The Lessons of Challenger -30 years later

The Boston & Maine Connection – PR Disaster Planning

The lessons of Challenger – Fast Forwarded Thirty Years

January 28th  a sad but also long ago memory brought back painfully fresh. It is the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. At the time, Outer Space, was the new frontier and frontiers are fraught with danger. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the word came over the radio. Just South of Bangor Maine, heading to an important first meeting with Mark Mowatt, founder, entrepreneur and the CEO of Ben’s 100.  Like so many others, I was in shock and bewildered. I had no smartphone, social media or tools other than a pager and faced the choice of a 20 minute drive off Interstate 95 to find a payphone to seek guidance or continue on, as I did, to drive on for ten more minutes to meet the expectation of being timely. I remember the somber mood. I remember watching TV with the CEO and his staff. I was sad. I remember little else. The reason for the visit, the outcome? All trivial in light of what happened unexpectedly.

GoogleDirector KSwC_DSC_0729_©KeithSpiroPhoto.jpg

Director’s Chair awaits you. We are all citizen journalists today.

Comparing the past to today, I see such an amazing difference in the tools of communications and how communities react to fast breaking news. Today’s frontier is the internet, the wild-wild-web of human interaction.

 

Back then, radio was fastest with the furthest reach.

TV ran a close second but most of us did not typically have one riding shotgun in our cars.

Newspapers gathered information carefully putting out next day reports because Extra Editions were already too expensive to add to the print news delivery cycle.

 

We all expected to get home to the evening news with Walter Cronkite to get the full story. Yet, that day, 30 years ago, January 28, 1986 at 10:39 am, it was Dan Rather on the desk reporting live as a sadly repeating tape from Houston talked about a malfunction while our eyes told us so much more. See the video clip here http://bit.ly/MCMalfunction

Thinking about the speed of today’s real time web, I can only imagine that 30 year old scenario playing out as bad press today for Mission Control. With Vine Loops and Vimeo, sound bites repeating the understatement of the decade and images lifted from network footage shared instantly to and by billions of humans worldwide, the potential for a virally fueled PR disaster is huge. And yet, most businesses today are ill prepared to deal with their own Mission Control Malfunction.

In today’s real time always connected world, it pays for everyone to have a contingency-A Catastrophe-response PR plan (CPR) in place. We are all citizen journalists today. See something, say something. You can be sure the phones are out capturing video and stills, circulated globally in just seconds. Yesterday’s casual bystanders are today’s reporters and social media journalists. With all senses put to use, the social enabled citizen becomes the people’s eyes and ears on the ground. What they see, feel, hear, smell and touch or taste are often amplified without benefit of backstory.

Here are some easy actions to take: Start with a list of possible catastrophic incidents that could happen involving your business. If you are in manufacturing, you instinctively know you will deal with big orders, bad deliveries, broken equipment, crisis driven fulfillment. It happens all the time. Medical and Pharma, established and start ups? Know that you or your competitor will one day announce a big breakthrough, a huge backer, a major sale but also, a mission failure, a life lost, human error and human tragedy. How will you deal with it?

As a minimum, have an outline of who speaks first and what they say. Think about the words you will use. Are they calm and measured? Do they match the tenor and tone needed if you ever have to call them into action? What is your worst case scenario list? How will you respond in the pressure of the moment? A well planned PR disaster recovery plan includes a matrix of events likely to happen in the life cycle of a product, service or company. Be prepared. Have a plan and have your own media outlets already connected to the social business world we live in.

As David Meerman Scott says, “we are what we publish.” Start publishing now and keep going.

Want some help? Get in touch with Keith Spiro.

We are all in this together. A global community connected by instantaneous access.

Predictions 2016 (My 3 Words)

Chris Brogan started the practice of launching each new year with just three words to live and work by. He found it more effective than making and soon thereafter breaking a slew of New Year Resolutions.  I’ve participated in this annual ritual for a number of years now.   Three words to guide my business sensibilities for the upcoming 12 months.

My three words for 2016: Community  |  Collaboration  |  Commerce

and the two businesses that epitomize the symbiotic relationship and power of community are Carii and Chimani.

logo       and   chimaniScreenShot

(More about them further down. )

Here are ways that they can play out for you and for business:

2016 will be the year of collaboration, short attention spans, high-speed communication expectations and a great deal of new and surprising interruptions across most every industry. Familiar Statements?  They should be.  Lots of changes are ongoing because of the continuing and expanding impact of social media and highly portable tools like smartphones.

Word of mouth is a very powerful influencer that spreads rapidly through our ever more connected world.  We are becoming a world that is tethered to the internet. We are always online, always available and we expect the same from all of our vendors, suppliers and friends.

I talk about Social Media as a cultural change.  Social media tools and “social business” are more than just today’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.  All of the social pathways (including email, texting, instant messaging) that people use to stay in touch have shifted into the predominant place for how we learn new things and how we communicate with others.

To make the most of these changes, think about how information is transmitted and received and put yourself into the mindset of the recipient.

There were 2.6 billion smartphones in use in 2014 and that number is predicted to surge to 6.1 billion by 2020. This means 70% of all people in the world will have smartphones and most all will be wireless.  Two billion of the new users will come from the Asia Pacific. (Ericsson)

PREDICTIONS:

  1. Community matters more than ever. Teams working together can produce more and better results than any one individual. Collaboration will rule in the for-profit and the non-profit sectors.
  2. Communications – NextGen collaboration tools and social media will find their way into common use. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are aging tools compared to what is becoming available for immediacy and collaborative function today. Visual output towers over most everything else in this environment. A picture is worth a thousand words and a less than one minute video will be worth thousands.
  3. Commerce – Getting business done should sound more and more like “we are all in this together” and “no one can do it themselves,” as we all expect instant communication and immediate results. This means doing your homework before launching a plan and understanding that the availability of multimedia and real-time messaging requires being nimble enough to pivot (change) mid plan execution.

What  should you look for?

Consider that in 2016 Twitter turns 10 years old and Facebook will be starting its 12th year. They are ancient technology. Look for a slew of new products and platforms trying to break into widespread acceptance and competing with the old guard of social platforms.  Privacy concerns and poor deployment by brands using interruption advertising has made the Wild-Wild-Web less useful to users. As advertisers and their agents desperately try to gain our attention, users will continue to screen out and block as much noise as possible.

My advice to business is to take the time to listen to your customer base, engage in conversations as participants and not as broadcast advertising machines. “Suggested” tweets and “promoted” posts are becoming less effective.

Look to collaboration and community-centric solutions.  Watch for an explosion of video and chat opportunities that take place in real time. Blab and Periscope aren’t the most graceful of the new tools but they are addressing the need for visual immediacy.  Likewise keep an eye on community platforms to start addressing the needs of Six Billion Wired Users wanting connection and not noise.

logo   My favorites are Chimani and Carii.  Both put a lot of effort into building value via community. Carii allows communities to create affiliations and screen out non-relevant advertising and noise. With Chimani you act as an  individual with the value of all that information has been accumulated at your fingertips- whether or not you can get online (smart thinking for hiking remote spaces). Everything you need for a trip to the National Parks. Congrats to them for being selected as a Google Launch Partner for the new app first indexing technology. I’ve even more respect for their Really Smart Marketing leadership with their timing coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of The National Park System.

Sign up for Chimani here and if you are curious about next gen community platforms join me here on Carii

chimani all parks home URL

Watch for the results of the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in January where 170,000 people gather to see what’s new and trending. In the meantime, back home, think community, because, in the end, we are all in this together.