In this video, Crisis Management expert Stu Opperman and I discuss the impact Coronavirus and COVID-19 have had on his clients Memorial Healthcare, Make A Wish Foundation, and more.
Hi everybody. Welcome to the video chat series that we’re doing. I am joined by Stu Opperman say Hi Stu. Hi Stu Opperman, I am a public relations specialist with impact players and see when I’ve actually been friends for many years and he specifically has a number of clients that work in very different ways by the Corona virus and covid-19. So, we’ll start with talking about Memorial Healthcare who is one of your clients. Let’s talk about Memorial Healthcare and how covid-19 has impacted from media perspective what they’re doing and how you’re laying information to the public so forth. and Well the main thing now is from their perspective is to release accurate information that can help the public they’re involved with testing sites and helping the public get access to learn whether they are infected with the COVID virus or not. So, we’re pushing out information. Mission and reaching out to media and using social and all of their channels to alert the community because it is a public health care System. We’re alerting the community about resources that are available and links that can be trusted and areas for information. But what ultimately happens in a situation like this when you have a crisis whether it be a pandemic or hurricanes or anything of the like that people feel threatened by You get into a lot of damage control and rumors and what’s true and what isn’t and so-and-so reported this and nurse said that you know, some patient was not doing well here and you get into a lot of the internal and external Communications with your audience’s to try to make sure that they are fully informed of what they need to know. And also, again you try to get into a little bit of a mental health aspect of trying to keep people from panicking and doing That aren’t either in their best health or in the best health of community. What are some of the examples of people not doing things that are not the best health, you know best situation for the community. Well, I mean the current one with it were focusing on Memorial Healthcare System has established a partnership with the state of Florida through the governor’s office and the National Guard who has been deployed to come and set up testing sites and there’s testing site at sea. EP Smith Park and South West Broward County that Memorial is administering and providing nurses and doctors and Specialists to help with the testing, and this is a drive-through site. You’ll get swabbed in they’ll send your test off to the lab to be analyzed but an example of a panic situation that we’re seeing already is people lining up at all hours of the day or night outside the park to get in they may not be symptomatic. They may not meet the criteria for the testing that’s being done. But because they’re panicking and because they sneeze this morning or because you know, they’ve got a flu-like symptom. They’ve taken that to mean I need to get tested for this virus whether they meet any the other criteria or not. And so, you can just have, or you can have pneumonia and it has really nothing covid-19. And so, to put people in situations where they’re coming to testing site where they’re not going to be, they’re not the criteria. And in the meantime, they may be potentially exposed to something or likely just have to wait in their car for many hours, you know, taking up space and time of the National Guard and verses in doctors to deal with their case when they’re just going to be judged to be not meeting the criteria. So, it’s very specific. We’ve tried to be very specific about what testing criteria Is immunocompromised over 65 years old if you’ve traveled internationally to some of the areas that have not been known to have outbreaks. If you know, you’ve been exposed to someone who has already tested positive, you know, those are some of the things that will qualify to be tested in this situation. But again, people will just show up out of sheer Panic. Thank you all I’ll talk my way into the test, even though I’m not showing symptoms. I’ll tell them that I was overseas recently or I’ll say that I was symptomatic couple of days ago and it’s getting a little better but I still feel that you know, there’s all sorts of things people will do again in a panic situation. They might not ordinarily do that interferes with the real work that’s being done on those who are really interests, right? Have you ever seen anything like this in your career? Not like this because even though there has been large crisis has, I’ve dealt with situations like hurricanes and Category 5 situations sir not worldwide. They are a price in your area. There are crises for your community or state of Florida. Let’s say but it’s not that you’re dealing with people in Italy and trying to you know, No more running through the same situation. So I think this is a new one for all of us and we’re just at the front of it, unfortunately and there’s a lot we don’t know in terms about how the virus has longhand and how it runs its course and there is no current approved treatment through the CDC or the World Health Organization. So, it’s not just like okay come get your shot and you will be okay. And so, this is the first one that not only is it a Crisis obviously, but it’s also affects, you know, all of us as individuals as business people as students as children. I mean all of them people are impacted