Expectations of POTUS in “theater of crisis response”

The President of the United States may be one of the most available people on the Earth.  The POTUS’s entourage has many different type of communication gear – including people – to reach, inform and carry out orders.  I’ve always viewed notes about POTUS vacations as a mere fact that the White House virtually moved to wherever the POTUS has gone.

I saw this message:

And I thought to myself: there is an escalating Russia/Ukrane conflict, Israel/Palestine conflict, and a civilian airliner shot down … and POTUS goes to play golf?

There is a theater of crisis response.  The POTUS is expected to appear genuinely involved, informed and leading – even if they really aren’t doing anything.  The same is true for any C-level executive when a crisis is occurring in their company or with their customers or stakeholders.

Joe asked a good question.  President Obama took office on January 20, 2009.  Social media as we currently know it was just getting hold.  President Bush (2001-2009) didn’t need to deal with citizen reporting nearly as much as President Obama.  Taking a larger step backwards, President Reagan (1981-1989) leveraged broadcast media in new ways pulling from his movie and theater experience which separated him from the post-Watergate media that hounded Nixon (1969-1974). I think finding an exemplar is tough since the (r)evolutions in broadcast and social media may position each POTUS on unique ground regarding the public’s expectations of the POTUS during a crisis event.  Remember, we’re dealing with the public’s perception of the crisis.  Even if the POTUS has inside information about the actual level of the crisis, the POTUS must perform to the “theater of crisis response” as expected by the audience. This is when timeless elements of crisis response need to be considered.  The phrase “you need to be present to win” seems to sum up crisis response.

This breaks down to being in the right place to be perceived as being effective, engage and interested; making statements when a primary player is expected; allowing secondary players and subordinate subject matter experts to play their role; and listening to the audiences feedback.  The feedback will help adjust the tactics to resolve the crisis or change the audiences expectations of the POTUS during the crisis.

What makes you feel that the POTUS or C-level executive in a corporation are handling a crisis effectively?

Becoming a Glass Explorer

Yesterday was the “big day”. I caught the train up to New York City to pick up my Google Glass. Yes, I’m now officially a Glass Explorer. It all started with one simple tweet:



and then this response from Project Glass:

Ever hear the question: “What does the dog do when it finally catches the car it has been chasing?” That’s how I felt when I read that tweet. With excitement mixed in. That same combination of feelings followed me the entire train ride up to New York City.


Google Glass's office in NYC
Google Glass’s office in NYC

I walked into the Google Glass office at least an hour and a half before my scheduled appointment time. The setup of their office made Apple stores look cluttered. The entire office is designed for the glass introduction, and they did a good job. There’s no reason to be late when travelling and it sure beats waiting at home to be just in time. The staff there was welcoming and in no time at all, I was on the floor with my very own Googler introducing me to Glass.

A little more on usability

About two years ago, I did a blog regarding usability. This video adds to that including my thoughts on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the impact on disaster technology. Regardless of how the future rolls out, the advances in technology should not make things more complex for the users. In fact, the additional computing power needs to be used to make work easier for the users.

Removing your Facebook foot prints

Think about it for just a moment.  Who looks at your Facebook history?  There are only two types of people who look back at what you’ve posted on Facebook: advertisers and stalkers.  The human-to-human interaction on social media is about the now.  It is not really much about last month let alone last year.  Continue reading Removing your Facebook foot prints

Why free stuff isn’t free

GiftI have heard too many times from people in disaster response: “If we can just get the product donated, then we can do…”  If a person or organization is willing to do a program only if it is all provided for free, they are simply stating that the program is not important enough to budget for it.  That attitude minimizes the value of the program and makes me wonder if it was important enough in the first place.  They miss the point on in-kind donations.  An in-kind donation is when someone gives you a something at no financial cost.  But don’t think it is free.  Free stuff is never free.  Everything in a supply and demand economy has a cost.  There are financial, time, resource costs associated with everything.

Let’s look at fictitious non-profit group Acme.  Acme has a mission to bring internet access to disaster survivors.  One of the tools they use is a widget and hundreds of widgets are used each year.  Each widget costs $100 and is produced by Ajax.  There are two ways to get widgets.  Acme can buy the widgets from Ajax using donated money, or Acme can ask Ajax to donate the equipment.  Procuring a widget meets Acme’s need regardless of how the widget is procured.

Acme’s fundraisers are tasked to raise the necessary funds to cover the organization’s annual budget.  As money is brought in to the organization, it is applied to the annual budget.  The money goes to offset the general (or core) expenses including facilities, salaries, program maintenance, daily operations … and the purchase of Ajax widgets.  In general, donors like to see where their money goes to know that they are making a difference.  That is what makes fund raising such a hard task; it is convincing the donor to give money and trust Acme to the right thing without being able to show them a specific thing that their money did.  There is another concept called a “directed donation” where funds are raised for a specific goal.  Directed donations are very commonly seen as capital improvement projects.  I’m leaving directed donations out of this discussion.

Donors are not restricted to just providing cash.  They can provide goods and services; this is an in-kind donation (IKD).  In-kind donations are unique because it should match Acme’s needs with what the donor has to offer.  (Receiving product that isn’t needed becomes wasteful in costs to ship, receive, store and dispose.)  When Acme receives an in-kind donation, it offsets expenses that would be spent otherwise to get the products. For our example of widgets, this is declared as income on Acme’s taxes, and a donation on Ajax’s taxes.  When Ajax decides to donate the widgets to Acme, Ajax is providing a value of products in lieu of a cash donation of the same value.

The end results of any of these actions is the same: Acme has widgets.  It didn’t really matter if the fund-raisers directly courted Ajaz for the widgets or had a third-party donor provide cash to buy the widgets.  The result is budget-neutral: the right amount of cash or products came in to match the same amount of expenses for the product procurement.

Here’s why free stuff isn’t free.  At the start of the year, Acme set forth a financial budget based on expected donations (IKD or cash) and expenses.  The cash value of the widgets that Ajax donated gets applied to the budget and reduces the cash that needs to be raised that year to buy widgets.  Ajax’s donation doesn’t free up Acme’s budgeted amounts to be applied elsewhere; the donation met the business needs of procuring widgets per the budget.  The budget is just a financial tool to manage incoming donations and outgoing expenses regardless if the donation show up as cash or IKD.  A budget is very different from an account balance of real money in the bank.  The hope is the budget, actual expenses and cash in the bank match up during the fiscal period.

In-kind donations often come with additional strings that are not part of a cash procurement.  The donations are usually large enough that the donor wants publicity which will help create an impression of the donor.  Here, Ajax wants to be able to publicize that they donated to Acme which helps create the public impression that Ajax is a good corporate citizen.  Acme and Ajax producing a joint press release to promote the relationship doesn’t take too much time.  But imagine if Ajax’s expectation is for Acme to take a photo and publish a story every time a widget is used.  The cost in Acme’s resources to meet that expectation could exceed the cost of just buying the widgets with cash.

So next time you hear that a project will only be done if product is given for free, ask the question if the product needs to be free or just be budget-neutral for the organization?