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HC+T Special Issue

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  • Jim Rink
    From: Holtz Communication + Technology Subject: HC+T Update SPECIAL ISSUE October 4, 2001 In This
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2001
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      From: Holtz Communication + Technology
      Subject: HC+T Update

      October 4, 2001

      In This Issue:

      1. Intranets And The Terrorist Attack
      2. Putting A Halt To Online Terrorist Rumors
      3. New Workshop: Managing Online Communication
      4. Boilerplate and Subscription Info


      I've never sent HC+T Update subscribers anything but a single
      email newsletter each month. In the wake of the Sept. 11
      terrorist attacks, however, I felt it was better to deliver
      this information now than wait for the distribution of the
      regular Update. First are some replies I received from
      subscribers about how their intranets were used to
      communicate information to employees about the attacks. Next
      is important information about rumors circulating on the Net,
      and how you can help stop them. And, as long as I'm sending
      this special issue, I thought I'd add a note about my new
      workshop, "Managing Online Communication."


      In the September Update, I wrote about how Sears used its
      intranet -- and notably its real-time chat capabilities --
      the keep employees informed about the Sept. 11 terrorist
      attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. In addition to
      the addressing employee concerns during the live chat, Sears
      kept employees up to date on the day of the attack by posting
      information to the intranet, which employees at work could
      easily access. I asked for examples of how the intranet
      came in handy from other readers. Here's what Update readers
      had to offer:

      ** From April Kerlew, editor of INFPL, Florida Power & Light:

      Florida Power & Light Company used its intranet to ease the
      burden of traffic headed to external sites. The volume of
      employees bound for CNN.com and other online news resources
      was impacting our other systems, so we decided to take two
      very important steps: 1. Limit the number of visitors to
      CNN.com to 100 employees 2. Feed real-time news about the
      tragedy and its impact on our business to employees via the
      home page of INFPL, FPL's intranet.

      As luck would have it, on 9/5 we launched a brand new
      intranet home page, which featured a prominent location for
      breaking news--something our old intranet did not have. When
      the attack began on 9/11 and IT informed us of the limit to
      CNN.com access, we immediately began posting breaking
      headlines to this area of the intranet. We had 3 people
      dedicated to this effort:

      o One employee managed all of the internal and external
      breaking news and served as coding backup to ensure all new
      information was posted promptly and accurately
      o One employee monitored the newswire and coded/posted the
      o One individual primarily responsible for maintaining the
      INFPL home page and the news index page, where all the
      breaking stories were displayed.

      Our usage reports for 9/11 were nearly triple what they are
      on a normal business day, which definitely signaled success
      for us. Not only did we keep employees informed, we
      maintained the integrity of our other IT systems.

      ** From Missy Petersen, intranet content manager, Wellmark
      Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Iowa

      We used our intranet heavily to communicate about the crisis,
      posting news on the home page at least daily last week and a
      couple days early this week. For key messages, we sent
      all-employee e-mails that then linked to the news on the

      o Several updates about the status of Empire BCBS employees
      in the WTC (we're based in Iowa and South Dakota, but nine
      employees from our sister plan in NY are missing)
      o Updates on the safety of our employees who were traveling
      (all were fine)
      o A few messages of general concern, caring, and empathy
      regarding the tragedy from our senior leadership team, also
      touching on:

      - Reminders about our EAP services and suggested ways to
      cope with the stress of the situation
      - Information about local activities for the national day
      of prayer and remembrance, how to give blood, where to
      donate money and services, how we as a company were
      donating money and services, etc.
      - Advising employees of what to expect from their 401k
      when the stock market reopened
      - Lots of reminders about existing corporate policies:
      security procedures, our company's disaster recovery
      plan, military leave, time off, etc.

      We received extremely positive reactions from our employees
      about these communications. Employees thanked us for doing a
      great job of balancing concern for the situation and our
      employees with the need to run our business.

      ** From Dennis Kois, manager of employee communication at
      Johnson Controls, Inc., Milwaukee, WI

      We used our corporate Intranet as well as our fledgling
      employee portal to deliver news of the disaster to employees.
      We had a group of employees at th e Pentagon, but were able
      to establish within fairly short order that they were out of
      harm's way and uninjured; we have had employees at the WTC in
      the past, but confirmed that none were there on 9/11. We
      communicated and updated that information as soon as we had
      it available; we also let employees know we were checking to
      see if any employeees were on any of the planes that were
      hijacked -- none were, it turned out. We contacted
      communicators in our business units and encouraged them to
      provide "disaster" links from their intranets to ours, or to
      put the information on their intranets directly.

      We initially also sent broadcast emails out to employees at
      corporate headquarters, and those are relayed within the
      other business groups. But to minimize email traffic, we
      established an 800 number with a recorded message and told
      employees to go there for the latest information. We
      continued to post the latest info on the intranet and portal
      news pages, as well.

      On 9/12, we began to get messages of condolance from Johnson
      Controls employees and facility and site managers around the
      world. They were amazing and comforting and compelling -- we
      put them on a web page and linked to the page from the
      Intranet and portal news pages.

      Got a number of messages from employees who appreciated that
      we made an effort to keep them updated on company-related

      ** From Dave Lauerman, director of corporate
      communications, National Exchange Carriers Association,
      Whippany, N.J.

