What You Can Do Right Now to Start Developing a Crisis Mindset for Your Comprehensive Emergency Plan

In my previous post I stated that I would take you through my own process of creating a plan for Firetalker PR. This post will get you started based on what I have done so far. According to Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 World, by Alan B. Bernstein and Cindy Rakowitz,  there are things to consider as you move toward developing your plan as I have.

It is important to know there is work to be done before jumping into creating your plan. Having a crisis mindset is critical to the process, whether you are a publicist, or a business coach. For the purposes of this post; I will come from being an entrepreneur, and what that mindset means so you can follow along and create your own plan too.

First, I thought through what it means to my clients to always think from a pro-active worst-case-scenario perspective (which is the best way to do it, even though it may sound strange to you at first). I looked at the possibility that if I was in the hospital and/or passed away, what that would look like for my clients.

It became an “if this, then that” equation as I thought it through. So, if something happens to me, then I have it in a legal document called an Advanced Healthcare Directive (as additional information provided) that a colleague I have chosen, (another PR professional) should be notified. She will take care of my clients; my business. I stipulated that she would do outreach and make sure everyone knew what had happened to me. Therefore, I made the commitment to her to always keep her up to speed on what is happening, and where she may need to keep things going. If I pass away, she will offer her services to my clients and/or assist them in finding someone to care for them if they wish. (Of course, it is recommended to get the buy-in of whomever you choose before putting all of this in writing, and make sure you trust them!)

I recommend using Google to research the type of directive you wish to have (free or through an attorney). I used Rocket Lawyer, which is highly recommended by many professionals (also by Forbes, Wall Street Journal and more). An Advanced Healthcare Directive is a great way to prepare for the worst-case-scenario and develop that crisis mindset you will need to follow me through my crisis plan production as an entrepreneur. How you ultimately decide to do this is up to you. I still recommend, and always will, that you buy Cindy Rakowitz’s book and get all the additional information you will need to make your own final decisions. You can also find her book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Next time I will take you through my process in considering other emergencies I feel would effect my business (brand attack, personal attack and rapid social media response).

Have a question or comment? Please ask away! Start a conversation so we can all learn from each other. Talk to you soon!

Do you have a plan in place for your business in case you end up in the ER?

In May of this year I became very ill and ended up having emergency surgery. For months prior to that, I had several other health issues that were annoying to me, and to everyone including my clients. All of it related to a compromised immune system (I never knew, until I ended up in the hospital ER May 19th as my body was busy fighting an infection going undetected). I was told I “dodged a bullet” by the surgeon. This entry is longer than the normal post; it is important to stay with me and read on.

The reason I am sharing this intimate experience with you is to use myself as the perfect example of, “it will never happen to me” that stays somewhere inside our minds (even if we deny it). It’s right up there with knowing you need to take better care of yourself and you don’t, because you can’t tear yourself away from the computer. We all procrastinate as we need to get one more thing done, right? So what happens if there is an emergency, a crisis in our life that affects our business?

Emergency being the key word. Did I have a crisis plan in place in case of a personal disaster? Did I work with colleagues I consider partners to put together a reciprocal plan?

No. I was blessed to have people that cared enough to help me out. I was too sick to even know to call anyone (including family and friends) and I was out of touch when I shouldn’t have been. However, within the last day I’d been in touch with a friend and colleague (that knew I did not feel well), Janet Powers who happened to call me at the hospital on my cell.

She is founder of Women’s Toolbox and was kind enough to make a call to one of my clients for me (Janet had a full plate—it was not her job to call my clients for me) and explain how sick I was. I can tell you in complete honesty, if Janet had not reached out I don’t think I would have had it together enough to do anything; I was so ill. Ironically, this client Janet called for me was Cindy Rakowitz, CEO of Blackman Rakowitz Public Relations, and author of Emergency Public Relations Crisis Management in a 3.0 World.

Imagine my embarrassment. This is hard for me to say, but can you also imagine what Cindy must have thought? She felt bad for me and wanted me to get well; however, I am sure she was saying, “Where is her crisis plan?” Cindy is a crisis management expert. Earlier this year I promoted Cindy’s book and I can tell you, I am reading it again. This time with a pen in my hand taking notes to build my plan. Her book lays it out step-by-step.

When a plan is in place you think about that plan and you have that mindset. Reading a book like Cindy has written and acting on it are two different things. I would have made calls before I went to the ER. My plan building starts with my next blog post and I am going to share my process with you. A crisis plan for an entrepreneur is emphasized in Cindy’s book and I have even blogged about it myself. I cannot tell you how hard it is to admit I was not prepared. Never again! Look for my next post and let me know what you think. In the meantime, buy Cindy’s book and take charge of your brand’s (business) crisis management. This should be an element of your overall marketing and PR plan.

