Continuity of Operations

Within 24 hours, I completed something of a crisis boot-camp–AAM’s crisis communications webinar and a Google hangout on the subject with Suzanne and my colleague Amy Wike.

The webinar focused on PR crises, like news of an institution’s financial mismanagement, corrupt leadership, endangered visitors, or perceived betrayal of the public trust.

Our hangout explored crisis planning and management more broadly–the structures an institution puts in place to ensure operations continue in the event of disaster, from snowstorm to pandemic to act of terror.

Both approaches were valuable, and takeaways overlapped:

  • know your crisis team–enfranchise senior officials responsible for leadership, personnel, finances, facility, security, information systems, legal, and collections
  • inventory communications tools/anticipate disruptions–run scenarios in which all platforms function (e-blasts, media calls, press releases, tweets, status updates, homepage alerts), but plan for a world without internet or phone service
  • create an information release grid–chart your constituent groups (gov. officials, trustees, members, staff, media, general public, etc.), identify the communications channels that best connect with each, and sequence your message(s)
  • site-proof your plan–keep all components (key contacts, release grid, etc.) in a secure, digital space (e.g. Google docs) and maintain strategic hard-copies off-site
  • stay on guard–anticipate, plan, and monitor potential issues all the time, while crises can still be averted or managed
  • keep track–craft a situation analysis and refine it as new information emerges; log (and respond to) all media inquiries and document posts to your social networks

This Thursday: Crisis Communications

The April conversation has arrived! This Thursday, April 26, we’ll address crisis communications on several levels, from standard, institutional crisis planning to a more social media-focused crisis management case study. We’ll test a new hangout time–5 pm EST–on Google hangout. To join the conversation, visit where you’ll find a hangout underway. Participate between now and then by posting questions and links here and/or on our Google + page. To get started, some resources (many from AAM’s excellent information center):

Recommended Reading: A Life in Museums

Today I had the great pleasure of seeing Wendy Luke. She came to the museum to speak with a group of my colleagues who she’ll coach over the coming months (a couple of us who worked with her previously joined the discussion). She brought along a gift for me–A Life in Museums: Managing Your Museum Careera book she edited with Greg Stevens, published by the American Association of Museums. From “powering up your personal brand” to “managing from the middle,” the volume is packed with practical wisdom for museum professionals at all career stages. Chapter titles like those, plus Wendy’s diverse background (with non-profits to multi-billion-dollar corporations), give me a strong feeling that the book can be an important professional development resource beyond the museum world. Suzanne and I were honored when Wendy invited me to write a sidebar on this experiment for her chapter on mentorship. You’ll find “Practically Speaking: Open-Sourcing Your Mentorship” on pages 184-185. If you’re traveling to AAM’s annual meeting in Minneapolis next week, be sure to attend the Meet and Greet and Book Signing with Wendy and Greg on Wed., May 2, 1-2 pm, in the AAM bookstore.

3 Ways to be a (Better) Storyteller

The big takeaway of Andy Goodman’s workshop: your organization should have a handful of stories (5-6) that every one of its staff, from leaders to volunteers, know by heart. These stories verify that we’re making good on the lofty promises of our mission and values statements. (Take a quick look at any nonprofit’s mission, usually posted on its website, and the need for concrete proof with a human face becomes obvious).

So how to craft these stories? Turns out, we all already know how, instinctively. In the workshop, we had two minutes to think of a story on a designated theme, then two minutes each to recount them in rapid succession around our tables. We brainstormed qualities our stories had in common: a hero, an emotional hook like humor or nostalgia, a colorful sense of context, obstacles to overcome, a resolution.

The best stories are not necessarily original or complex. Pixar packs a masterful, timeless, and very simple story--capturing the complete arc of a relationship--into six minutes in its 2009 animated feature "Up."

While the basics come naturally, Andy talked about bad habits he sees over and over again in nonprofit storytelling. Here are three common pitfalls to avoid: Continue reading

Once Upon a Time

At Suzanne’s suggestion, I’ll spend tomorrow morning at an AAM workshop, Storytelling: The First Big Thing with Andy Goodman, an author and advocate for nonprofits, educational and cultural institutions, or in his words “good causes.” Here’s a trailer from the session presented for another group last year:

Before the workshop, we’re to come up with 2-3 short ideas for stories about our museums’ contributions to their communities and visitors’ lives. Here are my first attempts: Continue reading