August 15, 2023
In this episode, guest Amy Susán joins host Jason Mudd to discuss disaster communications and five ways to make the most of a bad situation. They dive into how to handle communications for your organization during a crisis delicately, diplomatically, and empathetically. Amy's expertise is weather-related destruction in the construction industry, but her 5+ tips are applicable to any industry and crisis situation.
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5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:
- How authenticity leads action
- Identifying an ambassador
- Establishing a reputable partner
- Letting others tell your story
- The power of internal communications
Additional Episode Resources:
Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:
- Listen to more episodes of the On Top of PR podcast.
- Find out more about Axia Public Relations.
- 3 crisis communication action steps to take
- Effective crisis communications with Christopher Britton
- How our PR firm is using AI and how you can too with Jason Mudd, CEO of Axia Public Relations
Amy: “What we're talking about today is, you know, not necessarily how to take advantage of those instances, but how to do the best for your company and most importantly, for those people that are impacted. So when we talk about disaster communications and crisis communications as it relates to natural disasters, I really think it needs to be handled, and it sounds so ominous, but D.E.A.D.”
Disaster communications should be handled delicately, empathetically, and diplomatically (D.E.A.D.), as well as leading with your heart.
[06:28] Lead with your heart.
Amy: “Imagine that it is you on the ground. Again, I imagine a lot of PR professionals out there are not going to be boots on the ground when this happens. But you have to put yourself there. You have to imagine that you are there because it's going to have to come up authentic. And if not, it's just going to ring on deaf ears. So I think that's the most important thing.”
It’s important to lead with your heart and be authentic in PR.
[07:13] 3 P’s of PR
Amy: “It's the traditional “P’s” of PR, So we protect our identity and our public image. We promote all of our services and then we position our company as a thought leader.”
The 3 P’s of PR are protect, promote, and position.
[08:15] Authenticity leads to action.
Amy: “Picking up where I was talking about leading with the heart in the end, coming off as authentic, you got to be there whenever disaster strikes.”
Amy: “Right off the bat is to acknowledge that devastation with your team and your online community. So whether it's a kickoff call to deploy resources or just a post from your social, your own social media presence, to do that and acknowledge what's happening and that we are all humans and we're all going to experience this differently”
Amy: “You have to remove yourself. So that you can get the correct information. But then you also have to, at a later time, really go through those feelings and experience them.”
Jason: “Journalists are supposed to be independent observers, right? And, you know, it can be hard for them to do that sometimes. It can also be hard for them to, you know, separate those emotions. And like you said, once all is done, the job is done, then you kind of have that moment to just take a breath and that's when it sometimes will hit you. And hit you hard.”
[11:27] Identify an ambassador.
Amy: “If you work for a national company, or let's just say you can't get to that situation or the impact zone just because there are no flights or there is literally barricade aids where you're not able to get in and there are people impacted, whether that's your team or members of a community, identifying an ambassador on the ground that truly embodies your core values is really, really important.”
Have your ambassador be someone that knows how your company wants to move forward and how they would address that situation.
Amy: “I pick up the phone and we'll talk about that, too, and how important that is to say, “Hey, I know you're running a business while this is all happening, disaster, but these are the three things I need to know that you can do: that you can be an advocate and an ambassador for our company, for the community, and for our families here on the ground impacted.” And so it's either evident that they are the right person right away or it's like this is not going to work.”
Jason: “It's always good to kind of look at where you have facilities and where you're doing what markets you're doing business in. And even though you may have what I'll call like a parent agency or an agency of record, you should also be looking for resources on the ground, boots on the ground, people on the ground where you have projects, where you have facilities, where you have, you know, active work going on because, you know, you don't wake up in the morning, go I think there might be a crisis sometime today. Right? It just happens.”
[18:45] Establish a reputable partner.
Amy: “Understanding where you fit in the response ecosystem is really important, right? But also working with those people, like I said, that are professional, that do it every day. So don't do what you're not used to doing. Show up like you would. Know what you're there to offer and what your resources are.”
Amy: “When they do reach out to you or they're talking to your ambassador on the ground, take five minutes, look them up, look at their Facebook pages, see what they've talked about in the past. You know, some of them could be political or have some other alternate reason to be there.”
Don’t let fly-by-night organizations come or companies come and take advantage of the situation.
[23:05] Let others tell your story.
