1. Establish policy and protocol. Who is the key communicator? Who is the backup if that communicator is not available for any reason?
2. Create a chain of communication, especially when working in a large work environment. Make sure that every employee knows that protocol.
3. What is the forum for communication? Is it a text blast, an email blast, PA announcements or all of the above?
4. What is the message? Some combination of prior training and on-the-ground advice from law enforcement officials could be communicated based on information available, allowing people to better know how to react.
5. How do you keep the general public informed? Families in the San Bernardino event faced hours of uncertainty as the situation was fluid for a long time. Many people raced to the scene putting themselves in peril. Some communication tools could have been used – websites, phone system messages, social media – or direct delivery through media sources – to keep those individuals better informed.

Every company should have these five things in place – and every employee should know where to look for information when it seems that there is nowhere to turn. No crisis communications plan is going to prevent a tragedy from happening but it can assist in reducing panic and keeping all informed of what the authorities know.

Any crisis situation demands some level of communications and companies today must be prepared for any scenario – whether it’s a terrorist attack, a weather emergency or a healthcare crisis.

The strength of an organization’s leadership can be tested during times of crisis or extreme challenge. Your reputation takes years to build, and in today’s information age, only seconds to lose. Crisis situations require an immediate response, a firm position or plan of action delivered with honesty and genuine empathy.

Knowing your response will be what’s remembered, organizations of every type should protect their reputations with thoughtful, swift response to media inquiries, followed by messages developed with calm consideration of the fears and concerns its people. No-one can predict the future, but smart leaders prepare for the worst by building the trust and confidence necessary to overcome a crisis situation.

Bad things happen to great companies. Don’t let your organization be caught like a deer in the headlights when the unthinkable becomes reality.

The Spirit of Pittsburgh

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red lighted candle

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

I love Pittsburgh.  There I said it.  My friends may not think I’m being honest here because I complain so much about the weather.  And the cult-like devotion to the Steelers. And the cronyism in the political realm that has held back the city in many ways.

But in light of the horrific, unspeakable tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue, I have watched our city do what it does best.  Come together and show the rest of the world what tolerance and acceptance looks like.  To show the Spirit of Pittsburgh.

Watching speaker after speaker at last night’s memorial filled me with anger and sadness, but more importantly – hope.  To see the head of the Islamic Center announce the fundraising effort (that at last word was more than 100K) for the victims told me everything I already knew about my city.

We don’t hate.  Unless it comes to the Washington Capitals or the gray skies – and that’s really all in fun, right?

We live in neighborhoods with people of all faiths, races and ethnicities.  My wife grew up on Hastings Street just blocks away from Tree of Life.  Her Greek parents were part of a neighborhood of people from every faith and nationality you could imagine.  Squirrel Hill is her hometown and this tragedy struck way too close to home.  Our early days of dating and marriage were spent at the many restaurants in Squirrel Hill, the sidewalks of Shadyside and her parent’s front porch and back yard on Hastings.

Maybe everyone feels this way about their hometown, but despite its flaws, I wouldn’t have wanted to raise my kids anywhere else.  They both had the experience of the city during their daycare and pre-school days and while we moved to the suburbs, we aren’t stuck in the Wexford bubble as we have ventured to the city often throughout their young lives.  There is nothing like the Strip District on a Saturday morning.  Nothing.

My oldest – in a surprise – chose Pitt as her college – and is falling in love with city life the way I did 100 years ago when I first arrived in Oakland.  And because we are in Pittsburgh, I think that the community of Pitt students adopts that same mentality of closeness – then and now – that is reflected in the neighborhoods from the South Side to Oakland to Squirrel Hill and extends even into the suburbs.

Evil and hate have visited Pittsburgh.  But we can’t let it linger.  It is truly up to each and every resident of this city – of this region – of this country – to start practicing love.

I vividly remember the time in our country right after 9-11. I remember people standing in long lines at airport security – either quietly waiting or chatting with one another.  I remember friendly nods and eye contact as I got on a plane for months afterward.  But it didn’t last as the last time I flew there was grumbling in line and zero eye contact.