      We're a small company with 80 percent of the staff located in
      suburban New Jersey (Whippany). We actually made more use of
      email than the intranet. About two hours after the first
      plane hit, all employees were informed that our offices were
      remaining open, that staff should use their discretion about
      whether or not they wanted to remain (we didn't have a handle
      on people who might have immediate family at the WTC); that
      we expected the offices to be open the next day; and that
      we'd provide email and voicemail messages concerning the
      Wednesday opening.

      Our New Jersey office officially closed at 3 p.m. and two
      regional offices were closed by building management
      companies. This info was transmitted via email as well.

      At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, our president addressed staff live
      in NJ and to our regions via conference call. He summarized
      the situation as it affected our employees directly and
      indirectly (we were unbelievably lucky in that only one
      family member, the brother of one of our employees, was in
      the WTC when the planes had struck and he got out OK).

      On Thursday, I got two separate phone calls from employees
      wanting to "do something for the rescue workers." I put them
      together and they created a plan for a materials drive based
      on the specific needs of the relief workers and by Friday
      noon, employees had filled two trucks with relief supplies
      and delivered it to a nearby center. This is where we used
      our intranet for the first time. We took photos, wrote a
      brief accompanying story, and put it on the system. This
      enabled some 200 of the 500 staffers who aren't in our HQ
      building to at least vicariously experience the outpouring of
      support from the staff, something that I'm sure was
      replicated in companies throughout this area.

      On the following Monday, we made the decision to cancel a
      major training event in Las Vegas scheduled for the 24th
      (pretty easy decision since no one was sure they could get
      there) and used email, fax, a press release picked up by our
      trade press and a Web site posting to spread the news.

      This week we prepared an employee bulletin distributed again
      via email acknowledging the efforts of individuals as well as
      the company (we gave what for us was a fairly substantial
      amount of money to the Red Cross), the overwhelming response
      to, ironically, a previously scheduled blood drive and
      plugging an upcoming employee-focused community outreach
      program scheduled for September 30 (a walk and fund drive for
      juvenile diabetes).

      As to how employees kept abreast of what was going on,
      virtually everyone at NECA has a computer with Web access and
      it quickly became known that MSNBC.com had live coverage.
      Thus, many people used this as their news source. I also
      used radio (you remember radio) to stay in touch with what
      was going on. I found it amazingly effective and less
      obtrusive than either television (we had one set up in our
      lobby) or the Web.


      I have received several emails from colleagues, forwarded
      from emails they have received, regarding the terrorist
      attacks. One, by way of example, led readers to type into
      Microsoft Word the arrival code for one of the planes that
      struck the World Trade Center, then change the font to
      Wingdings. The result was a symbol of a plane followed by
      two page icons followed by a Star of David followed by a
      skull and crossbones. The implication: a plane flying into
      two towers characterizing death to Israel.

      If you try it, it works -- those symbols actually do appear.
      However, there was no such arrival code associated with any
      of the planes used by hijackers in the attack. The fact is,
      it's not too hard to associate Wingding characters with
      letters, making the claim that Microsoft somehow knew or
      was involved. Why anyone would take the time and trouble
      to do this is a valid question. Too much time on their hands?
      Grudge against Microsoft? Truly sick?

      In any case, many of these rumors are being sent to business
      email addresses, and well-meaning employees are forwarding
      them along. You can do your bit by making sure employees
      know about -- and have access to -- sites that debunk the
      rumors. Encourage employees to check the site before they
      forward any emails. The best site for checking on these
      rumors is "Urban Legends Reference Pages." You can find it
      at http://www.snopes2.com I used the search engine, typing
      in the purported arrival code, and immediately found details
      revealing the email as a hoax. The "Rumors of War" section
      covers all the email rumors flying through the Net, such as
      the tale of the tourist who rode the collapsing tower from
      the top and survived. The site also notes those emails that
      are true.

      While we're at it, you might also let employees know that
      they shouldn't forward virus warnings without checking them
      out, too. One of the better resouces is Symantec's Security
      Response center and its Virus Encyclopedia. Enter the name
      of the virus, and Symantec will let you know whether it's
      a legitimate virus or a hoax. You'll find it at


      Beginning next month, I'll present my newest workshop,
      "Managing Online Communication," four times through the
      IABC seminar series. It's not exactly self-effacing of me
      to say so, but I believe this is the best workshop I've
      ever developed.

      "Managing Online Communication" covers the role of the
      communicator who is in charge of using the Web, email and
      other online tools to deliver a message that produces
      measurable results. The workshop includes material on:

      o How to strategically plan an online communication effort
      o How the Net requires an entirely different approach
      based on the fact that you cannot control the message
      o How to apply new online communication tactics to your
      o How to structure a communication function to accommodate
      strategic online communication

      I know travel is difficult right now, but you don't want to
      miss this invaluable daylong workshop, which includes a
      detailed workbook that will continue to serve your online
      communication needs long after the workshop is over.

      The workshop will be held:

      November 1, Chicago, IL
      November 15, Washington, D.C.
      November 28, Hartford, CT
      January 17, 2002, Minneapolis, MN

      For informationand to register, visit


      Jim Rink
      AAA Michigan
      1 Auto Club Drive, Dearborn, Mich. 48072
      voice 313.336.1513 fax 313.336.0986

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