when there’s orders to quarantine or self-isolator any of that other stuff. It’s really, I mean, it’s unprecedented at least, you know what I can tell it’s hard to really bad. But like lot of people there is a lot of misinformation out there and you’re trying to split the information and how much more difficult to social media or how beneficially social media making your job as far as getting out that information. Social media is the same in a crisis situation or in a regular time and that by that I made it’s the best in the worst-case scenario. It’s terrific because you can reach a number of people. Very quickly, you’re often audiences specifically are easy to reach and it’s easy to pass on and all those things. We know about social media that make it a wonderful tool are great. The downside of course is when there is incorrect information or again. This isn’t just about this period particular it’s all the time if there’s information that is You know inflammatory, let’s say or just down Incorrect and then it gets passed along and people believe the source of it they don’t do any further checking and so you have some of those issues that that crop up that come from social that wouldn’t have been the case under 15 years ago when people got nearly all of their news from the very traditional sources of television or newspapers. In your estimation. What is the percentage of good information that’s available through social versus bad infestation and incorrect or false information or social I think the rule of thumb is to go to the organization’s you know that are on top of this whether it’s CDC in this case where the World Health Organization or in our state the Florida Department of Health is a key resource Memorial Healthcare System has their own internal resources. Plus, they also will post links to those other sites. Those are the best case scenarios and those are trusted areas information from people who are experts the negative stuff comes from you know, kind of websites and individuals, you know, the say my cousin’s friend is a doctor at the hospital and you know, the cancer patients are mixing with the coronavirus patients and for hearing and you know that kind of stuff you have to look at it with skewed eye and say well, you know, is that really true or is that some people talking and you know It’s an interesting part of human condition that people want to spread rumors and gossip and not because they’re you know, they’ve got an agenda or their Insidious or anything like that. But we all like to feel like we have some sort of information that others don’t have and so if you call me and you know that I work with a healthcare system and I happen to say hey, I talked to a nurse this morning. We mentioned this all of a sudden that’s a juicy tip from a known, my mildly inform Source want to run with that kind of stuff and that’s where we get into trouble because you know, obviously it’s not that it may not come from a reputable Source. It may just be conversation. Maybe it got passed along in the wrong way, you know, which we all know can happen from that childhood game where we whisper something in somebody else’s ear and it comes out the other side of something different, you know, so in this case, I would recommend that people stick with it the traditional sources and in Country that the Center for Disease Control CDC is the you know, the gold standard and so their website see what they’re recommending see what they’re saying again in your local community. You can go to your you know, local Health Care system that you believe that they’re, you know, playing a major part in this and you can get information from them, but you know stick away stay away from in a website. So, you’ve never heard of or you know the things where they maybe they haven’t Agenda again everything in our system sometimes seems so political and this situation also, is that what even though? It shouldn’t be we should all be concerned about, you know, the pandemic and our own health and the health of our neighbors but like everything else becomes a political situation. So, if you’re on a website that seems to have some obvious agenda either for or against the current Administration and you should probably take that with a grain of salt as well. I think kind of goes back to the idea. At things through the eyes of critical thinker to be able to kind of figure out what information is real what isn’t real and certainly the source is one the best ways of kind of passing that sniff test for as if it sounds horrific and or fetch but it’s coming from the New York Times the sometimes you got to in line. going get to go with this because it’s from The New York Times whereas if something’s conformational biased but it’s coming from core source and could just be oh, I agree with you. But the other side that coin is without getting too much into politics. We’ve got a situation now where people will tell you the New York time stamp be trusted because we’re told that’s fake media. And so if you were one of those people who believe the media has some agenda then you may not take that as seriously as you might otherwise and that’s part of the issue we With again, it’s all tied in with traditional media and social and how we receive information. But we have a lot of people out there who have made determinations on what’s credible and what’s not and usually if it agrees with what you want to believe you think it’s credible and you know, sometimes you could do a Google search for 15 seconds and find