Pittsburgh has been a leader in so many ways over the centuries.  From its steel-town roots to today’s education, medical and technology innovations.  I have no doubt that my city will be a leader again today – and this time the subject is love, tolerance and acceptance.

 

When Bad Things Happen to Great Companies

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canstockphoto20806235_1_origCrisis doesn’t always take the form of mass violence or major tragedy. From data breach and system failure to corporate or officer wrongdoings, legal issues and employee accidents, crisis has many faces, comes without warning and discriminates against no company, school, non-profit organization or office building. A crisis can happen at any minute, in any place, including at one of your organization’s locations as evidenced from this week’s tragedy at Ohio State. And on one fateful day a year ago in San Bernardino, a crisis of unspeakable horror reached a small office park.

“Just another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic, and fear. This time, in the city of San Bernardino….” is how the BBC began its coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

Sure the correspondent didn’t know at the time that this was a terrorist attack and he could be forgiven since some talk in the U.S. media was around “workplace violence” which of course turned out to be painfully untrue. But the fact is that an everyday part of American life – the workplace, a Christmas party – was the site of an attack by brutal terrorists with no regard for human life.

And for employers, this was a wakeup call on many fronts. From basic safety and security to being on point with its crisis plan right down to the right communications protocol when the unthinkable happens.

Office workers not in the line of fire talked of terrifying sounds and sights and not knowing what to do despite reports of active shooter drills just weeks prior. There is no doubt that in the moments of a surreal, unbelievable event like this that the last thing most people are thinking about is communications.

But that is why it is so urgent to have a crisis communications plan in place – with very specific protocols on what to do when faced with the worst.

  1. Establish policy and protocol. Who is the key communicator? Who is the backup if that communicator is not available for any reason?
  2. Create a chain of communication, especially when working in a large work environment. Make sure that every employee knows that protocol.
  3. What is the forum for communication? Is it a text blast, an email blast, PA announcements or all of the above?
  4. What is the message? Some combination of prior training and on-the-ground advice from law enforcement officials could be communicated based on information available, allowing people to better know how to react.
  5. How do you keep the general public informed? Families in the San Bernardino event faced hours of uncertainty as the situation was fluid for a long time. Many people raced to the scene putting themselves in peril. Some communication tools could have been used – websites, phone system messages, social media – or direct delivery through media sources – to keep those individuals better informed.

Every company should have these five things in place – and every employee should know where to look for information when it seems that there is nowhere to turn. No crisis communications plan is going to prevent a tragedy from happening but it can assist in reducing panic and keeping all informed of what the authorities know.

Any crisis situation demands some level of communications and companies today must be prepared for any scenario – whether it’s a terrorist attack, a weather emergency or a healthcare crisis.

The strength of an organization’s leadership can be tested during times of crisis or extreme challenge. Your reputation takes years to build, and in today’s information age, only seconds to lose.  Crisis situations require an immediate response, a firm position or plan of action delivered with honesty and genuine empathy.

Knowing your response will be what’s remembered, organizations of every type should protect their reputations with thoughtful, swift response to media inquiries, followed by messages developed with calm consideration of the fears and concerns its people.  No-one can predict the future, but smart leaders prepare for the worst by building the trust and confidence necessary to overcome a crisis situation.

Bad things happen to great companies. Don’t let your organization be caught like a deer in the headlights when the unthinkable becomes reality. Visit http://www.crisisPRexperts to learn more.

 

 

Talkwalker On Cutting Edge of First Made-For-Social-Media Election

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slide1The 2016 presidential election has been called the first made-for-social media campaign. With just two weeks to go, Talkwalker, an international social media analytics company, has created a dashboard to analyze the online discussions about the two major presidential candidates as we head into debate season and the final push for the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

Want to know what the breakdown is between the candidates in terms of overall share of online buzz, share of topics, hashtags being used, overall positive and negative posts about each candidate or emerging people and topic themes, this real-time social media dashboard does all that and more.

Data is updated every 15 minutes and you can find even more detailed insights by hovering over a broad variety of elements. This open resource is available for you to use to get up to date statistics for use in blogs, tweets and articles. If you want to dig deeper, for even more in-depth information, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you out.

