Expert Columns

United Airlines may have done everything right. They may have played by the book and followed the rules. There are likely facts that we don't know. But what we do know is this: United Airlines made a huge public relations blunder by allowing authorities drag a man off of a plane so that airline employees could have a seat on the flight.
You've probably seen the videos from people who were on United Flight 3411 in Chicago. And you've probably seen the aftermath of the situation: protests, online memes and Twitter posts. The company will spend years recovering from the negativity generated by the incident. People will remember the airline's treatment of Dr. David Dao whenever United Airlines is mentioned.
The United Airlines incident offers some important lessons that everyone in media and communications should remember. Share these three reminders with your team:
1) The mic is always live. We live in an always-on world. Between smart phones, live Facebook streaming and “citizen journalism,” we all live under a microscope. The world seems ready to pounce on any – and every – mistake. United Airlines forgot that people are watching and listening. People can watch – and re-watch – a passenger being mistreated. While we can't control everything, we can at least remember that people are watching and listening. Let that truth impact your decisions and live like the mic is live and that your words will be captured.
2) It's not what you say, it's what people hear. Not only did United mistreat a passenger, their company president seemed to reinforce the decision. In a leaked memo to his staff, Oscar Munoz reminded workers that the flight crew and authorities acted within established rules and guidelines. From an internal communications perspective, Munoz did the right thing: he backed the team's decision and reinforced the importance of playing by the rules. But outsiders heard his words differently. They perceived that United was inflexible, rigid and right at any cost. When they compared Munoz' words with the online video, the reaction was swift and brutal. People process emotions before facts, so make sure that your message connects people with truth and heart.
3) When you mess up, own up. And do it right away. United Airlines would be in less hot water today had their president made a public statement as soon as the videos went viral. Even a simple statement could have saved the airline from such severe backlash. Instead, United dragged its feet and allowed the public to fill in the blanks. Anything United does at this time will be interpreted as “too little, too late.” People are willing to forgive when someone sincerely admits their mistakes and takes ownership of the situation.
Use this situation to reassess your communications. Whether you're reviewing broadcast/online content of your personal communications channels, remember the lessons learned from United Airlines. And remember that as Christian communicators, our words reflect back on The Word. Shine a light by communicating with integrity.

Palm Sunday 2017. Two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Coptic churches, killing more than 40 people and wounding another 100. Egyptian Christians mourn the loss of family and security. It's a tough start to Holy Week.
Because this coming Sunday is Easter Sunday, we celebrate Christ's resurrection and know that because He lives, we have hope. This is not the end. But at this moment, families in Egypt are mourning the loss of family and struggling to remember that there is hope.
As you and your listeners celebrate Holy Week, please take time to pray for Egyptian Christians. Open Doors USA has posted specific prayer requests for these believers.
1) Pray for immediate aid to reach those injured from the blasts.
2) Pray for the believers who've faced this terror first-hand and lost loved ones and close friends.
3) Pray for justice. Pray that this terrible event will draw the attention of world leaders to focus more heavily on human rights and religious freedom in Egypt.
4) Pray for the Church in Egypt to be both comforted and strengthened in the midst of this senseless tragedy.
The Coptic Church is a significant player in the history of the Early Church. Mark, the Gospel writer, founded a church in Alexandria, Egypt and is credited with bringing the Gospel to Africa. The Coptic church claims to be a direct descendant from Mark's evangelism. In the 400's, the Coptic Church stood against Gnostic teachings and affirmed both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Because of their faith and their geographical location, Coptic Christians have also experienced persecution since the early days of the Church – first under the Romans and later during Muslim conquests of Egypt.
God cares deeply about the people of Egypt – both Christian and Muslim. Pray for them this week as they begin the business of living life again after such horror. Pray that through this tragedy, Christ is glorified and that the people of Egypt hear the truth and hope of Easter: He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
(Prayer article: OpenDoorsUSA.org - “Urgent Prayer. Palm Sunday Church Bombing in Egypt Kills At Least 42.)