out it’s not and we’ll need to really be aware and again just not spread rumors and not just pass things on that. Come across your timeline because you know it agrees with what you say or it seems interesting or siliceous whatever, you know be a little Dia. Your own editor is what I’m saying and be a little more Discerning about what you pass along and do you know it to be true for you know, as an actual fact or are you just assuming it is or is it something you’d like to be true? I mean, these are all tells of you know, what you should be doing or not. You’re bringing your own biases in your agenda to it. Great stuff. I want a pet for a moment from Memorial. You have two other clients that are really impacted in a very meaningful Way by covid-19. And I want to talk first about something that is a little bit more near and dear to my heart, which is philanthropy Charities. One of your clients is the Make A Wish Foundation and how has this impacted them? Them in a lot of ways. I mean the most obvious and understandable is that their staff and their people who are always, you know, in one location brainstorming and collaborating and making things happen are all trying to work remotely now and while working remotely and from home, you know has this beautiful reputation of like 8mm have to dress up for work and you can come and go as you please it’s actually very difficult in real life to do. Especially if you’re not used to doing it and you’re used to being in a collaborative environment and you’ve got in the Make-A-Wish example and I represent the southern Florida Chapter. So that’s 22 counties in South Florida both East and West coasts plus the Florida Keys and they also the Virgin Islands in their territory. Just so folks know the reference, but the southern part of chapter has 40 or 50 people most every day that are used to working together that are no longer doing that. So, they’re making do as everyone else is the video and Skype and phone calls and teleconferences and everything else. But from a bigger picture perspective their situation is that they’re an organization that grants life-changing wishes to critically ill children and most often those wishes involve travel because it when you ask a child, what do you want to do and in this world or what? Do you want to see or have or be in a lot of times I want to Go to wherever their dream location my face, so I’ll travel wishes are obviously off because it’s not safe. And then these children many of them are immunocompromised already and dealing with a number of health issues. So, it wouldn’t be safe to have these wishes and another large part of the wish-granting experience is to go to big events and big places Disney World after 30. Something years is still the number one destination. they’re closed kids want to go to Super Bowls and World Series and NBA finals and March Madness and some of those on the sporting calendar. They’re all off the table. So while they are still trying to Grant the wishes that they can that don’t involve public places and large people and travel the reality of his most of their wish Still involve those things and so they are trying to carry on with their mission and with their work as best as they can knowing that the product that they put out there to the world every day has been taken away from them so that then you talk about the domino effect of that and if kids aren’t getting wishes and they aren’t happening in the publicity around them. Does it make people aware of it and the events that are helping to fund raise to make these Things happen, they’re not happening. You know, that’s a direct hit on their annual budget and some nonprofits are better positioned to withstand a dry spell than others and thankfully make a wish in this particular case is in a pretty good place. But I say that saying that if this goes on for many months and into the foreseeable future, there’s no one that’s going to be safe. And of course or without being compromised and so all of a sudden, you know, you have these commitments that they have and it’s just us with expenses that you have and things that you expect and commitments you’ve made and there’s none of that and you compound that in philanthropy circles because if you don’t have money to pay the rent or your mortgage or, you know, put food the table, you’re certainly not going to be giving it to anyone else and so that Is one of the first places that people who were narrowly might give but not be and so a non-profit any nonprofit that lives on philanthropic dollars is going to be impacted by this crisis. Sure. I mean and as the stock market stock goes citizens. That’s a great point because while we would like to thank that philanthropy is population wide. The reality is it’s Mostly driven by the wealthy and when the stock market is taking it as it has and all financial institutions are in Jeopardy in some sort than the wealthy are going to pull back like anyone else would and that’s the reality of the situation the wealthy give the large share of the dollars to any philanthropy. It’s not the $20 so that 25 they collected a time. It’s the major gifts endowments. in the Things like that that make the organization running if they have an event that raises four hundred thousand dollars in one night. that’s a large part of budget. It’s not the drips and drabs from the common folks who might spend what they can and certainly worthwhile. They send it. I’m not minimizing that but especially in the case of the stock market that is had a huge effect