Jeff Durosko Communications has been working with Talkwalker throughout the debate season to assist news media nationwide with using the data to monitor and illustrate the conversation around the two major candidates in perhaps the most acrimonious presidential race in most of our lifetimes. Media like Voice of AmericaTech RepublicDigidayPR DailyAdweekThe DrumMediaFiledDC and CNET, along with TV and radio stations around the U.S. have called on Talkwalker statistics to tell their stories.

As the election draws nearer, the social media chatter will increase and Talkwalker will be monitoring it moment-by-moment.

Trump and Clinton Think They Can Say Anything They Want

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imagesWith the election approaching its 50 day mark, you would think the two presidential candidates and their campaigns would have well-oiled machines and not be making PR gaffes on a seemingly hourly basis.

Do their staffs not know what they are doing? Are they not taking the advice of their staffs? Have the candidates spent too much time shielded from the real world that they think don’t understand that what they say WILL come back to bite them? Or are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump really that stupid?

Any of these scenarios are scary as hell for the country. Heaven knows that other presidents have had PR issues throughout their terms but I can’t remember the level of stupidity that I am seeing in this campaign.

Just in the last week, Clinton chose to use a speaking engagement to insult millions of Americans by using the term “basket of deplorables.” It was stunning not just in the word used but in the explanation that she offered to describe these individuals. When she tried to apologize, she only apologized by offering that she shouldn’t have used the word “half” in saying that that’s how many of Trump’s followers are deplorables. News flash for Clinton and her team: everyone who supports Trump now feels you were talking directly to them. Everyone.   And whether she truly feels that way or not, since when was it okay to insult in such a nasty way citizens of the country that you want to lead? Sounds like something that a dictator would use to crush a revolution.

And then there’s Trump. With Clinton plummeting in public opinion polls because of the deplorables comment and questions about her health, he just can’t leave well enough alone. Looking inside his mind, did he really come up with “Let’s talk about where Barack Obama was born because that has always served me well.” The birther movement may have been how Trump first captured attention on a political level but do he and his team not realize that they didn’t capture POSITIVE attention for it? This is the kind of thing that you just want to push down in the Google results with better news ahead, but now the first search results you will see on Trump will once again be all about the birther movement.

It’s truly stunning to watch these two candidates try to hand each other the election. And it’s truly frightening for the future of our country that these two candidates are what we are left as the choice for America. Check closely in New York Harbor because Lady Liberty is weeping.

STOP SCREAMING AT ME!

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Child crying

Since when did scream talking become the preferred method of giving a speech? I have seen it performed in many venues this year but nowhere more so than among national politicians.

The two most glaring examples are Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Now they both take very different approaches to scream talking, but the result is the same. Cringing. Holding my ears. Not listening to what they are saying because of HOW they are saying it.

With Giuliani, it is almost scary. He is clearly screaming in your face. That’s right – each and every one of you. And me. And I guess his reasoning is that he wants to make sure we hear him and know how important the message he is delivering.

With Clinton, it is worse. It is a whiny drone at top volume. Her approach seems to also involve the need to make sure we all know how important she is and how her message is the only one that matters. The elongated vowels. The rising tempo and volume. It’s headache producing.

Now these aren’t the only two versions of this as it seems like other speakers are adopting the same approach, much as teenage girls all decided they had to take on the “vocal fry” of a Kardashian. Or how young women of a certain age were all anxious to sound like a Valley Girl.

Don’t these political leaders have minions who tell them to stop scream talking? Are they actually taking lessons in scream talking? Perhaps the worst part is that they didn’t always speak like this. I don’t remember Clinton or Giuliani being particularly loud or screamy in their past lives. I also wonder if they type their emails in all caps.

As someone who has conducted countless spokesperson training sessions, I can assure you I have never advised anyone at anytime for any reason to scream. Or even raise his or her voice. Measured tones go a long way in getting your message across.

This presidential campaign is horrifying on so many levels. If everyone would stop screaming at us to listen, maybe we would better be able to absorb whatever message they are trying to communicate.

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