Amy: “It's like we just have a knee-jerk reaction to be the storyteller, to have the megaphone and microphone, to celebrate everything your company does. And when you're there and your company is out there helping folks during a natural disaster, specifically, you want to shout it to the rooftops. You have to take a big pause and just again, think about how that message is going to be received from the other side. And they can see it as being opportunistic and taking advantage of the situation.”
Allow other people to tell your stories, and you can work with them and show them how to do that, and they will say great things.
[26:16] The power of internal communications
Amy: “Your people in your company are your biggest assets and they could be your best storytellers, but they can't share anything unless you provide them with information.”
Amy: “We're assessing, but this is what we think we would be doing. We'll let you know. And then you're giving them information.”
[28:16] Pick up the phone.
Amy: “Picking up the phone, establishing that rapport. I can't tell you how many instances that I felt like my tail was saved because I picked up the phone or they answered it.”
Accelerate the conversation by picking up the phone and making a call.
[30:23] Real People Real Problems
Amy: “It's a lot easier for us to digest things when we can, we can recognize that person, whether you know them or not. They're a mother or they're a wife or they're a community member and this is happening to them. It could also happen to me. So it could be a positive or, you know, precautionary.”
Real people with real problems, or R.P.R.P., can make a story more interesting because it provides a human connection.
About Amy Susán
Collaborative and people-first, Amy is a communications and public relations leader with 15+ years of experience for major state agencies, multiple Governors, and fast-paced corporate organizations. She was recruited into her current role as Director of PR and Communications with EquipmentShare, the fastest-growing asset management tech company in the country on a mission to build the future of construction, to shape their public image, drive awareness, and enhance stakeholder relationships. Her skill set spans strategic communications, high-ROI content, and creative PR – and she relies on her early-career success as a broadcast journalist with NBC and CBC affiliates to identify opportunities for impactful storytelling. Harnessing digital tools and an engaging approach, Amy has developed and guided mission-based visions, influential brands with purpose, and unforgettable campaigns.
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Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer.
Hello, and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd, with Axia Public Relations. Today we're joined by Amy Susán, who is with EquipmentShare out of Columbia, Missouri. Go Tigers, Mizzou Tigers. I'm wearing my Missouri apparel for us today. And, Amy, welcome to the show. I'm glad you're here.
Thanks for having me. I thought you were going to start with M.I.Z. I was going to finish it for you.
That’s right. See, when you're in Columbia for so long, you're a little more subtle about your black and gold. So I appreciate your logo, but this is how I black and gold now.
There you go. I love it. I love it. Yeah.
So for full disclosure, it's Friday, August 4th, and we're just having a good time recording this, and the episode released later on in August. But I got an email from the Mizzou alumni chapter today about trying to get together for our first watch party, and so football is on our mind. Last night, I saw there were some NFL preseason games, so my favorite season of the year is football season. How about you, Amy?
Absolutely. It's so fun. You would love to know this, but Gary Pinkel – I'm sure you know who that is – the most winning Coach, right, of Mizzou football for the year. He was in my wedding. Oh, my best friend. He's like another dad to me, but he's amazing. I'm so fortunate to have him in my little tribe and continue to get to, you know, go to him for mentorship or partnership with my company. He's a stand up guy.
That's awesome. I know some people are name dropping him recently, wondering if he wants to get back into coaching.
Oh, I don't know. What's great about our relationship is my football knowledge stops real fast.
I know this is a funny joke, but these big tailgates – you're very familiar with them, Jason … They're huge. And I'd always play when our kids were little because my kid, my daughter, is the same age as his granddaughter, so I'd always have a kid event tailgate. And the night before, we'd always go to pizza because he was a creature of habit and we went to pizza before every game. And I remember saying to him, “Hey, Gary, what are you doing tomorrow? Because I have a big Halloween tailgate plan. You should come by.” And he looked at me and was like, “Do you know what I'll be doing at that time?”
Do you know what I do for a living?
So he knew there'd be no secret sharing, or I wouldn't be asking him, like, “Who you putting in for QB this time?”
Right, right, right. Good. Great. Well, hey. We got so into it so quick. I didn't introduce you yet, so let me give a proper introduction. So Amy's a communications and public relations leader with 15 years of experience. More than 15 years of experience for major state agencies, multiple governors, and fast paced corporate organizations. So, Amy, officially, welcome to the show. We're glad you're here. I'm glad to be here with you.
