Get up to speed before the main conference with these in-depth, hands-on workshops

Thursday, May 9

9–11 a.m.  

Crafting a shatterproof, comprehensive crisis plan to protect your organization

In a world dominated by social media outrage, viral videos, employee backlash, recalls and security breaches, an organization’s reputation is constantly vulnerable. Planning is the only way to ensure you’ll respond effectively, but many crisis communications plans fail to include crucial elements, which set both PR pros and their organizations up for failure when a crisis hits. Nick Lanyi, media relations and crisis communications expert for Ragan Consulting Group, will walk you through the essential steps of developing a truly comprehensive crisis response, including engaging with and accounting for internal stakeholders. Whether you’re a trade organization, Fortune 500 company, government entity or nonprofit, he’ll provide actionable takeaways through engaging exercises to help you craft and launch a more comprehensive crisis plan and prepare for future firestorms on the horizon.

You’ll learn:

  • How to home in on your organization’s most relevant risks and audiences
  • Identify and highlight your brand’s most important values, placing them front and center in the face of any crisis
  • Ways to marry your external and internal crisis communications plans
  • How to set up key stakeholders as spokespeople and allies
Nick Lanyi
Media relations and crisis communications expert
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
11:10 a.m.–1:10 p.m.

Make the most of crisis communications challenges—and effect change

Crisis communicators must be prepared to spring into action at a moment’s notice, which requires careful preparation—even for the unexpected. That planning becomes more complicated when you’re defending a decision or decree that most of your audience dislikes. Meghan Hughes, communications director for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, will share how she and her team turned the tide on negative media coverage over a policy and its consequences—helping to change leaders’ minds in the process. Through an interactive exercise, you’ll brainstorm ways to overcome similar hurdles.

You’ll learn:

  • How to fine-tune your crisis messaging to create desired results
  • Ways to effect change and influence policy decisions
  • Tips for knowing when to defend your stance and messaging—and when to change course
  • How to make the best of unpopular policies and procedures and defend disliked decisions
  • The crucial differences between reaching and influencing internal stakeholders versus external audiences
Communications director
Denver Department of Public Health and Environment
Read bio
1:10–2:15 p.m.

Lunch

Tour Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit, one of three such facilities in the United States equipped to handle a medical crisis such as the Ebola outbreak. The unit, which has been operational since 2005, enabled Nebraska Medicine to treat Ebola patients in 2014 without risk to its health care workers, and enabled the staff to take a leading role in educating the world’s health care community about best practices in an infectious disease activation.

2:15-4:15 p.m.

Strengthen your reputation by preparing for inevitable cyber crises

In the past 18 months, organizations such as Marriott, Verizon, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Uber and Hyatt have had to move swiftly to communicate in the aftermath of data breaches. At any moment, your organization can fall prey to a cybercriminal stealing sensitive data, mining cryptocurrency, extorting a ransom or disrupting business—and in that moment, PR pros must be ready to respond. A proactive and all-encompassing crisis communications plan can mean the difference between applauded moves that rebuild consumer trust and a destroyed brand reputation. Kristin Miller, director of PR for Webroot, and Ashley Stewart, global senior communications manager for Webroot, will share the essential steps communicators of all types and across all industries must take to prepare for and bounce back from security crises.

You’ll learn:

  • How to prepare your organizations and clients for a security breach
  • Crucial elements to include in your crisis communications plan
  • Tips for building the proper teams to respond to cyberattacks and data breaches—and how to mobilize them during a crisis quickly and effectively
  • The makeup of the cybersecurity landscape, including the language to add to your lexicon and tools to enhance your skill set
  • Lessons learned from previous security crises—and how you can avoid a damaged reputation
Global senior communications manager
Webroot
Read bio
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio

Friday, May 10

8:30–9:30 a.m.
Opening keynote

Communicating during times of disaster: Setting the stage for crisis response

Communicators are trained to select the proper channels for the right audiences to achieve their organizations’ goals, but what happens when oft-used channels are no longer available (such as when the power goes out during a hurricane)? How do you best tailor your messages to distribute crucial information in a timely manner, but for specific audiences and in a way that is effectively received? Vivi Siegel, associate director for communications at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will walk you through the phase-based messaging the CDC uses to communicate information to wide publics in the event of natural disasters and other crises. She’ll share strategies and lessons learned setting strategies and coordinating with each member of the organization involved in a particular crisis response. She’ll also show you how to ensure your messages reach those who need them—and how you can best achieve your goals in the face of catastrophe.

Associate director for communications
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Read bio
9:40–10:30 a.m.

Responding to the unexpected: How communicators can handle last-minute crises

Unpleasant surprises can befall even the most well-versed in crisis communications. Although you might have a strategic plan in place for threats to your organization’s reputation, unexpected crises require a special set of messages and considerations to quickly handle the situation. Shekinah Young, executive director for Back to School Iowa, was the chief communications officer for the City of Des Moines for the largest flood in the city’s history in 2008 and an additional flood two years later. However, a flash flood in 2018 brought a new set of challenges with a crisis no one saw coming. In her presentation, she’ll show the differences between situations you can see on the horizon and those that can happen in an instant—along with how you can succeed in distributing information and your messages in both circumstances.