and will the future even after this passes it will still be a lot of people saying hey, I’m a long way from getting back to where I was. Before I can do what, I did at the level. I used to shock and even taking it step kind of a step in between. You’ve got the hyper wealthy who stock market is impacting, but I think the small business owner who was ordinarily philanthropic in nature who gave a significant amount of dollars, maybe not quite as much as the hyper wealthy but gave more than the twenty five fifty dollars in drips and drabs they’re being impacted directly because their bottom line, I mean they’re there. Trying to keep the doors open and so kind of goes back to a statement you would said earlier is if you can’t pay your bills, you’re not giving it to charity even if you may want to but it is the reality of what the fiscal situation that a person happens to be in or business happens to be so and that small business owners going be worried about his own employees, whether there’s one to six twenty whatever they are if there is extra dollars to go around to help someone stay afloat during this time. They’re going to be looking at their own people first before they’re looking at you know of. Entropic cause they may be leaving but it’s not as connected to them at that moment as their own Survival in the that of their employees sure, you know kind of the old Axiom real charity begins at home, you know, he can’t, you know, like kind of going back a little more philosophically. He got to go back to Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, and your needs aren’t being met. You can’t become self-actualized. So, if charitable giving is a part of yourself Actualization and you other levels then you can’t get that top of that pyramid. So sorry. I got a little you know Psychology 101 on that one. But yeah, no, I remember 11th grade Humanities. I did that in college, I guess so I you know, I was a little bit slower than you I guess so we talked about the stock market and impact that it has another kind of yours is tap Financial Partners, which is provide sort of Go back and other Financial Services, what are they saying? And what are the fears and what are the growth patterns that are taking with they’re doing? what Well, I mean in their example and in any other that are in that business again much of this is driven by the wealthy and hedge funds do their fundraising and their Capital raises through wealth the affluent individuals. And family offices and you know through other funds and so obviously if all those funds are interconnected with the world financial markets and things are you know, again, this is not just a U.S. problem where you can say, hey our stock markets in the toilet, but things are looking pretty good overseas. That’s not the case anymore. mean, this is a worldwide situation and so Again, everybody doesn’t know we all don’t know how long this pain is going to be felt for presumably a lot longer than we expect and if you take in all the ramifications of it, but we can’t say hey in a month. It’s going be better or in two months. You’ll be out in your house and going to concerts and sporting events and everything. We just don’t know, and the financial services situation is the same way. Everybody’s conservative. Everybody’s wanting to hold on to their money everybody. is taking a backseat saying we just need to wait because we just don’t know what the impact is going to be for our business and again in the case of some of the hedge funds and things that were referring to now the numbers may be bigger than they are in your own eye actual existence, but it’s the same concept scared people are unsure where to go people are unsure what they’re going to need moving forward what they’re going to be left with when this whole thing and ends or passes or whatever term were used. And so they’re all very conservative about what they do and where they spend and how they raise money and again some of this is done just you know me to you if you are, you know, someone who might live Ireland or whatever and I’m capital-raising I might pay a visit to you to see, you know, if you want to invest and show you the prospectus and Talk about what we expect in the returns. You can get well that’s not happening. Not only because you don’t want to really hard with your money. I can’t even travel to Ireland. So, you know, a lot of what happens face-to-face is off the table now as well. So, one thing that you mentioned to be prior or conversation or interview here is there though doubling down there taking an aggressive stance for a marketing and PR perspective. Is that correct? I’m not in a PR perspective. in terms of I also do in addition to the crisis Communications and true. public relations. I know a lot of content production and so in that respect there being aggressive about trying to prepare for coming out the other side what that’s going to mean what they need to have in place what services that they could offer that they hadn’t been doing previously but might be more in demand in the future. So, they’re trying to take a long-term look at the whole situation and prepare for that. So in that respect, I’m busy with What I’m doing for them, but not on the respect of hey, let’s put out messages to the media and you know and try to get placements and put our spin on things because in that case, they’re not very mad. No, but well it would make sense to do that. Now, I would say that’s not newsworthy today. And the whole point of press is and what you do from