And today we are talking, I think, about a great topic, which is disaster communications – kind of five ways to make the most out of a bad situation, both weather related destruction and other events that occur. And so for our audience that we're trying to help stay on top of PR, we're talking really about crisis communications today, one of my favorite topics to talk about. And Amy, I'm glad that we got connected so that we can kind of walk through these different things. But why don’t you set the table a little bit, first of all, tell our audience a little bit more about you and your professional background.
Yeah, well, we share an alma mater. That's really cool. I think we went over that already. I went to the journalism school, I studied broadcast, so I knew since I was in fourth grade that I wanted to be a reporter and a journalist. And I did that. I graduated on a Saturday and started to work for the CBS station on a Sunday.
So we did that for several years. Investigative journalism. What I really found that I loved about it is that it was some of those feature-y stories that, you know, wasn't hard news. I wasn't chasing an ambulance. It was really trying to inform people about the programs and resources that were available to them.
And then I had a calling for public service and started working for, as you said earlier, some dignitaries and leaders in our state to really make a difference and an impact and tell those real stories. And so did that for several years. And I really wanted to round out my career and start working for that startup world like energetic company, you know, disrupting industries and doing things no companies ever done before. And it just so happened that that was taking place in my own hometown, Columbia, Missouri. And now I'm at EquipmentShare and have been here for three years telling that story. And it's a company taking on the archaic construction industry and really building the future of that sector. It's really exciting.
Awesome, Amy. Well, I appreciate that background. Good for you, you know, putting the Mizzou method to work and getting to work right away. I like to think that Mizzou J-school grads don't have a hard time finding employment. So, good for you. So yeah, let's just get right into this. So kind of set the table a little bit of what our audience can expect us to talk about as we go through these five tips.
Yeah, I think, you know, unfortunately, as you know, even today, I don't know what it's like where you are, Jason, but it's just been muggy and torrential rain and we're like, why is this happening at the beginning of August? And it's with global warming and everything that's happening with climate change, we're going to see this more and more and my company’s located, we have locations in nearly every state now. So we have to be prepared for any type of disaster.
And that's really what we're talking about today is, you know, not necessarily how to take advantage of those instances, but how to do the best for your company and most importantly, for those people that are impacted. So I really like to when we talk about disaster communications and crisis communications as it relates to natural disasters, I really think it needs to be handled, and it sounds so ominous, but D.E.A.D. And that's handled delicately, empathetically, and diplomatically. Those are really important, and to always lead with your heart. Imagine that it is you on the ground. Again, I imagine a lot of PR professionals out there are not going to be boots on the ground when this happens. But you have to put yourself there. You have to imagine that you are there because it's going to have to come up authentic. And if not, it's just going to ring on deaf ears. So I think that's the most important thing, and we'll cover that. I think in our first our first listicle, as we call it.
Yeah, for sure. So, Amy, tell me about your department there. You know, is it just you, how many people are involved, and what's your role and responsibilities there?
Yeah. So you know, it's the traditional “P’s” of PR, so we protect our identity and our public image. We promote all of our services and then we position our company as a thought leader. So we are still, you know, we're an eight year old company and we are continuing to grow and build out that team. We have approximately 30 to 35 members that make our marketing communications team. I am very fortunate to have tapped a few other reporters that help me tell the story, whether that's internal or external.
Okay, excellent. And you've been with the company how long you said?
Actually, yesterday was my three year anniversary.
Yeah, I was the 15 hundredth employee, and now we have over 4100.
Oh, my goodness. You've seen a lot of growth. And thank you for spending your anniversary with us.
Alright, so we've got five ways. The first one is “authenticity leads action,” “identify an ambassador," “establish a reputable partner," and “let others tell your story.” And five, “the power of internal comms.” So, let's jump right in and talk about “authenticity leads action.”
Yeah. Again, kind of picking up where I was talking about leading with the heart in the end ... coming off as authentic, you got to be there whenever disaster strikes. I lead the communications for our company and, again, it's based off some of that experience that I've had in the past, whether it be working with F5 tornadoes. I don't know if you remember the Joplin tornado or civil unrest, but just acknowledging the realness of the situation.