Please tell me that I'm not the only one to ever do this: It's an hour before show time and I realize that I have nothing to say. So, in a panic, I consult Google, the all-knowing Oracle who tells me what happened today in history, who's birthday is coming up and what people are arguing about on Facebook.
I'm trying to stop doing that. Because I think listeners are smart enough to know when I'm at a loss for words. And here's what I'm doing to get better at finding interesting content that makes people want to listen:
1) Get away from the "usual" sources. Look outside of the mainstream "Christian" sites. Why? Because they're the usual sites everyone visits. It's important to know what's being discussed in Christian circles, but try to find a fresh, or local voice.
2) Look for "old" sermons or comments from "yesterday's" greats. I often search for thoughts from speaker and writers like Charles Spurgeon, G. K. Chesterton or A.W. Tozer. Sometimes I try to go farther back to see what Christian leaders from different eras had to say on key issues. You might be surprised at how relevant their thoughts are to today's issues.
3) Search for new trends. Visit sites like Trendswatching.com. The news section highlights trends in other countries and regions. At times, the trends are edgy, but the trends highlighted are interesting and sometimes thought-provoking.
4) Do a Pinterest search for two-sentence stories. Beware: many of them are "horror" stories. The reason I check these from time to time is because it helps me to learn how to convey an idea in a quick, concise way.
5) While you're on Pinterest, search for "writing prompts." Sometimes all you need is a quick boost to spur an idea.
6) Expand your circle. Sometimes the people on the fringes of our lives have the most interesting stories to share. When was the last time you talked to that friend of a friend that you've been meaning to get to know? Or had a conversation with the cashier at the convenience store where you buy gas for your car? You might find an interesting idea to share with your listeners that comes from  one of these connections.
Where do you find show prep? How do you cultivate interesting ideas? Be intentional about keeping your eyes and ears open to the stories that are part of our everyday lives. Who knows? You might just find stories and ideas that Google would never even think of!

Seen any giraffes lately? Not a trick question. If you're an avid animal lover you may have heard about April the Giraffe. You may even follow her webcam/YouTube channel or subscribe to her text messaging.
What's so special about April? She's pretty normal (for a giraffe). And she's pregnant. Almost due. In fact, April and her giraffe hubby Oliver may have welcomed Giraffe Jr., into the world by the time you read this.
To be honest, there's nothing unusual about momma giraffes. Or baby giraffes. But not only has April  captured the attention of animal lovers, she's also captured a share of animal lovers' bank accounts. (If you think I'm joking, check AprilTheGiraffe.com and find out all the ways you can contribute to April's New York home, the Animal Adventure Park.)
Animal Adventure Park isn't the first zoo to put a webcam in a giraffe pen. It's not the first time people have had the chance to livestream a giraffe birth. So why bother talking about it? And what does a pregnant giraffe have to do with your media outlet?
Stephanie Melish – writing for the March 31 edition of Ragan's PR Daily – says there's an important lesson to learn from April the Giraffe: Your ordinary is someone else's extraordinary.
Let that sink in a bit.
Your ordinary is someone else's extraordinary.
What “mundane” part of your daily life would someone find fascinating? What “ordinary” thing do you encounter on a regular basis that seems extraordinary to someone else?
Once you find that “ordinary” thing use it to influence your prep, your promotion, your bits, your interactions. You may find that there's more to your daily life than you expected. So invite people in. Share your “ordinary” and make their listening/online experience “extraordinary.”
Who knew you could learn so much from a giraffe?

Making decisions is difficult. And whether you're asking people to buy a sponsor's product, give a monthly donation or sponsor a missions outreach, it all comes down to this: you're asking people to make a decision.

How do you get people to choose your offer? Writing coach Ann Wylie says it comes down to answering four key questions.

1) Where is the pain? The best way to sell detergent is to talk about stains. Every mom has to fight messy stains … that's a pain point. Identify your audience's pain point and use that issue as a starting point for your message.

2) What is the crisis? In the detergent example, we've identified the pain point as a stain. Pain becomes crisis when it seems there's no option or alternative. Again, to use the detergent example, you'll never get rid of stains if you continue on your present path.

3) What is the choice? Do you offer an alternative? What does your product offer that no one else does? Whiter shirts? Cleaner socks? Can you back it up with evidence? What difference does it make?

4) What is the decision? Answer the “why.” But remember, you're really answering the question, “Why should I make a change?” You'll also need to give an emotional reason to make the change.” Use our sponsor's detergent because you'll spend less time getting stains out of your kid's jeans and more time playing with your kids.”

Yes, this is an extremely simplified way to explain spot writing or donor messaging, but if you can answer these four key questions, you'll be on your way to creating powerful stories that convince your audience to choose your offer.

Bill Arbuckle CMW

Bill Arbuckle is a media and marketing pro with over twenty-five years experience in creating media promotions.  You can connect with him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it....



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