FIR Interview: Charles Pizzo, Katrina evacuee – September 25, 2005

In this edition of For Immediate Release podcast interviews, Shel and Neville spoke with Charles Pizzo, a 20-year veteran of communications, a top-ranked speaker and writer and a former Chairman of the Board of IABC and its Research Foundation. A native of New Orleans, Charles evacuated from that city following Hurricane Katrina and the total loss of his home and business premises. He is temporarily located in Arlington, Texas.

Our 28-minute conversation focused on Charles’ experiences from the evacuation and the challenges of communication when infrastructures including telecommunications fail – reflected in the less than optimal sound quality of our phone conversation carried out not via Skype but via a session.

About our conversation partner:

A former chairman of the board of both IABC and its Research Foundation, Charles Pizzo is a top-rated speaker and Ragan contributor. He also serves as counsel to v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations. Pizzo has been speaking about media relations online, reputation management, and leadership, plus has written on a host of technology communication issues. He has led teleseminars for both IABC and Ragan on such topics as corporate social responsibility and cybersmearing: attacks on reputation that start online. (Bio and photo courtesy of Dallas IABC, where Charles will be a speaker at the Chapter’s Professional Development Day, Bronze Quill Awards & 35th Reunion on October 7.)

Download MP3 podcast

Download the conversation here (MP3, 14MB), or subscribe to the interviews RSS feed to get it and future interviews automatically. You can also subscribe to the full feed to get all FIR podcasts. (For automatic synchronization with your iPod or other digital player, you’ll also need a podcatcher such as the free iPodder, DopplerRadio or iTunes, or an RSS aggregator that supports podcasts such as FeedDemon).

Interview Segment Time Points:

  • 00:21 Shel introduces the interview
  • 02:41 Charles talks about his immediate experiences following evacuation from New Orleans and locating in Arlington, Texas, and what he’s left behind
  • 05:51 What’s happened to Charles’ property and that of his mother
  • 07:55 Writing for the Ragan Postcard blog
  • 08:44 Telecommunications have collapsed, isolated from the world, records and documents lost
  • 11:53 Immediately following the hurricane, text messaging was all that worked
  • 12:36 No inbound cellphone service for six days
  • 12:56 Surge of ‘chain email letters’ on who’s missing and who’s been found
  • 13:37 Groups taking photos of damaged homes in New Orleans
  • 14:14 City and government websites down because the servers are under water
  • 14:38 The difficulties for Red Cross staff and volunteers
  • 15:40 Four weeks on and communication channels still not coordinated
  • 16:08 All overwhelming
  • 16:26 Email has been effective as a communication channel
  • 16:55 Continues working thanks to great help from colleagues and friends
  • 19:06 Advice for planning on managing communications and related infrastructures in such a crisis; what some companies have been doing
  • 23:00 Thoughts on going back to New Orleans, or not
  • 24:02 The charm of New Orleans was threatened by chaos and anarchy – will people feel safe in returning? More on infrastructures
  • 26:46 Didn’t expect to lose everything so left with little in the evacuation, unprepared
  • 29:40 The only thing we can do is press on and rebuild – the future is what’s ahead
  • 31:06 Shel with concluding comments about the interview; how you can help Charles in his search for work
  • 32:04 About this podcast and where to find For Immediate Release.

Links for the individuals and organizations we discussed or mentioned in the conversation:

Charles Pizzo, IABC, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Kaye Vivian, Hurricane Rita, Ragan Postcard, Gerard Braud, American Red Cross, Ragan Communications, Dallas IABC, Shell Oil.

Podsafe intro music – On A Podcast Intrumental Mix (MP3, 5Mb) by Cruisebox.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)