Crisis comms lessons from Texas’ winter storm debacle, how to boost morale and more

Grab some communication takeaways from Jen Psaki, and learn a painful lesson from a terrible Black History Month idea.

The week in comms feb 18

Greetings and salutations, comms pros!

Here are some choice highlights, lowlights and soundbites from the wild world of communications from Feb. 15-19:

1. Crisis prep lessons from the Texas winter disaster.

Misery continues across the Lone Star State, where millions remain without power after a massive winter storm. The debacle serves as a sharp wakeup call for those who’ve not prioritized or prepared for crisis management.

Forbes shares a slew of lessons from these tragic events, including, “for business leaders, the main takeaways are to prioritize clear and effective communications, leverage existing resources in new and creative ways, and be flexible to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.” Also: “Leaders who weather crises well give regular updates, communicate on several channels and provide updates with transparency and clarity so customers can rest assured knowing resolution is in process.”

There is always hope and there are always heroes amid disasters, however. The pandemic has revealed the power of emotion-packed, purpose-driven storytelling, so find those “neighbors helping neighbors” stories in your midst.

Also, go easy on the sass when emotions are running high:

2. Ideas to reignite morale.

If it seems like your team’s exhausted and burned out, that’s probably because they are. To help light that fire of motivation and inspiration, think outside the box. Try spearheading a new volunteerism effort. Or encourage your team to start throwing “micro-parties.” Heck, you might even consider some combination of boozy lemonade and the cat-filter lawyer guy to lift everyone’s spirits.

Forbes lists 16 more ways to boost remote staffers’ morale, including:

  • Create opportunities for new leaders to emerge.
  • Share highs and lows each week (or maybe just the highs?).
  • Ask team members what they need.
  • Implement peer-to-peer coaching.
  • Carve out time for gratitude.

Of course, you might also remind your bosses that a little splash of cash never hurts. Just for reference, Lowe’s has given its workers seven pandemic-related bonuses since last year. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

3. White House comms takeaways.

What can we learn from the new administration’s messaging thus far?

Press secretary Jen Psaki has received praise for her poise, clarity and transparency, though the administration has been criticized for its handling of the TJ Ducklo controversy. When posed a question about why Ducklo wasn’t fired “on the spot” for threatening a reporter, Psaki said:

“I think the president leads by example, and I try to do the same. On Saturday, when we announced that TJ Ducklo had resigned his position—something we all agreed was the right path forward—I made clear that every day, we’re going to meet the standard set out by the president in treating others with dignity and respect.”

The episode offers a crisis comms 101 reminder that “the more you try to duck the controversy, the longer the story becomes.”

The White House’s Briefing Room offers a trove of takeaways for communicators, too. The site’s “Priorities” section clearly states the administration’s top goals, and the releases offer pithy, punchy summaries of statements on a slew of timely topics. In your own writing, strive to put the “brief” back into “briefing room.”

4. Celebrating Black History Month—without causing a PR fiasco.

A Canadian regional government learned the hard way that an offensive scavenger hunt is not an ideal way to observe Black History Month.

As Complex writes:

“Durham gave its employees a series of challenges to celebrate Black History Month. That’s not so bad on its face but with ‘challenges’ like ‘speak to a Black employee’ and ‘listen to a reggae song,’ it was bound to raise some hackles.”

The situation quickly escalated once the denizens of Twitter caught wind of this extremely dubious idea.

The region of Durham responded quickly, but the damage had already been done.

Here’s a pro tip: Before proceeding with any Black History Month activities, maybe get some feedback from your colleagues of color first? If you’re not sure where to start, here are 28 ways to (appropriately) observe Black History Month.

5. Testing out new tech.

Have you gotten into Clubhouse yet? The invite-only audio chat app is scorching hot right now, boasting power users such as Oprah, Drake and Elon Musk. AP describes Clubhouse:

“Conversations can be intimate, like a phone call, or might include thousands of people listening to a talk by boldface names, like a conference or stage interview. Think part podcast, part conference call, part social media. It’s free to use and there are no ads, at least not at this point.”

The app has just over 5 million downloads so far, but that number should be growing exponentially in coming weeks. AP continues:

“If you don’t know anyone who can invite you yet, you may not have to wait much longer. When Clubhouse first came out, new members only got two invitations. That number has now grown to five, signaling that the app feels ready to broaden its audience. You can also download the app and get on a waiting list to be let into Clubhouse.”

In other news filed under “social media things you definitely won’t need but probably should know about,” Twitter is tinkering with “voice DMs.” It explained via a tweet:

What could possibly go wrong?

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