And that's what we did. That's what you need to do right off the bat is to acknowledge that devastation with your team and your online community. So whether it's a kickoff call to deploy resources or just a post from your social, your own social media presence, to do that and acknowledge what's happening and that we are all humans and we're all going to experience this differently and and just again, acknowledge that this is happening and really impacting so many people in so many different ways and that this isn't your last time that you're going to be talking to them.
But setting that tone each and every time, I think really, really helps. Even our own team. I've heard grown men cry who have been leading our dispatch for equipment or meals to impacted areas. And when it's time for them to pass that baton, for them to actually go home and have someone relieve them, and then that person takes over as the storm lead, you know, they cry and they're crying on the phone and they're just saying, “Thank you guys for the support and just leading by your heart.”
And that's what is so powerful as a team when you lead that way, you're going to do great things, but you're also kind of going through that human experience, right? I think as even reporters and journalists out there, when you are reporting or writing on devastation, you're trying to get the facts, you're trying to get all the information. You have to tell it in a compelling way, but you have to tell it factually and you remove yourself.
Right? You have to. It's just like a doctor or an EMT. You have to remove yourself, so that you can get the correct information. But then you also have to, at a later time, really go through those feelings and experience them. So that's why I think that authenticity leads action. You have to have that as part of the experience.
Yeah, I love that. That's very good. And you know, journalists are supposed to be independent observers, right? And so if you know, it can be hard for them to do that sometimes. It can also be hard for them to, you know, separate those emotions. And like you said, once all is done, the job is done, then you kind of have that moment to just take a breath and that's when it sometimes will hit you. And hit you hard. So that's good. Thank you for sharing that. Your second tip is “identify an ambassador.”
Yeah, like I was saying, if you work for a national company or let's just say you can't get to that situation or the impact zone just because there there are no flights or there is literally barricade aids where you're not able to get in and there are people impacted, whether that's your team or members of a community, identifying an ambassador on the ground that truly embodies your core values is really, really important. Someone that knows how your company wants to move forward and how they would address that situation.
So that's I think that is so important so that they know what is expected of them so that they can be an extension of you, if that makes sense. Yeah. So ours has always been, you know, our ambassadors are typically the general manager or even service manager. So these are folks that help me work the parts and the garages and whatnot. They're just used to stepping up and yeah, it's worked beautifully for us.
So how do you go about selecting that ambassador, Amy? Like, what's the process you go through to vet them? How do you train them? How do you communicate and prepare them?
Yeah, so we try to have at least one time a year annual training to go over what our expectations are of the company. We also have two to three major regional leaders throughout the country. And then they have that close connection and rapport built up with those district folks. So I typically start there and work my way down.
And this is, you know, whenever disaster strikes. If you have a hurricane, you can prepare a little bit more versus a tornado. Right? Right. So at this point in time in history, we somewhat have a good idea of where those tornadoes hit, like the Mid-America Region thing with hurricanes. But that could change. We don't know right now. So that's why I think it's really important to have those leaders come together and have that training, have simulations. And that's something we do try to do here.
But then getting that one on one, I pick up the phone and we'll talk about that, too, and how important that is to say, “Hey, I know you're running a business while this is all happening, disaster, but these are the three things I need to know that you can do: that you can be an advocate and an ambassador for our company, for the community, and for our families here on the ground impacted.” And so it's either evident that they are the right person right away or it's like this is not going to work. This is not going to work. You know, they're a drill sergeant and they have quotas to meet, blah, blah, blah. You know, I need someone else that I can work with. And it's not for everyone. Jason, not everyone responds that way when they're under that type of pressure. When you have literally a family stuck under buildings and homes and it's, yeah, you really don't wish that upon anyone, but you have to have someone that can be there and embody your core values.
Right? So, Amy, when you have that situation where maybe the top leader in the market is not the best candidate, you know, how do you have those difficult conversations and where do you look for the second best option?
Yeah, well, I have the conversation with that top level again and just say I need to find someone else. Or I even tell that person like, “Hey, we both know this is probably not your strong suit. I want you to do what you do best and I want you to represent the company as that general manager, as that leader for your team.” And is there the service manager, the park manager? Or maybe we borrow from another branch to have them come in and hopefully someone else that's done this before. That's another thing is, you know, do you have experience working in disaster zones, working with the Red Cross, working with potential mayors or other folks of leadership, and trying to come up with solutions moving forward, and some of them are like “I'm out,” right? I don't know how to do that. And they want to do a good job for our company. Right. We want to do the right thing. And I'm really fortunate that I get to work with incredible people that will be the first to say, “I want to help you in the best way I can, to do what I do, and stay in my lane. Your guy here is this gal and I think when you just state, you know, what you're looking for in the expectations, they're going to want to help you do a good job.
