FIR Interview – Gerald R. Baron, author, “Now is Too Late” – January 11, 2006

In this edition of For Immediate Release podcast interviews, Shel enjoyed a 55-minute conversation with Gerald Baron, author of the crisis communications book, "Now is Too Late: Survival in the Era of Instant News."

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About our Conversation Partner:

Gerald BaronGerald Baron is the founder and vice president of Audience Central with involvement in thought leadership around public information management and crisis communications. Mr. Baron founded AudienceCentral shortly after his role as spokesperson during the Olympic Pipeline rupture and explosion in 1999. He is also a contracted PIO for the Shell Puget Sound Refinery and other clients. He has been involved in producing crisis communications plans, as well as conducting numerous drills and exercises for various crisis scenarios.

Mr. Baron has been in marketing and public relations for over 24 years, serving as president of Baron & Company. He was a regional magazine publisher, co-founder of a successful vertical market software company and a university professor. He holds an MA in Communications from Wheaton College and Doctorate of Humanities (Honoris Causa) from Trinity Western University. He has written three books including "Now is Too Late: Survival in an Era of Instant News," published by Financial Times/Prentice Hall in 2003. He is a frequent speaker at national public relations and industry conferences.

Interview Segment Time Points:

  • 00:21 Shel introduces the interview
  • 00:56 Gerald runs down his background
  • 03:55 Gerald’s business focus, including crisis communications
  • 05:15 Gerald defines "crisis"
  • 06:13 Can you plan for a crisis?
  • 08:41 Gerald pinpoints the changes to crisis management since the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle
  • 09:31 The key implication is the difference in the speed with which information travels
  • 12:23 Gerald talks about when he wrote his book and the update he’s currently working on
  • 12:56 Blogs are now in the picture as a big part of the post-media world
  • 13:45 Gerald addresses the significance of blogs on crisis management
  • 14:50 Some crises — like the "60 Minutes II" crisis at CBS — are generated by blogs
  • 16:15 Organizations are now the broadcaster; we don’t have to rely on the media to get our information out
  • 17:00 CBS should have engaged bloggers
  • 18:59 Gerald discusses the mishandling of the West Virginia coal mining tragedy communications
  • 22:38 The balance between accuracy and speed: Accuracy shouldn’t always come first
  • 23:46 Overcoming the time lags caused by review and approval processes
  • 26:07 Public react to crises emotionally
  • 27:52 News is now infotainment; fear is an important element of how news is conveyed
  • 29:25 Should a company take advantage of its own blog in a crisis?
  • 32:32 Should companies with blogs allow comments during a crisis?
  • 35:53 Shel asks about companies that complain about the time and resources required to monitor citizen journalism and other consumer-generated media
  • 37:42 The age-old principles of crisis communication still apply
  • 40:50 It’s important to conduct crisis drills with the leadership team
  • 44:51 Online crises should be addressed the same as you would address a media crisis
  • 48:08 Gerald uses the Apple iPod Nano crisis as an example
  • 48:53 The importance of dark or crisis-ready sites; Gerald’s PIER product accommodates this
  • 52:10 PIER is a virtual communications center for crises and emergencies
  • 53:26 Gerald says the second edition of his book will be out in two months
  • 53:32 About this podcast and where to find For Immediate Release
  • 54:43 Where to send comments

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

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