Tag Archive: Loma Prieta Earthquake


We all lost a great one today.

He was one of the most popular governors in the proud history of California.

George Deukmejian was much more than the 35th chief executive of the Golden State.

For Almost DailyBrett, a former cub reporter with a fascination of all things political … and a little hair at the time (see photo above), meeting and working for George Deukmejian changed my life.

Instead of taking and keeping an eternal vow of poverty as a reporter, your author was serving as the press director of the Deukmejian Campaign Committee at 27-years-very-young.

My salary was $18,000 annually, but quite frankly I would have worked for nada for the experience. My transformation from a registered Democrat to a proud Reaganite Republican began in 1982. More importantly, my three-decade-plus career in public relations ensued with the gubernatorial primary and general election campaigns; we almost lost both until we won.

Sacramento was a hostile place in 1983. The other party controlled literally everything with the exception of the corner office. We needed the “Iron Duke” more than ever.

Feb. 26, 1983: California Gov. and Mrs. Deukmejian, left, watch as Mrs. George Finlayson, wife of the British Consul General, curtsies before Queen Elizabeth II in a reception line at the Broadway Street Pier in San Diego. This photo was published in the Feb. 27, 1983 LA Times.

Our friendly adversaries in the Capitol Press Corps, who were not predisposed to our way of seeing the world, deep down respected “The Duke.” They would state that George Deukmejian was a little dull (his favorite color was … “gray”), but his team was well-organized. The Deukmejian administration spoke in one voice from the first day to the last day eight years later.

It was well known that others were offering their champions as press secretary when the job came open in 1987. There was little secret that I wanted the job, primarily based upon my institutional memory about everything and anything George Deukmejian.

The governor had faith in me, and gave a chance so many others would have denied me. For three years, I served as his spokesperson and a chief message developer. The first day became the next day. The first week became the second week. The first month …

Looking back on his years as governor, your author still remembers pushing the media horde back just to give him a glimpse of the horrifically damaged Cypress Structure the day after the October 17,1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

LOS ANGELES – JUNE 07: Governor George Deukmejian campaigns for George Bush on June 7, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Grecco)

Each year after leaving the Office of the Governor in December 1989, George Deukmejian never missed sending a holiday card or a note now and then. When my first wife, Robin passed away, (he attended our wedding as governor), he called me to offer his condolences. That is the George Deukmejian I knew, kind and considerate right up to today … this sad, last day.

“We”, “Us”, “Our”

George Deukmejian always spoke in first-person plural, never wanting to draw undue attention to himself even though he was the chief executive of the largest state of the union. In a rare occasion in which he would employ the first-person singular, he once said: “my tear ducts are close to my eyes.”

His lifelong campaign was for public safety. He bravely called for California’s assault weapon ban when little Korean children were murdered by an AK-47 on a Stockton schoolyard. The NRA went crazy. What else is new?

The suffering endured by his ancestors in the 1915 Armenian Genocide always brought sad memories every April 24, and opposition to the Reagan administration’s stance on Turkey.

Many focus on his judicial appointments (yours truly wrote the vast majority of these news releases), his expansion of the state prison system, and his support for highways to get people to work … but seem to forget his lifelong dedication to human rights.

Then California Attorney George “Duke” Deukmejian and wonderful wife, Gloria at the Deukmejian for Governor headquarters opening in Manahattan Beach sirca 1982.

George Deukmejian was a committed fiscal-integrity, public-safety conservative. There were no flip-flops with the governor. He was at total peace with his philosophy.

And when the day was done, it was done. He went home to Gloria, his children, the noisy beagles and his one consistent vice, jamoca almond fudge.

Almost DailyBrett sensed this day was coming. My only regret is that I wished for the time and at least one more opportunity to be with him in these last years … just to say hello, and goodbye.

Your author will sign off with a tear from the ducts close to his eyes. He will make a promise to only use the first person plural. He will always remember the man who gave him a chance, when others would not.

George Deukmejian was the Governor, who changed my life.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-skelton-george-deukmejian-20180510-story.html

 

 

ones-zeros2

Almost DailyBrett Editor’s Note: In applying to graduate school three years ago, I was asked to write a “Statement of Purpose” and with it came memories of almost daily meetings with elementary, middle school, high school and college students as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

Little did I know at the time that these teaching sessions would eventually lead to a new direction in my life.

As I contemplate making a major directional change in my career, I was reflecting back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: meeting, greeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high-school, middle-school and elementary-school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration and to encourage students to pursue public service or at least to have a profound interest in their society. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or off-base, but the students demonstrated that they wanted to learn and they wanted to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a leadership position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making my presentation and seeing the enthusiasm that I generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was shifting at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self-publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts. The Genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is nowhere to be found.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global in nature.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools by the time I complete the master’s degree program from the University of Oregon in 2012. These new techniques are being written today not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self-publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will the bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate in my career. I cut my teeth on the tax revolt in 1978 that shook the foundation of governments throughout the country. I was sitting at the apex of California state government in 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake literally shook the ground, and I was told “The Bay Bridge is in the water.”