Yeah, what's also going through my mind is, you know, I've been practicing PR for 25 years. I've owned this agency for 20 years. And, you know, I can think of scenarios where, you know, we've been called in because we have people all across North America to help with a crisis situation where the company that's calling, you know, they've got an agency and one city, maybe a big city agency, but they need boots on the ground in a particular market immediately. And that agency is just like, “I'm sorry, all of our people are in New York and this is happening in the Midwest” or whatever it might be.
So you're reminding me that for our audience, it's always good to kind of look at where you have facilities and where you're doing what markets you're doing business in. And even though you may have what I'll call like a parent agency or an agency of record, you should also be looking for resources on the on the ground boots on the ground, people on the ground where you have projects, where you have facilities, where you have, you know, active work going on because, you know, you don't wake up in the morning, go I think there might be a crisis sometime today. Right? It just happens.
Right. Anything you can do. It's an excellent point to prepare and just, you know, kind of create that arsenal of resources. Having your first tier, moving your second, God forbid, your third. Like you said, if no one's picking up that phone, you know, just even we didn't talk about tools, but making sure that, you know, we send a tech package to whoever is deemed that storm lead. We send them a package with, you know, certain types of cell phones and certain types of Wi-Fi connectors just so in satellite phones. So no matter what, they can get back to us and we can dispatch or provide some communications or if they need to let us know they need more backup, because that's really what we do as a corporate office is, you know, the tornado is not in our community. It may be in Kentucky. And so it's going to take us hours to get there, whereas there could be a branch nearby or regional support. So I think that's important to build into your disaster communications and overall plan is to triage it that way. Is the impact area farther than 60 miles and what are the fatalities? And it can just kind of build from there in terms of the level of support that you'll send.
Perfect. Yeah. Okay. So tip number three is “establish a reputable partner.” What does that mean?
Yeah, I think we segway perfectly into this right? Yeah. I think you could do more by partnering with an agency that does this every day or is more thoroughly trained. Right? Like my company is really good at construction technology. We're really good at creating a best in class rental experience for contractors. Do we know how to use the, you know, arms of life to help a family, you know, relief from a burning building or whatnot? That's not what we're good at. So I think just kind of understanding where you fit in the response ecosystem is really, really important. But also working with those people, like I said, that are professional, that do it every day. So don't do what you're not used to doing. Show up like you would. Know what you're there to offer and what your resources are.
And I think you really can do more by partnering with a reputable. That's key, right? When a disaster hits, these fly by night organizations come or companies come and it can be devastating when they are taking advantage of the situation. And we have seen where there's been nonprofits that do that as well. So I would say, you know, when they do reach out to you or they're talking to your ambassador on the ground, take five minutes, look them up, look at their Facebook pages, see what they've talked about in the past. You know, some of them could be political or have some other alternate reason to be there. So just that would be my word to the wise, is look it up a bit. If you have American Red Cross and Catholic Charities, some of those are more well known. And the reason why I say to work with them is because when disaster strikes, we don't have people looking up EquipmentShare and finding out where warm meals are being served, right? They're not looking at our pages for that. They're looking at their local community, the food bank, the American Red Cross, like a natural inclination to search those places versus ours. So that's why partnering with them and letting them do their job is the best way to really make an impact.
Excellent. Yeah, I completely agree. And I'm glad you shared that. We're going to actually, Amy, take a quick minute here to take a break, and we'll be right back on the other side with more about disaster communications.
You were listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show.
Welcome back to On Top of PR. I’m your host Jason Mudd and Amy is joining us and we're talking about disaster communications. We've got five ways to make the most out of a bad situation with a little bit of an emphasis on the construction industry and weather. But these two elements kind of transcend any kind of potential crisis that a company might have, because companies can find themselves in bad weather situations. They can find themselves also involved in construction, whether it's, you know, their own offices or their own facilities.
