Even I’m not old enough to remember the 1938 radio broadcast that took place on yesterday’s date. I am, however, very aware of what it meant. October 30, 1938 was when The War Of The Worlds aired, directed and narrated by Orson Welles. While his aim may have been entertainment, he succeeded in panicking an entire nation, and therein lies the business point.
Welles set the story up as a series of news bulletins which interrupted a seemingly normal music program (Ramon Raquello for you detail freaks). Based on a novel by H.G. Wells, the news bulletins told of a war against an alien army – Martians invading the Earth. If you’ve never listened to this masterpiece, you can hear it via this link. Unlike the Tom Cruise movie, this has nothing in the way of visual effects but is far more terrifying. It caused panic all over the country as people fled from their homes.
The business point? Almost every business is a content creator these days. While the interwebs may be a cesspool of made-up “facts”, it’s also become a primary source of news and information for a lot of folks. Your business probably isn’t in politics where the standard of truth is just a bit skewed. The self-congratulatory post you add to your blog boasting of your sterling service record might just end up as evidence in a suit brought by someone who was dissatisfied with the reality of your support. Employees might see your website as filled with lies and one of them might decide to be a whistleblower. What they allege might not be true, but it might cost you time and money to prove it.
Welles was providing entertainment (although a lot of very upset people didn’t quite see it that way). His Halloween prank would be easy to check out today (although nothing would stop a smart content creator from flooding the web with a bunch of web pages and tweets set to publish just as the prank was being pulled). A certain amount of hyperbole is accepted by consumers; outright lies aren’t. You need to find that line and stay onside.
Yes, the screed is a little late today, but I’ve got a note excusing me. It’s signed by Sandy. Once again (by my count, the fifth time since I started this blogging thing) I’m writing at the public library over their wi-fi since a massive storm has knocked out power to Connecticut and most of the surrounding area. I don’t expect it back for a few days (OK, I’m hoping it doesn’t take more than a week) but we’ll try to keep the wit and wisdom coming. Today, I’m going to plagiarise myself and repost the missive I wrote after hurricane Irene hit here a couple of years ago. The point made is still a good one – hopefully you all think so too. More fresh stuff tomorrow. I’m going to pick up some branches in the interim. Substitute Sandy for Irene in what follows and you’re up to date!
What a weekend! Whether you live on the East Coast or not, you probably spent a fair amount of time over the last few days hearing a lot about Hurricane Irene. She paid us a visit late Saturday and spent the night as so many house-guests will: wreaking havoc and generally making herself unwelcome. She left us Sunday afternoon but not before killing the power and internet access back at Rancho Deluxe. They’re still out as I’m writing this at my brother- and sister-in-law’s place in the next town over.
Like most folks, we had the time in the calm before the storm to take in the patio furniture, buy provisions, and generally batten down. But what should we be doing in the calm after the storm? That’s the business point today as well.
Every business endures potentially destructive events like Irene even if they’re not actual hurricanes. The loss of a big account, financial misbehavior by trusted employees – I’m sure you can cite dozens of example, hopefully none from experience. While careful preparation is always the best way to deal with incidents of that sort, I always found it was just as valuable to have a debrief after the storm. In the general sense of relief at the crisis being over, people still have a sharp focus on what tested them the most and how things could have gone better. Sure, you’d rather avoid the events altogether but a clear post-analysis is a critical element in creating the action plan for the next time. And trust me – there always is a next time.
We got off relatively lightly – a few branches down and no power for (hopefully) a day or so. We probably should have done a better job of eating stuff in the fridge and freezer the few days leading into the storm since it won’t all fit in the cooler we’ve got filled with ice – that’s the debrief. What are you taking away from the storms that have come your way?
We have a running joke here at Rancho Deluxe about the two guys you never ever want to see nearby. You might be thinking they’re the undertaker and the tax collector. Nope. Think for a minute about who are always on the locations of some pending or immediate disaster. Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel and CNN’s Anderson Cooper (but only when he’s wearing a black tee-shirt). Cantore & Cooper – sounds like a law firm but it’s not. It’s far worse than that. In fact, if you ever see either of these two in your neighborhood, get out. If you see them both, prepare for the Apocalypse since the end is near.
I thought about that yesterday as the weather-related Mr. C was reporting from Battery Park awaiting the hurricane. Of course, they evacuated the area and I’m not sure if that’s response to anything other than Jim’s presence. But it did get me thinking about a business point.
Just as either of these two showing up means trouble in the area, every business has relatively reliable indicators of trouble. They might as easy to find as on a monthly financial statement or as difficult to track as a pattern of employee turnover but they’re there. Every one of us can probably tick off a few that we use to tell us when things might need a little extra attention (or when it’s time to pull the fire alarm). I wonder, however, how many of us formalize that process? Do we compile a list that’s the aggregation of all the factors our best folks identify? Do we regularly pay attention to the data from each of those areas? Or are we more in the business of forecasting by sticking our head out the window to see if it gets wet and proclaim that it’s raining?
The storm battering the East Coast is terrible but imagine what would have happened had it hit with no warning and without people taking protective measures in advance? Your business is like that if you’re not identifying and reacting to data. Gut feel isn’t a bad thing but something more reliable should be in the mix. And now I’m going to check to see where the two Mr. C’s are. Hopefully far, far, away…