I ventured across the ocean to the Land of the Rising Sun to help convince Japan to stop predatory pricing and open its doors to competition. I founded a corporate PR department against the backdrop of Internet mania and a corresponding crash as Americans lost faith in Wall Street and imposed a new way of doing business.

And I was privy to and helped advance a digital technology revolution that contrary to opinion of some pundits is really just getting started.

sacramento

After all of this, I still go back to the Governor’s bill signing room in Sacramento filled with students and their mentors with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues. They wanted to learn. They wanted to explore. They wanted to challenge convention. I was more than happy to help them on their quest.

How can I continue this love affair with helping students? Certainly, I do not know it all and never will. Harry Truman didn’t like experts because “… if an expert learned something, he wouldn’t be an expert anymore.”

I am learning something new every day.

So why do I want to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication? The answer is that I can leverage my Master’s degree to teach students the art of strategic communications. The truth is not a fungible quality, it is essential. Having said that, we need to manage information and present it in an intelligent way in order to effectively compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Today’s students and tomorrow’s communicators are going to have to compete; there is no way around this fact. Will they succeed or not? The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication training will greatly improve their chances. I want to coach and mentor these students so they can be tomorrow’s winners.

There comes a time in every political administration when directing blame at previous incumbent, so-in-so, comes across as weak finger-pointing rather than a strong proclamation of historical fact.

Reflecting back to my days as former California Governor George Deukmejian’s second press secretary, I distinctly recall a meeting of the entire senior staff chaired by the governor. The message was clear: No more blaming Jerry Brown… (His first tenure of Jerry Brown as governor of California).

George Deukmejian Campaigning

The reason: This was not our first rodeo. The stewardship of the state was our responsibility. From this point forward, there would be no more public denunciation of the administration of the state by our predecessor. This point was particular relevant to me as I was duly serving as the governor’s chief spokesman, historian and message developer.

Making this rhetorical pivot was not as easy as it seems. We had literally spent months heading into years reminding anybody and everybody who would listen that Brown left us a $1.5 billion deficit (almost seems quaint by today’s standards). We fought against a myriad of tax increases proposed by the opposition, even to the point of forcing the governor to live in Sacramento’s best hotel at the time, the Holiday Inn (a long story for another time). When the smoke settled, the state retired the deficit without raising taxes and we established a $1 billion reserve for emergencies.

Those were the days my friends, I thought they would never end…

And yet with any administration, there were fires to put out and FUBARs to fix. Our toxics program was a mess, requiring the program to be run out of the chief of staff’s office. There was a massive delay in the doling out of restitution to victims of violent crime, prompting Mike Wallace to call me demanding a “60 Minutes” interview with the governor.

And let’s not forget that Mother Nature can be very unkind. There were fires. There were floods. There was the drought. There were states of emergency. And there was the Loma Prieta Earthquake, resulting in me being told that the “Bay Bridge is in the Water!”

cypressstructure

One would think that an administration would be given a Mulligan for a natural catastrophe. One would be thinking incorrectly. When the top deck of the Cypress Structure of the 880 came crashing down on the motorists of the lower deck, the ladies and gentlemen of the Capitol Press Corps wanted to immediately assign blame to us. We were at the top and a permanent bull’s eye was affixed to our collective backsides. It’s totally unfair, but nothing is totally fair in politics and government. As Mary Matalin has said repeatedly: “Politics is a contact sport.”

Obviously, it would have been ridiculous to bring up the name of Jerry Brown in the context of the toxics mess, the failure of the victims of violent crime compensation program and of course, the Earthquake. Believe it or not, Mother Nature can be equally cruel to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Surveying the present day landscape, the Obama administration is well beyond its infancy, honeymoon period, and the much ballyhooed “First 100 days.” The administration of George W. Bush matters less with every passing day. Election Day is four months away. It is no longer early; in fact it is way past early.

Pointing fingers at the most famous denizen of Crawford, Texas and proclaiming, “It could have been worse” does not harken back to the bold statements of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK or the Gipper. Even Bill Clinton’s, “I didn’t have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky…” comes across more decisive.

Friday’s poor jobs report with only 80,000 created and the unemployment rate remaining stuck at 8.2 percent for June (while there were 85,000 first-time applications for disability in the same month) calls for an all-hands on deck crisis communications exercise.

Instead of blaming the predecessor the hard and fast rules for crisis communication should come into play in the face of inevitable adversity: Tell the truth; Tell it All; Tell it Fast and Move On (Isn’t there an organization by that name?).

Repeating the playbook of former President George H.W. Bush in combating both Clinton and a lousy economy by telling everyone that conditions are getting better, when they are clearly heading south, is a time-proven loser. The best approach is to look at the crummy economy right in the proverbial eye and sneer.