You’ll learn: 

  • The differences between crises you can prepare for and those that come by surprise
  • How to be sensitive to social and political issues
  • Tips for inserting your narrative across platforms and getting ahead of a quickly-moving news cycle
  • How to select a spokesperson or highlight a leader’s quote at a moment’s notice
  • Ways to mobilize your team and disperse crucial information
Executive director
Back to School Iowa
Read bio
10:40–11:30 a.m.

Working with journalists when reputational disasters strike

Giving a quote to a reporter or sitting down for an interview is probably the last thing you want to do when your organization is under attack, no matter the reason. However, working with members of the news media can help you more quickly build consumer trust and strengthen your reputation—not to mention help you to get your side of the story heard. Greg Galant, CEO of Muck Rack and The Shorty Awards, and Tony Kovaleski, chief investigative journalist at Denver7, will share insights from the newsroom that PR pros can use to bolster their crisis responses.

You’ll learn:

  • How to handle reporter phone calls and interview requests when your reputation is threatened
  • Media training tips to prepare your executives and spokesmen for interviews
  • How to respond across channels, including social media platforms, to quickly and effectively get your narrative in front of news outlets and consumers
  • Common mistakes to avoid when your organization is under fire and journalists come knocking
Investigative reporter
Denver 7
Read bio
Greg Galant
CEO
Muck Rack, The Shorty Awards
Read bio
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Lunch

(provided on-site)

12:30-1:20 p.m.

Prepare your team to mitigate PR crises in a digital world

Digital and social media has changed the communications landscape. Today, every PR crisis has a digital component. With an always-on social media cycle, the speed at which news and commentary travel threaten to unravel an organization’s brand image, whether it's corporate or nonprofit, large or small. It's more important than ever not only to have a plan in place to respond to these crises, but also to train your team in appropriate techniques, authentic responses, and strategic engagement with those driving the conversation. Jason Alderman, chief communications officer of Clover Heath and past communications leader for DraftKings, Visa and PG&E, will share insights and takeaways from his leadership across industries and sectors.

You'll learn: 

  • How to respond to digital backlash, keeping in mind both internal and external audiences
  • The value in transparency and quick response within your team
  • How to show authenticity through the screen and in person
  • Which crisis response tools to use, and when to use them
Chief communications officer
Clover Health
Read bio
2:20–2:40 p.m.

Networking break

2:40–3:30 p.m.

Taking a stand amid political and societal turmoil

‘Fake news’ and ‘Trump crises,’ along with campaigns including Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, fill today’s social and political landscapes. As more consumers call for brands to take a stand, gone are the days of staying away from hot-button topics. Enter an ice cream brand that considers itself an “aspiring social justice company” seeking to speak out about racism, environmental concerns and most recently, criminal justice reform. Sean Greenwood, grand poohbah of PR for Ben & Jerry’s, will share how the company sprinkled its “Empower Mint” and “Pecan Resist” flavors with messages of hope, activism and social justice along the company’s learning journey —and how you can prepare to launch your own voice in ways that are true to your company’s mission.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find your voice and make important messages resonate
  • Tips for planning for a multitude of scenarios in response
  • How partnerships are essential for your campaign to take shape
  • Ways to get your entire organization on board with your efforts
  • How to prepare for blowback and anticipate what’s to come, without compromising your messages
Grand poobah of PR
Ben & Jerry’s
Read bio
3:40 p.m.-4:40 p.m.

Putting preparation to work: How Nebraska Medicine activated during the Ebola crisis

Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit is one of three facilities in the United States equipped to handle a crisis involving highly contagious and deadly outbreaks, including Ebola, SARS, smallpox, plague and MERS. The hospital’s communications plans, specialized training and crisis drills were put to work after being one of three units chosen to care for U.S. citizens evacuated from Africa with the Ebola virus. Paul Baltes, director of communications for Nebraska Medicine, will share how careful preparation led to success, the changes they’ve made in the years since—and how you can translate your plans into action when crises hit.

Communications director
Nebraska Medicine
Read bio

Friday, May 10

8:30–9:30 a.m. Central time
Opening keynote

Communicating during times of disaster: Setting the stage for crisis response

Communicators are trained to select the proper channels for the right audiences to achieve their organizations’ goals, but what happens when oft-used channels are no longer available (such as when the power goes out during a hurricane)? How do you best tailor your messages to distribute crucial information in a timely manner, but for specific audiences and in a way that is effectively received? Vivi Siegel, associate director for communications at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will walk you through the phase-based messaging the CDC uses to communicate information to wide publics in the event of natural disasters and other crises. She’ll share strategies and lessons learned setting strategies and coordinating with each member of the organization involved in a particular crisis response. She’ll also show you how to ensure your messages reach those who need them—and how you can best achieve your goals in the face of catastrophe.

