Spring

It has arrived, today, earlier than it has arrived in years.

No welcoming of it at Stonehenge or Chichen Itza, this year. You know why.

Spring.

Yesterday, I drove up to Ottawa to get my daughter and her boyfriend. They have both lost their jobs. We all figured it’d be safer for them to be here with me in the County – in a little rural spot with less than 100 people in it – than in Ottawa.

Traffic was surprisingly heavy on the 401. Cars, but tons of trucks. Usually I curse trucks – especially when they drive too long in the passing lane – but not yesterday. They’re the ones carrying food to grocery stores. So we need them.

The Walmart parking lot in Belleville was packed. Driving by it, I wondered how many of the people inside were practicing social distancing. Not many, I reckoned.

Past Belleville, I listened to Trump’s press conference. The news was the closing of the border with Canada, and the spending bill. But it was Trump’s utter madness that came through.

It was the “Chinese virus,” he said. A vaccine is close, he said. “Total victory,” he said, his endsieg. He’s the “wartime president.”

His lies and prevarications were so many, and so distracting, I missed my turn and got almost to Cornwall before I noticed. If that Walmart parking lot and Trump’s press conference are any indication, we’re fucked, I thought to myself, doubling back.

But we won’t be. We aren’t.

My daughter and her BF were wearing masks and gloves, as I loaded them and their stuff into the Jeep. They wore ’em all the way to the County, too. They did what we all have to, now.

Spring.

Back home, I got in touch with friends and family. No one was dismissing the coronavirus anymore. They all are taking steps and being careful. They all acknowledged that they may lose things in the coming months – clients, business, maybe even some things they own – but they all sounded determined to keep moving forward.

And so must we all. A doctor I know, one not given to exaggeration, told me on Tuesday that this is a war, now. And it is.

Our parents and grandparents lived through a World War. The ups and the downs, the tragic losses, the enormous sacrifices, the dark cruelty and the shining humanity. They got through all of that, and they didn’t have the Internet or 500 channels or little computers they could carry around in their pockets.

They got through that war, and they built a better society. So, we are going to get through this and build a better world, too.

Am I going to get it? For sure. I feel it. Maybe I did when I gassed up in Ottawa yesterday, and I touched a bit of plastic or metal and then touched my face, without thinking. Maybe.

Maybe I will be one of the ones – the 15 per cent of the 80 per cent – who gets really sick. Maybe, maybe not.

What’s certain is this: Spring is here, and it will the darkest Spring of our lives. And then, at the tail end of it, things will get brighter again. They will, they will. I promise.

Spring has sprung. Go out and breathe it in.

It feels good.


Home Hardware makes amends

Some of us complained to them, yesterday, that one of their Ontario stores was selling small containers of hand sanitizer for $15. People noticed.

So did Home Hardware. Thank you, all.


One year

A month ago feels like a lifetime, now. Twelve months – twelve months today – feels like an eternity.

Anyway. Loved her, loved being married to her, loved every moment: she carried my heart. Don’t know exactly where she is, but I hope she’s okay.

Life is fleeting – more than ever, now – but true love is not.

Hold onto both.


#Coronavirus: crisis comms in a crisis comms situation

Daisy Group has been around for almost 15 years.  Generally speaking, we are basically a war room for hire.  Specifically, we help folks through crisis communications situations.  Like coronavirus.

What has made things worse – what has made people anxious, and pushed them towards panic – isn’t the virus itself.  It’s how our supposed leaders have communicated to us about the virus.

Donald Trump has been in the news every day. He has ignored the threat, then dismissed it, then lied about it, then broadcast an address full of yet more lies and misinformation.  It caused a stock market crash and panicked people even more.

Justin Trudeau has done the opposite – he hasn’t been in the news much at all.  He has delegated communications to ministers who have zero experience handling a crisis like this, and his policy response – a billion dollars, a conference call with provincial Premiers – has been pretty puny.  He has essentially disappeared.  His wife may be ill, but Trudeau is a master of social media, and he knows how to reach people even when in isolation.  He hasn’t done so.  That’s caused some confusion and anxiety.

I teach crisis communications at the University of Calgary’s law school; I’m in fact teaching again today, via the Internet.  I have been using coronavirus as a case study for the entire semester.

Here is the story I will tell my students about how to communicate in a crisis like coronavirus.  It isn’t hard.  But our leaders need to do it.  Now.

At my Daisy Group, when corporate disaster strikes, we often refer clients to the Tylenol approach.  It’s an approach that works.  

Late 1982, Chicago: seven people are killed when they ingest Tylenols laced with potassium cyanide.  Johnson and Johnson, which owned the Tylenol brand, saw its share price plummet, and panic was widespread.

But the company didn’t disappear.  It did the reverse.  J and J immediately recalled all Tylenol, nation-wide. It ceased production.  It issued warnings to hospitals.  It announced that it was developing what it called “tamper proof” packaging – a phrase that has now entered the popular lexicon.  And, over and over, company executives made themselves available to the media, to answer questions, to describe the actions it was taking and – most of all – to take responsibility.

Johnson and Johnson didn’t poison its own Tylenol capsules, of course, and nobody believed that they ever would.  But the company’s willingness to be accountable, and to answer every question, generated tons of goodwill.  As the Washington Post wrote, admiringly, at the time:  “Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster.”  After tamper-proof Tylenol packaging was perfected, and reintroduced in the market, Tylenol would shortly go on to become the most popular over-the-counter analgesic drug in the U.S.

For Messrs Trudeau and Trump, there’s a lesson there, if they want to heed it.  In politics, as in life, the communications rule is this: what gets you in trouble isn’t the mistake itself.

What gets you in trouble, instead, is dishonesty and exaggeration.  What gets you in trouble is pretending to be an expert, where you’re not. What gets you in trouble is basically disappearing (like Trudeau) – or being on TV too much (like Trump).

What gets you in trouble is pretending that the crisis isn’t happening.  And saying nothing.

Because coronavirus isn’t nothing.  It’s changing the world.  Right now, today.

Forever.

 


Trudeaus, Singh in self-isolation

Hope all of them are okay.  And that everyone exposed to this remorseless, foul pestilence are okay, too.