"On Crisis" Podcast
AN ALL-STAR CAST
News will always flow to a crisis, but what happens when there’s less seasoned reporters to discern real news from fake news? Joanna Doven sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rich Lord (formerly of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and currently of PublicSource) about the changing media landscape and what that means for managing news media during crises. From falsehoods that catch fire, to why reporting is a lot like baseball, the two go back to 2006 when Luke Ravenstahl became the youngest big city mayor. It was a time of tumult, as Lord explains, “you had a mayor get sick, a mayor pass away, and a young mayor emerge… and at that time there were about a dozen reporters focused on the city beat at one time, a different atmosphere than you have today. Now, the two talk about the ruptuous change in information flow. Before, there was one set of facts from which everyone was debating and that came from the daily newspapers. Now, as newspapers dissipate and social media has emerged, it seems that when Americans are debating something they’re no longer debating from the same collection of facts.” In this inaugural episode, you’ll learn top strategies on how to adapt to this new reality during crises by being more aggressive in telling your side of the story.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, financial markets have been in a “crisis of clarity” and financial advisory firms have been thrust into an uncomfortable dual role: becoming both financial and crisis communication experts. We talk with Mike Shebak, senior managing director of Clearstead, one of the largest independent financial advisory firms in the Midwest, on how they pivoted their firm from not just managing nearly $25 billion in client assets, but setting daily steadfast client communications that quelled fears and created opportunities to foment even stronger client relationships.
As cyber-charter school enrollment hits an all time high, public school districts competing against private schools and nearby districts for students [and their tax dollars] face the toughest challenge in controlling their respective futures: keeping children educated at all costs while also appeasing parents. Ira Weiss, partner with Weiss Burkhardt Kramer, is one of the nation’s foremost legal minds in dealing with school district-related legal issues. Right now, his firm is representing over a dozen school districts. We discuss the importance of having a robust school district communications plan, especially right now — “You can’t build a plane and fly it at the same time,” says Weiss — and how school administrators should focus on serving special needs populations, or else face future lawsuits.
- Episode 4 w/ Allison Bentley, Former Zappos Director of Women’s Fashion and Current VP of Sales, Marketing & Merchandising with Hemp Synergistics
As head of women’s fashion for Zappos, one of the most revolutionary online shopping companies of all time, Allison Bentley of Hemp Synergistics learned alongside the renowned and brilliant — the late Tony Hsieh. Before online shoes and online shopping were a thing, Hsieh believed that online shopping powered by transparent, real-deal customer service (even executives, like Bentley, answered customer calls) could engage early adopters and create an online shopping industry. Now, Bentley turns her focus onto CBD, as one of the only female leaders in the growing, yet unpredictable hemp industry. We talk about how Bentley is deploying lessons-learned at Zappos to differentiate Hemp Synergistics from competitors, why Bentley made the shift from shoes to CBD, and much more.
Get ready; it’s coming. What does a self driving future look like and how do we get there? From a 40,000 reduction in vehicle-related deaths to turning parking lots into parks — and, let’s face it, convenience — we dissected the industry’s possibilities with two leaders of the self-driving vehicle technology company, Aurora. Led by former Google, Tesla and Uber executives, their recent acquisition of Uber’s autonomous driving unit will bring the “Aurora Driver” to the world’s leading ride-hailing network. This transaction valued the company at $10 billion, further solidifying their role as the most technically renowned autonomous driving leader. So, in an industry whose success requires public adoption — what communications strategies is Aurora deploying to impact the ‘mental leap’ needed for legislators and everyday citizens to trust a robot-vehicle? We talk with two of Aurora’s top executives in communications and public affairs, respectively; Faryl Ury and Gerardo Interiano. Together, their impressive careers span journalist positions at The Associated Press and NPR, executive roles at Square and Google and decades of experience bringing highly regulated products to market. We talk about the long-term communications mindset, getting over public misconceptions and why aggressive communications on the company’s “safety first” commitment is paramount — especially as they seek to shape regulations for a whole new industry.
With distrust in traditional media at an all-time high as news outlets increasingly become platforms for far right and far left ideologies, one thing is for certain: “The world needs more Sandy Tollivers.” In episode six, we talk with Pittsburgh’s chief information officer, Chris Togneri. After receiving his master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, Chris covered crime reporter as a beat reporter in California, and then went on to Pittsburgh as a trailblazing journalist, writing award-winning features for one of Pittsburgh’s top newspapers. Looking to get an insiders’ perspective on how first responders really operated, Chris became the city’s public safety information officer in 2018 and immediately innovated — utilizing social media to turn the information portal he was in charge of into a newsroom. We get his insider’s perspective on the “defund the police” movement, the lack of editor leadership in local newsrooms, and reflect on the days when local journalism got it right: the era when editors like Sandy Tolliver challenged reporters to spend time on stories, and constantly pique curiosity through source relationship building.
These days, you can get by without ever leaving your home – which is a nightmare for victims battling domestic abuse or sexual assault. A recent Time report calls domestic abuse within the larger pandemic the “shadow pandemic”. Backed by data, Jeffrey Kluger’s reporting points out that U.S. police departments are reporting increases in domestic abuse calls in the double-digits. Only when the lockdown restrictions lift, will the full scope of its impact on in-home violence be known. This week, we’re celebrating International Women’s Day and shining the “On Crisis” spotlight on a non-profit victim service agency in one of the most rural parts of America — Pennsylvania’s mountain country. Called CAPSEA, its small but mighty staff led by Billie Jo Weyant has been pummeled with steep surges in crisis calls, shelter placement needs and trauma therapy as mostly women and children battle an increase in domestic abuse and sexual assault. Founded 40 years ago, we talk with Billie Jo about how the pandemic has stretched her agency’s resources and the opportunity within this reality to tell its heroic story of helping victims live a safe and healthy life.
What is really happening inside of nursing homes and why should we care? COVID-19 has thrust nursing homes and senior care facilities — rarely in the national spotlight — into a crisis communications storm. We talk with award-winning reporter Sean Hamill who has reported for The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and is currently the lead health reporter at his hometown city’s paper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Sean’s recent series on one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks of any nursing home in America has led to data reporting changes and attorney general investigations that will increase accountability at these “end of life” facilities. As a news veteran, we discuss with Sean the future of local newspapers and how they can be saved, why Google and Facebook can play a key role in their comeback and, of course, the years-long steps that led to 332 residents becoming infected and nearly 100 dying from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania’s third largest nursing home. The real results of Sean’s diligent local investigative reporting backs a saying from his college professor: “Local news is at the heart of what makes America work; you have to have eyes on the mundane.”