a PR and media relations perspective is to get press and now they’re not doing something that’s specific to Corona COVID would assume that it was Audience and we talked about this little this morning. It’s not only is your information going to fall on deaf ears because it’ll be disregarded because you know, no one cares about the local plumber or something or restaurant in these times, but you also could be judged negatively again, if you’re a local business talking to a local media outlet and there’s only like one reporter who’s on the beat that you’re Involved in and you pitch that reporter something, you know off topic or again. I use the word tone-deaf earlier this morning just folks who aren’t aware of situation how many people are impacted? You know, people remember things people hold grudges and people, you know, and I’m not saying the media has an agenda but I’m saying it’s just human nature to look at something like that. Like I did this morning. I got an email from a very high-end State company and they were more Having some property apparently that come on, you know in their listings or recently and the words were it’s the ultimate getaway for someone who has everything again. This is a zillion dollar property. They’re trying to Market and I guess a normal time that might be okay if you know how I got on their email list, but that’s all I might receive that and click on something and take a look around and be a potential customer. But in this case, I was thinking to myself. How is it this company doesn’t have enough awareness of who they are and what they’re saying that they wouldn’t pull down this email before it went out. I’m not even given the benefit of the doubt. It was scheduled well in advance and this is just how they do business. But again, you still have wherewithal of what’s going on today to say Hey, listen, that’s not an email where the paradise is, and the same thing with small businesses who want to pitch their stories to the media, if you have a COVID angle to it and it makes some sense and it could help people that are scared or in crisis or without services or whatever then by all means that may have an audience and they may very well appreciated. But if it’s just your regular business that you’re pitching and you’re trying to sell me high-end a property, you know somewhere in Fort Lauderdale, that’s probably not the message you want out there now and again, you don’t want to be looked at as someone trying to cross. Fateh you know Negative X So to that point what advice you would give to people trying to continue business trying to keep things some measure of normal say that don’t want to be tone deaf. They want to be cognizant of what’s happening to the world, but also want to feel normal and to do business and transact normalizing to what does people well I think in general you wish to pull back from your traditional media outreach if you’ve been doing that again, their staffs and their resources are a hundred percent coronavirus now as they should be and so you’re not going to have an audience in the traditional sense. But what you can do is speak to your audience’s that you have elsewhere, whether that’s your website or whether that’s your social media sites or any other media forums. Is have access that you to that you control in some way you can reassure your customers. You can tell them your new hours of operation. You can tell them about new things you’re doing in response to things. They may be feeling or experiencing, you know, and then if you’re just in that situation if you own a few want to like say restaurant, let’s say and if you’re having if you have takeout food or something that people can pick up a dryer. That’s great. But if your message is, you know come Next party for 200 people are location. Then that’s not something that’s why now and so you need to be cognizant of that and not put that message out there even though that’s what you do you’re a caterer and you have space and you need to fill that space with lots of bodies who are eating and drinking I get it but it’s just not that’s not where we are now. And so, you have to move your message to something else. And again if it’s your own internal audiences people who Fit in to be part of your world, then you have that opportunity to communicate with them without like you’re looking to profit on it because presumably you’ve been communicating with them about things along. So I would say to the example you subscribe, you know, that catering company is I would simply advise the pivot to offering pick up for even delivery type services for people that are scared and need to feed and so on and so forth. So, it allows you to be providing service at a time that people are a little bit nervous. Or even offering not even prepared food but by offering, you know Sundries when people can’t get the pasta or they can’t get the bread is you have a stock of my offering that as a courtesy for ultimately whatever your cost was plus a few pennies or something like that. It gives you an opportunity to present that and that almost becomes a media worthy event to share saying hey letting you know the world know we have this bread. It’s going to go bad. We can’t have events come get it and it’s two dollars alone or whatever it is. So, it’s the same processes and we’ll just use drive by you give us the money and we’ll just throw it into your car. So, you don’t have to get out of the car for it. So sort of drive up to kind of say allows you to create a media where the event I