You know, I'm in Florida and hurricanes happen, storms happen. And I've had things where a client who has their logo on a skyscraper has had a letter or part of a letter fall during a storm. And the good news is people saw that, picked it up, moved it away, and nobody knew the better. But that would clearly be very life threatening. You know, if a logo fell from a skyscraper and happened to, you know, hit a car pedestrian or something like that. So, you know, every PR person should be thinking about bad weather situations and preparing for them.
So, Amy, we're talking about your five ways. One was “authenticity leads action.” Two is “identifying an ambassador.” Third was “establish a reputable partner.” Then we took a quick break and now we're going to talk about four and five, which is “let others tell your story” and “the power of internal comms.” So let's talk about letting others tell your story. I can already tell you some of our audience is having a little heartburn thinking about others telling their story.
Right. Because it's not natural for us. It's like we just have a knee jerk reaction to be the storyteller, to have the megaphone and microphone, to celebrate everything your company does. And when you're there and your company is out there helping folks during a natural disaster, specifically, you want to shout it to the rooftops. But you have to take a big pause and just, again, think about how that message is going to be received from the other side. And they can see it as being opportunistic and taking advantage of the situation. That's the last thing you would want to happen. So, you know, but at the same time, being a PR professional, you want other folks to know what your company does. Like just think about talent, attraction, and recruitment. You know, I wanted to work for a company that gave back. I wanted to work for a company that wanted to build a better future for all. And had I not seen some of those stories on my company's website, I would have just kept scrolling. Right? For other jobs. So it is a balancing act. But I think what you can do is allow other people to tell your stories and you can work with them and show them how to do that, and they will say great things. That's a great thing.
So if you hit that third point here, which is “establishing a reputable partner,” and whether that's the Red Cross or even we find a lot of success partnering with car dealerships, think about where they're located in the community – right off the highway, you know, very accessible to anyone and everyone. You probably have a car salesman you work with. I know I have one, and his name's Greg. And it's just like that friend, that partner. And so we find a lot of success partnering with car dealerships. And it's, you know, we say, “Hey, if, if we can bring our disaster relief center and our tractor trailer and park it in front of your large lot, can you put the word out? Can you do the pieces? Can you get the signage? Can you put it on your Facebook page?” And then it's a little more subtle way of getting our name out there. And that's not why we're doing it. We're doing it to really make a difference. You need it to be communicated because we want people to know that these warm meals or other types of supplies are available to them. So this is the best way to get that news out there. And again, as I said earlier, people aren't going to my company's website if an impact or disaster hits. They're going to go to some of these, you know, these community businesses or community partners that seem to be a likely resource for them.
Well, and you mentioned earlier you want to work with a reputable partner. So you want to partner with a location that people are familiar with in the community. You want to partner with somebody that is considered trustworthy in the marketplace is what I think you're also saying, correct?
Okay. And so let's move on to number five, “the power of internal comms.” This is an often overlooked element, but an important element of corporate communications and public relations.
Yes, I would say never take them for granted because your people in your company are your biggest assets, and they could be your best storytellers, but they can't share anything unless you provide them with information. So you remember that first one is like, “Let's acknowledge the situation.” Let's not promise what we're doing because we don't know what we're doing and as a company. But you guys are our employees and we want you to know first that we intend to act if we need to. And here's how. Because we have 4000 employees and I say I work with the best people on the planet. They are so giving. And if you don't communicate with them at the front end, I can't tell you how many cans of cat food and toilet paper and paper towels that end up just like on a truck come in, you know, either to Columbia or go to that place, because people are just wanting to do something. They want to get involved. So that's another reason why it's important to communicate to them on the front end, like, “Hey, no action is needed yet. We're assessing, but this is what we think we would be doing. We'll let you know.” And then you're giving them information. You're giving them regular updates from that storm lead. That ambassador on the ground. You've already vetted it. You've told them a story about a particular person or a family and so that they can take that content and then they can share it on their channels. And it's again, you're letting them tell your story.
Yeah. I love that. Okay, Amy. So we covered all five tips, but you've got some bonus PR tips for us as well, right?
