PR Training

Combining Technology and Social Media for Effective Crisis Communications

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Editor’s Note: The following guest post is part of a series of posts by PRSA 2013 International Conference session presenters previewing some of the professional development sessions in Philadelphia, October 26 – 29. Learn more about the sessions and register by visiting the Conference website.

Every public relations person needs to gear up for the next new wave of crisis communications. This means combining solid social media practices with traditional media relations practices, and arming yourself with smart phones, smart tablets, and Skype.

Recent disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires have created situations in which you and the organization you work for may be part of a larger crisis.  You may need to get your message out amid all of the other organizations wanting coverage. How to you cut through the clutter?

The media have limited resources and fewer reporters. You can take advantage by broadcasting live to the media via your smart device.  No, not a Skype interview at your desk; a video Skype interview at the scene of the crisis, live from your smart phone.

I have used this system to broadcast live to CNN and the Weather Channel during Hurricane Isaac in August 2012 near New Orleans, as well as in previous natural disasters. You can watch one of those reports on CNN under the headline, “White Caps Roll Down iReporter’s Driveway.”

With seven feet of floodwater surrounding my home, four 10-foot alligators, thousands of snakes and no electricity for five days, both networks relied on me for live reports.  They came to me before going to their own reporters, who are typically tethered to million-dollar satellite trucks.

I’ll take you step-by-step through the process at the upcoming PRSA 2013 International Conference. My session will be Monday morning at 10 a.m. in Philly. It may sound easy, but it can be a daunting multi-tasking nightmare if you do not know all of the secrets and technical problems you could face.

My process includes recording a video using my iPhone or iPad. I post the video to my YouTube Channel and to the CNN iReport website. As another option, you can send the videos to your local media via their website uploads.

Next, I use my traditional media relations skills, combined with direct tweets to reporters, with links to my videos. I do the same thing on Facebook. I start connecting with media members I have dealt with in the past, but also send tweets to media I don’t know. I also send e-mails with links to media outlets and occasionally make phone calls to key producers.

Posting to the CNN iReports page is an amazingly effective way to get noticed. A team of producers monitors this page constantly, especially during natural disasters. CNN has both aired a portion of my iReport from their website, as well as called me directly to ask me to do a Live Report for them.

For the Live Reports, I connect to CNN and The Weather Channel over my iPhone using Skype and G-3. You can use Wi-Fi if it is available. I hold my iPhone at arm’s length. On camera I do what a reporter would do – a live standup. Many non-news people call this a “selfie.”

The iPad and iPhone have outstanding audio and video quality. I can hear the producers and anchors talking to me from the speaker on my iPhone and they hear me from the built in speaker on the device.

So what should you do to be an effective, in-demand communicator during your next disaster? Follow these three steps:

  1. Buy the right technology.
  2. Get training to use the technology.
  3. Modify your Media Training to better answer questions during live interviews while also operating the technology.

I’ve created 23 video tutorials if you’d like to start practicing.

In the world of crisis communications, expect live interviews on the scene via Skype to become the norm.


Gerard Braud was named by CNN this year as one of their top iReporters.

In the PR world, Gerard is known as the guy to call when “it” hits the fan. He is an expert in media training and crisis communications plans, as well as the author of Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter. Organizations on five continents have called on him to help them master effective communications in critical times. He can be reached at and Attend his session at the PRSA 2013 International Conference.

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Gerard Braud

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