Associate director for communications
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Read bio
9:40–10:30 a.m. Central time

Responding to the unexpected: How communicators can handle last-minute crises

Unpleasant surprises can befall even the most well-versed in crisis communications. Although you might have a strategic plan in place for threats to your organization’s reputation, unexpected crises require a special set of messages and considerations to quickly handle the situation. Shekinah Young, executive director for Back to School Iowa, was the chief communications officer for the City of Des Moines for the largest flood in the city’s history in 2008 and an additional flood two years later. However, a flash flood in 2018 brought a new set of challenges with a crisis no one saw coming. In her presentation, she’ll show the differences between situations you can see on the horizon and those that can happen in an instant—along with how you can succeed in distributing information and your messages in both circumstances.

You’ll learn: 

  • The differences between crises you can prepare for and those that come by surprise
  • How to be sensitive to social and political issues
  • Tips for inserting your narrative across platforms and getting ahead of a quickly-moving news cycle
  • How to select a spokesperson or highlight a leader’s quote at a moment’s notice
  • Ways to mobilize your team and disperse crucial information
Executive director
Back to School Iowa
Read bio
10:40–11:30 a.m. Central time

Working with journalists when reputational disasters strike

Giving a quote to a reporter or sitting down for an interview is probably the last thing you want to do when your organization is under attack, no matter the reason. However, working with members of the news media can help you more quickly build consumer trust and strengthen your reputation—not to mention help you to get your side of the story heard. Greg Galant, CEO of Muck Rack and The Shorty Awards, and Tony Kovaleski, chief investigative journalist at Denver7, will share insights from the newsroom that PR pros can use to bolster their crisis responses.

You’ll learn:

  • How to handle reporter phone calls and interview requests when your reputation is threatened
  • Media training tips to prepare your executives and spokesmen for interviews
  • How to respond across channels, including social media platforms, to quickly and effectively get your narrative in front of news outlets and consumers
  • Common mistakes to avoid when your organization is under fire and journalists come knocking
Investigative reporter
Denver 7
Read bio
Greg Galant
CEO
Muck Rack, The Shorty Awards
Read bio
12:30-1:20 p.m. Central time

Prepare your team to mitigate PR crises in a digital world

Digital and social media has changed the communications landscape. Today, every PR crisis has a digital component. With an always-on social media cycle, the speed at which news and commentary travel threaten to unravel an organization’s brand image, whether it's corporate or nonprofit, large or small. It's more important than ever not only to have a plan in place to respond to these crises, but also to train your team in appropriate techniques, authentic responses, and strategic engagement with those driving the conversation. Jason Alderman, chief communications officer of Clover Heath and past communications leader for DraftKings, Visa and PG&E, will share insights and takeaways from his leadership across industries and sectors.

You'll learn: 

  • How to respond to digital backlash, keeping in mind both internal and external audiences
  • The value in transparency and quick response within your team
  • How to show authenticity through the screen and in person
  • Which crisis response tools to use, and when to use them
Chief communications officer
Clover Health
Read bio
2:40–3:30 p.m. Central time

Taking a stand amid political and societal turmoil

‘Fake news’ and ‘Trump crises,’ along with campaigns including Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, fill today’s social and political landscapes. As more consumers call for brands to take a stand, gone are the days of staying away from hot-button topics. Enter an ice cream brand that considers itself an “aspiring social justice company” seeking to speak out about racism, environmental concerns and most recently, criminal justice reform. Sean Greenwood, grand poohbah of PR for Ben & Jerry’s, will share how the company sprinkled its “Empower Mint” and “Pecan Resist” flavors with messages of hope, activism and social justice along the company’s learning journey —and how you can prepare to launch your own voice in ways that are true to your company’s mission.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find your voice and make important messages resonate
  • Tips for planning for a multitude of scenarios in response
  • How partnerships are essential for your campaign to take shape
  • Ways to get your entire organization on board with your efforts
  • How to prepare for blowback and anticipate what’s to come, without compromising your messages
Grand poobah of PR
Ben & Jerry’s
Read bio
3:40 p.m.-4:40 p.m. Central time

Putting preparation to work: How Nebraska Medicine activated during the Ebola crisis

Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit is one of three facilities in the United States equipped to handle a crisis involving highly contagious and deadly outbreaks, including Ebola, SARS, smallpox, plague and MERS. The hospital’s communications plans, specialized training and crisis drills were put to work after being one of three units chosen to care for U.S. citizens evacuated from Africa with the Ebola virus. Paul Baltes, director of communications for Nebraska Medicine, will share how careful preparation led to success, the changes they’ve made in the years since—and how you can translate your plans into action when crises hit.

Communications director
Nebraska Medicine
Read bio