Well, you only gave me five, so I was like, maybe he’ll let me talk through these bonus rounds. Yeah. I think that one of the tips is to pick up the phone, right? I mean, I'm stuck on this thing so much that I have to, right? I am personal and I'm old school. But yes, social media is so powerful. Sending a reporter or a message on Twitter. Great, great. But there's just nothing that can really replace that – picking up the phone, establishing that rapport. I can't tell you how many instances that I felt like my tail was saved because I picked up the phone or they answered it. And I'm like, “Hey, can I convey this to you? Can I just be a human and tell you off the record, if you run that the way it is? I'm really worried.” And I mean, these are even just reporters at like Wall Street Journal, right? Like eons ahead of me. And when you just talk to them like a human, they're going to be more likely to work with you. So I would always have that in my back pocket, is to pick up the phone.
Another example of this is, again, Red Cross. With the disaster. I think that's topical for today. I just happened to pick the phone up and call our regional Red Cross and our ambassador for that area and she's like, “I've heard so much about you and I didn't really know how you guys work. Like what is it that you do with this?” So trying to figure it out so we can create this marketplace and make it drop down. If it happens in California or a disaster happens in Georgia, they can pull it down. And just to explain to her why we were there, how we can truly help them, you know, that would have taken just thinking about the Red Cross, how big it is, like the bureaucracy. You have to. I don't really know them, but here, put them over here and I'll get to that email later. We accelerated that conversation just because I picked up the phone and gave her a call.
Yeah. And speaking of, I know your next tip, you know, you're talking about picking up the phone and really having a human connection and a real conversation. I know your next tip is talking about real people with real problems. Let's talk about that.
The R.P.R.P. I have a R.P.R.P. folder and it changes no matter where I go. It's like, you know, the folks that I've met along the way, whether it's a, you know, a veteran who is working for our company and I'm telling a veteran story and I happened to meet her at a branch visit. I'm like, “Oh, I got to call this gal.” She told me about how she came into this industry and instead of it being a story about equipment chairs, hiring veterans, it's a story about Sandy and, you know, her journey and her story. And it's just so much more interesting because we all know someone, you know, that has been through whatever we're talking about that day.
So I always attempt to find that central, compelling character. And I know that this is very familiar to you as well, Jason, of the journalism school, but just have them tell that story, start very local, and then work your way out because they think it's a lot easier for us to digest things when we can, we can recognize that person, whether you know them or not. They're a mother or they're a wife or they're a community member and this is happening to them. It could also happen to me. So it could be a positive or, you know, precautionary.
Yeah, I love what you said there. And I made a note because I want to mention this. So many times clients and companies and leaders, they're so focused on telling a business story, they forget that all stories, all good stories are people stories, right? They're not about a building. They're not about an article of incorporation or corporate structure. They're about people and the people behind it. So I'll ask you what's kind of a trick question. You ever seen a movie about a company like, “Oh, yeah.” And I'm like, “Well, actually, no, you haven't.” You've seen a movie about the characters and about the people in their struggles and their challenges and their adversity that they faced inside a company.
Right. And so, you know, we talk about that all the time. And in fact, earlier today, I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues and I told them the quote from Steve Jobs that is, you know, advertising is necessary for competition, but PR educates, right? And what happens in this particular case is that, you know, one of our clients was insistent upon this promotional storytelling position. And, you know, no one's interested in the promotional storytelling. And so it's like, how can we be, how can we position our client as an expert helper right, an expert who wants to help as opposed to somebody who's trying to sell something? And that makes a big difference. So I love how you said that, you know, and mentioned that it's a business story, not a people story.
But then also you're reminding me of something that my colleague that went to K.U. Kansas says, and you kind of said it here, too, and that is, you know, some of the a great formula for storytelling is you start small, meaning you start focused on an individual about an issue or challenge that society is having. And then you go out and go bigger and then you talk about how it's a big trend nationally and how it's a big issue and how many people are struggling or facing this challenge. And then you go back to the small and you end with that person as well at the story. And that's a great storytelling formula. And I think that's what you were saying is you know, you kind of start small.
Absolutely. Otherwise it can't happen to me. That news isn't for me. That story isn’t for me. Right?
Yeah, exactly. And especially when you know, your story is maybe with a company that people have never heard of before, you've got to really meet them where they are and draw them in to you. You know, unless you're fortunate enough to be, you know, Apple, Pepsi, or Disney, or something like that, right? So when you were talking earlier about when talking about real people, real problems, and knowing you've got these people of military backgrounds, you said how they came into the industry. I want to turn that back to you and how did you get into the industry and what advice would you have for people who are working in journalism today and are making or wanting to make a move into PR?