Fielding media calls for attorneys

In my last post I talked about how confidentiality agreements with attorneys or other high level executives might affect your portfolio. There are many terms for everything in the PR world but here I will tell you what means to field the media for attorneys and how to make sure you are prepared for a crisis that may arise during a case. First a background check is done before you are hired to rule out anything in your background that may have a negative impact on the case being worked on.

That is mostly for life and death cases. For high profile cases that can affect the worth or protection of an estate, that may require less screening by an attorney (or law firm, but for our purposes here we will say attorney). After you are selected, the case is discussed only after you have signed a confidentiality agreement. Then you are brought up to speed and your name is listed on any documents submitted to the court that gives you permission to talk the press and for them to talk to you.

In any case it is imperative to have a script written out for you to use when the media calls looking for information. The script will have what you are allowed to discuss and what you can’t. The big picture here is to make sure you are as transparent as you can be to keep anything scandalous from being written and to keep your answers short and concise. It takes skill to answer the right way which is another reason for a script, as questions being asked are not always on your list. You have to remain open, calm and NEVER under any circumstances say “no comment” or “I can’t answer that” as those are negative connotations that can be taken as something is being hidden rather than protected. Cindy Rakowitz, co-author of Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 World goes into great detail in the book about phrases that are no longer an option to say to the press or public in general. One of those phrases is “no comment.”

SO, if you are asked to “field the media” and you are not a PR pro or have no training in crisis management be honest and upfront about that. Recommend someone you know and trust that has the experience to do it right. As for me, if it was a HUGE case that was extremely high profile and I was asked to field the media I would offer Cindy Rakowitz as a referral for the attorney I was working with and offer to assist her. No shame in constantly learning from those who know more that we do. Smaller cases I am comfortable with!

Can confidentiality agreements affect your portfolio?

I have been asked this question numerous times. There are two answers: yes and no. That is probably not what you wanted to hear, however it is often true. When working with the federal government, attorneys, accountants and high-level corporate executives, it can be an issue when trying to build a portfolio. Unfortunately it means you may not be able to mention your accomplishments for these clients in writing or on the internet.

So what can you do when a confidentiality agreement stands in your way?

The good news is you can be vague and that’s legal. Speak and write in generalities, describing your tasks and accomplishments. If  asked which company or case this work applied to specifically, just mention the industry instead. There is never a time when you are representing yourself to others — whether to the law or an individual trying to learn more about your expertise — that you should say “I can’t comment” or “I can’t talk about that.” The proper response would be , “I would love to describe that for you; please let me get back to you with the correct information.”

This allows you to reach out to the parties involved and learn more about what you can say, based on the questions you have been asked. If an attorney is looking to check your expertise in a certain area, don’t worry about it — chances are, you have already been checked out. The same is true with the federal government. If you are looking for additional work as a public relations professional in law (for example), your reputation will follow you.

Next time, I will talk about crisis management in working with law enforcement or attorneys and how to handle the media.

To entrepreneur or not to entrepreneur

In 2008, many people lost their jobs and were feeling helpless. Soon after, many ideas started to surface about what else we could do. Some joined meet-ups designed like networking groups for the unemployed to try and find work. Others joined groups that assisted them in moving into the 21st century so they could compete. Now, that made sense to me.

What else made sense?

Picking yourself up, and getting whatever education you needed to get better at what you do or transitioning into something else. More free stuff is still out there than you can imagine! What else still makes sense today is to make sure you are surrounding yourself with employed people: people that will know who is looking for work. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, this makes more sense than ever. I love the freedom I have — to create, to fall down without judgment, and to know that the resources and help I have are completely endless. It is a super-charger!

Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings in your area, see what is happening. Who is making money? How are we re-building our economy? Find association meetings that you are interested in. Whether it is marketing, finance, public relations, writing, you name it, the group for you is out there. Attend their networking monthly meetings and ask questions. Ask if they work for a company or if they are an entrepreneur. Once you warm up the conversation, ask if you can talk to them more, exchange cards and follow up. People like me — those that have decided to go off on their own — are all too excited to talk to you about how and why we did it. We are proud. We are relieved. It is not overnight success but there is so much help out there it is amazing. I can’t say this enough: There is enough work for everyone, if you are ready to go after it!

Do your homework. We are not out of hard times yet. Our new economy continues to emerge, but the struggle is far from over. Want to talk more? Contact me with your questions and I will do my best to send you in the right direction.

Why I chose PR as a career

When I was a kid, I was always bouncing off the ceiling. My dad made my mother take me to the doctor at the age of five because he thought I had a problem. Perhaps ADD, perhaps some other sort of hyper problem and I probably needed to be medicated. Well, thankfully my doctor knew better!