would think, you know, you’re the expert on this but for a situation where your otherwise not able do it, so it’s a Socially appropriate way of creating business in a sort pivoted of way at a time when otherwise, you know, your otherwise shut down. I mean, would you agree or don’t agree and then when I say other people doing also along those lines and this is not necessarily just selling to the public but and I’m not saying they should do this if it’s not in their heart to do it, but if you were a community minded business in general and you want to prepare meals if you’re a restaurant, let’s say for first Founders and Healthcare professionals and police and people who working many hours at risk and exposure to themselves. If you want to provide some short-term Comfort further to them through food that may be something that you can do. It’s not a profit Center for your business, but it is good karma and Good Will and you can talk about it on your social channels or on your website in a what we’re doing in the community and how we’re trying to do our little part. And potentially again when things get back to normal if there is a decision to be made between two similar restaurants, and I know that one of them, you know has done a lot for the community and fed policemen and Healthcare professionals and things like that. Well, you know, that might be the Tipping Point where I’d say, you know, what I’m going to go there instead of the other guy. There’s always that corporate social responsibility and the research within that says people are inclined to too. To do business with businesses that they feel are good corporate citizens. If all other things are equal stars become obviously a major conversation point for corporations, you know for the last five years or so, give or take maybe even little bit longer and I think to that point kind of going back to what you mentioned up the food. I immediately thought of Jose Andres who has done a lot of that sort of work where he would go overseas and beat the core is, you know, world-class celebrated Chef James beer and all those Our sorts of things but the first thing I could think of when I hear his name is all the work that he’s done and the fact that I’ve been to a few of his restaurants I would want to go anyway, but it makes me that much want to do it even more. So, I think it’s a great thing to do. So, providing. I guess I would say is providing value is probably the thread that sort of connecting all these conversations is how are you providing value at A time when people were desperate for that value of some people have the time and they have you know, they
whether they like it or not. They have the time. It’s a creating value and secondary ways. I mean for me doing this interview and sharing that with among our channels is providing value. It’s not you know you and I aren’t going to make any money from this. I mean, this is just taking a part of out of her day, but I think it’s providing things that people aren’t as so aware of that. Hope we will find interesting and make them a more informed person today and in the future. I mean, think we’re all trying to figure it out as we go along. There is no playbook for something like this. And so, you know, whatever you feel that you can do. Whoever you are to contribute in some way to you know, the health and wealth of your community or your neighbors or your organization or whatever even in a minor way and you know, it could be as minor as a before I pass that along on. Facebook that says we’re all going to die, you know in the next 20 days maybe I should look into that before I pass along, you know, even something as small as that is a tiny drop in the bucket of what you can do as an individual the try to get through this and that’s really I think the end game here. We’re all just trying to get through and come out the other side and resume whatever normal lifestyles we have and carry on; you know when this is not at our doorstep as it is today. UPS to thank you so much for joining me today. If you to do has been outstanding you want to give 30 seconds about impact players and a little plug for yourself. Well impact players are a public relations firm. Excuse me. Now, we’re based in South Florida. And as you’ve heard the throughout the last time we met online here, we do crisis Communications traditional public relations in the aspect of media and those kind of external Communications also content production, you know been in South Florida for quite a number of years. This is our backyard while we do work regionally and nationally from time to time. Most of our clients are based here in this community. So again, we just want to do our part and help in whatever ways we can if this interview is seen as valuable by others. That’s terrific and but we’re here and we’re hoping to Stupid things and make stuff happen for our clients our media context and all of our other partners along the way also thank you so much everybody. I hope you found this valuable. I’ll put stews contact information in the information below and I would say that’s too when you share this through your channels. You can my contact information following Jim is a marketing firm. We specialize in fine. That message that makes you and special and then getting people to hear that story, and we do that whether it’s websites search engine optimization social media, you know, branding graphic design that kind of stuff that’s working relating probably do it. Thank you so much, and I’ll see you soon. Thank you.