Yeah, you know, I think it's all so fascinating just how journalism is changing. And, you know, I just got my certificate in A.I. communications and it's …
Thank you. And I have folks on the other side, the folks I went to school with and they’re like, “What are you doing? You're just like killing off the future of journalism writers.” And I'm like, “No, no, I'm official now.” I have, of course, a certificate ... But using it as a tool. But these are the folks that are just coming out of school or looking at PR. It's like, “Do I do this now?” How is A.I., generative A.I. changing it? And, you know, I still look at it as a tool, as an assistant, as your digital doppelganger, which I use every day, and it allows you to do what you do really well and for A.I. to do what it does really well. And that is something that is so humanistic that it is learning how to incorporate emotion. I could say, “Hey, that's a great response to this email, but it's stale. Can you make it more emotional?” And it still doesn’t like me and that person on the other side knows me, right? They want to hear from me. So I think again, like everything else is to be that storyteller, really try to find that human connection that's always going to, you know, outlast religion. Is that humanistic side no matter what I but what would I challenges presents itself or that come along I think is just really trying to tell that story from the human side.
So, Amy, I'm glad you mentioned A.I. We've recently done a podcast episode on A.I., and I've shared kind of the different ways we're using our agency and how you can use it at your company. We’ll be sure to put a link to that in the episode notes. We'll also put a link to the A.I. certification that you mentioned, if people are interested in that. But, and so to that end, I think there's a lot of misperceptions about A.I., but the one thing we don't have to worry about as PR professionals, as long as we're putting the relationships into public relations, A.I.'s never going to be able to do that in a meaningful way and never have those connections and contacts like you described. And so I'm not fearful at all. Like you. I look at it as a tool and I think if PR practitioners are not using it, they're really missing out and really missing an opportunity to increase their efficiencies. But as we're wrapping up here, I want to give you an opportunity just to kind of share the elevator summary of EquipmentShare, you know, what the company does. And so our audience can be mindful of, you know, reaching out to your organization when they might have a need.
Right. Absolutely. So EquipmentShare, we’re a nationwide construction technology and equipment solutions provider. We are working to solve some of the biggest pain points of construction, which is a very archaic industry using our smart jobsite technology. So we offer tech power rentals. So you always know where your equipment is, if it's being used, if it's being optimized, as well as the fleet management platform that we use to power our own rental marketplace. If you're a contractor or you're a construction company and you have a fleet, it can also power yours. So, yeah, if you are even a public official or like a public sector helping with all this infrastructure injection of building bridges and highways and whatnot, I encourage you to reach out to your local EquipmentShare branch, and we can show you how to be good stewards of that public money.
Excellent. Excellent. Thank you for sharing that, Amy. It was great to have you on the show today. I'm going to put a lot of the links and stuff we talked about into our episode notes. Our team will take care of that. And then if somebody wants to connect with you on LinkedIn or other ways, what's your preferred way for them to reach out to you?
LinkedIn is great. Just Amy Susán, you'll find me there.
Perfect. And we'll put a link to that in the episode notes as well. Amy, we want to thank you for joining us today. Was there any other closing thoughts you wanted to share?
No, just, you know, M-I-Z!
There we go. Yeah. I really appreciate this opportunity to talk about the importance of disaster and crisis communication. It's something that we don't want to deal with, but we need to prepare for it. And like you said, make the best of it, because I think it really can make a lasting impression not only on the communities that we serve, but our own families who can be our best storytellers.
Yeah, absolutely. And I'll just add for context that research shows that 40% of companies never recover from a crisis situation. And research also just shows that for every dollar you spend preparing for a crisis, you save $7 when a real crisis occurs. So, you know, there's some real financial benefit to investing in this process and, you know, being prepared and communicating proactively.
So, Amy, thanks for being on the show. And with that, I want to thank our audience for tuning in to another episode of On Top of PR. If you feel like one of your colleagues will be on top of PR by tuning into this episode, we'd encourage you to share this episode with a colleague or trusted friend as well as just share it on social media.
If you have any requested topics, I hope you'll reach out to and share with us about that. Otherwise, it's been our pleasure joining you today. Thank you to our guest Amy, and thank you to our crew for putting this episode together. And with that, I say be well.
This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode and check out past shows at ontopofpr.com.
- On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
- On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
About your host Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.
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