The doctor said I was a fine, happy, well adjusted, yet very energetic child and needed a lot of stimulation.  One of my mother’s favorite examples was my 6:00am daily waking of her saying, “what are we going to do today, mommy?”  Well, I can honestly tell you I am now up at all hours as my work in PR has me speaking to people all over the country — if not the world — and it is with excitement, just not quite that exuberant perhaps!  Truth be told, I can actually remember saying that to my mom, and she really did her best to show me the world and keep me going.

I tell you this because it takes a certain type of person to really enjoy this work. I bounced around from wanting to be an astronaut, to doctor, to singer, to actor, (was in love with Barbra Streisand, you should have seen me trying to imitate her—thank goodness there were no Flip cameras back then).

When I went to college, my persistence in wanting to help others, to make a difference was paramount. One of my professors pushed me toward public relations, telling me I had the personality for it and I could do all the things I desired in that profession, and be good at it. I took her direction. You have to love public relations in all its facets to be good at it and want to be really involved. So, if you are considering it, do a lot of informational interviews first. It is hard work and worth every second.

Cindy Rakowitz

Cindy RakowitzBlackman*Rakowitz Public Relations CEO, Cindy Rakowitz is a highly respected, award-winning executive with 30 years of experience in marketing, communications, public relations, promotions and product development. Rakowitz may be best known for her tenure as Division President for Playboy Enterprises, where she ran international public relations, marketing, advertising, as well as the modeling agency, for over 15 years.

Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 WorldWe have the honor and privilege of promoting her first book, Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 World, co-authored with Alan B. Bernstein.  We are seeking book reviews and broadcasting all of the book’s news, author  interviews and speaking engagements through social media platforms.

American Cancer Society Mardi Gras

View from the Bay“Mardi Gras: Masks, Music & Mission” let the good times roll at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville. The mid-February gala benefiting the American Cancer Society drew nearly 400 celebrants and raised over $200,000. The festivities included signature Cajun/Creole dishes, tasty libations, fortune tellers, games of chance, dancing, live entertainment, zydeco rhythms, a silent auction live auction and more.

As co-chair for the Public Relations Committee, The Fire Chief negotiated and secured a relationship with Alameda Publishing Group to partner as the media sponsor in their category. In addition to garnering press in local publications and other media, she also produced and directed a video compiling the stories of the honorees, which was shown at the event.

Other projects included editing materials for the event, putting together the presentation of the program, hiring and managing the audio/visual company for the event, overseeing all presentations and bringing in the emcee for the event, Tom Vacar of KTVU FOX News Channel 2. Thinking on your feet and being able to handle even a minor crisis is important for all PR professionals. During the presentation, Lynette and Tom had to go behind the scenes and re-write part of the evening’s script when the CEO of the American Cancer Society wanted to speak.

Coverage in Scene Magazine Lynette Hoy with Janelle Wang, co-host of View from the Bay on ABC-7 KGO, and Dr, Michael Levine, Director of Oncology at John Muir Health.
Coverage in Scene Magazine Lynette Hoy with Janelle Wang, co-host of View from the Bay on ABC-7 KGO, and Dr, Michael Levine, Director of Oncology at John Muir Health.
Coverage in Diablo Magazine Event Program
Coverage in Diablo Magazine Event Program
Thank-you Ad
Thank-you Ad

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating ThemGraciela Tiscareno-Sato’s book, Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them, was published in June, 2011. Since then, the Fire Chief has worked with Grace to garner book reviews and interviews.  In a very short time, she has taken the world by storm and is an accomplished speaker and writer. Lynette has booked her on two Blog Talk Radio interviews, and has generated television coverage and reviews.  Below are a few examples:

Interview on Bay Sunday, CBS KPIX Channel 5
July 24, 2011

Graciela Tiscareño-SatoSan Francisco marketer shines light on Latino conservation innovators
Book Review by Elena del Valle
Hispanic Marketing and Public Relations website
September 2, 2011

Latino Women Need More GRACE
Interview with Denai Vaughn
Only 3 Degrees Network, July 13, 2011

Find Your Spark: Interview with Graciela Tiscareno-Soto
Interview with Tish Berg
TMedia, May 9, 2011

Caterina Rando

Caterina Rando is a thriving business strategist, best-selling author, sought after keynote speaker, coach and owner of THRIVE Publishing. She is the creator of the Business Breakthrough Summit and the Sought After Speaker Summit. Please contact to the Fire Chief if you would like to be an affiliate for these programs and more.

Speaking engagements we have secured for Caterina include:

We are the partner liaison for Caterina on projects such as Networking 2.0 from Contact to Contract with the San Francisco Business Journal. It was such a success, we are reaching out across the country to  all of the American City Business Journals. We loved creating a lot of buzz around these events as well as producing promotions to fill the events.

Caterina Rando - Networking 2.0 From Contact to ContractAlong with this new program, we have also booked Caterina on numerous Blog Talk Radio interviews and secured other media placements.

Caterina Rando – Networking 2.0 From Contact to Contract