What is the administration going to do about it? After three-point-five years, what course correction needs to be undertaken? The escalating entitlements (e.g., Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) consume about 60 percent of the federal budget. How about reforming these programs? Frau Merkel raised Germany’s retirement age from 65-to-67, reflecting that we are living longer, and at the same time cutting costs. Even with this monumental change, she is still in office, more popular than ever. They are still serving Helles und Dünkles in the Augustiner Keller in München. Imagine that?

Some would warn against spooking seniors and getting Harry’s bowels in an uproar and Nancy’s knickers in a twist. The alternative would be to convince the more than 20 million unemployed and underemployed people, and the 16 million underwater mortgage holders that everything is getting better…when they know that is not the case.

We faced FUBARs in the Deukmejian years. We admitted them, took responsibility and most importantly said what we were going to do about them. Fast forwarding to the present, the days of pointing fingers to sun-scorched Texas are over. The real question is whether the days of accepting responsibility and proposing change that we can trust are already behind us.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/hot-boxing-for-mike-wallace/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/is-the-skirt-more-powerful-than-the-suit/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/potus-and-little-ole-me/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-bay-bridge-is-in-the-water/

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe hiding money under the mattress isn’t such a bad idea after all.

One could easily come to that conclusion after reading “Cyberwar: The Threat from the Internet” lead commentary and lengthy analysis in this week’s “Economist” http://www.economist.com/. The cover piece should be required reading for public relations professionals, especially those working for entities managing extremely complex and sensitive digital data (e.g. defense agencies/contractors, stock exchanges, banking institutions, major retailers, hospitals, public utilities, insurers, air traffic controllers…).

cybercrisis

These institutions may even want to seriously consider hiring from what should be a new class of communications professionals with extensive backgrounds in not only crisis management PR, but also with a keen understanding of computation, IT and/or electrical engineering.

Is this just an ill-timed call for another SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expense at a time when we very well could be staring in the face of a double-dip recession? Here’s another question to ponder: How expensive will it be if entire communities are indefinitely deprived of power, denied access to financial resources or discover that their sensitive personal information has been compromised? We can be sure that not all of impacted people in these unfortunate circumstances would have been wise enough to hide sufficient hard-earned cash under the mattress or in the coffee can.

Last February, this blog recounted the State of California’s 1989 response to the massive 6.9 on the Richter Scale Loma Prieta (Bay Area) Earthquake, a more conventional crisis communications incident. https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-bay-bridge-is-in-the-water/.

Recently, we read about the recurring Toyota recalls, the seemingly out-of-control NYSE-computers that plunged the market nearly 1,000 points in less than 10 minutes, and of course, the Mother of All Oil spills, BP’s environmental (and public relations) nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico.

In each of these cases and others that are similar, the text-book crisis communications response really boils down to the journalistic who, what, when, why, how and most important what is being done about it. We can measure the Richter scale reading for an earthquake; count the number of Toyotas that were recalled; determine the staggering amount of market capitalization that is lost when the NYSE computers decided to get a mind of their own, and measure (and measure again) the number of gallons per hour of crude that are pouring into the gulf.  More importantly, we can usually respond expeditiously about what happened and what is being done to rectify the problem, even in this age of ever-shrinking news cycles.

We have all read more stories than we care to count about the vast potential of social media in successfully branding an organization. We also know of examples of how these same digital tools can quickly undo even the best marketing and branding campaigns https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/the-power-of-new-media/.This very same Internet has even more potential to promptly wreak havoc on any organization, including entire countries.

According to the Economist, more than nine-tenths of Internet traffic travels by means of undersea fiber-optic cables, some of them bunched up in not-very-nice places including the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and the Luzon Strait. About 90 percent of the 140 billion e-mails sent daily around the world are spam, and about 16 percent of these are money-making scams. The US government believes that $1 trillion is lost each year to cyber crime.

What happens in a denial-of- service (DDOS) attack impacting thousands, if not millions, of personal financial or medical records, shutting down regional energy grids or making it impossible to simply access money? Who is the culprit? The answer is obviously somebody, some group, some competitor, some adversary, some nation with access to the Internet. One of the first public relations problems associated with a cyber attack is going to be purely diagnostic: What happened? Why did it happen? When did it happen? Who is responsible? What is the extent of the damage?

DDOS

If you have no concrete responses to these questions how can you offer solutions to editors, reporters, analysts, bloggers who are demanding immediate answers? And if you do not have enough credible information to provide intelligent commentary, will journalists allow you to buy time? Or will they turn to others for quick answers to provide copy and fill air time? And what are the agendas of these other “sources?” Are they the same as your agenda? For better or for worse, all voids are going to be filled one way or another.

As we can see through the example of the 2008 compromise of the personal records of 285 million Verizon Communications customers, these cases will surely recur the future. Do they constitute warfare? Corporate espionage? Terrorism? Vandalism?  One thing is certain, large organizations will benefit from those who know not only how to manage information and calmly communicate in the cyber crisis’s’ of the future. They will be crisis comms pros, who will also have a working knowledge base about the digital systems that are vulnerable to attack via the Internet and can describe complex IT systems in plain understandable English or whatever constitutes the vernacular.

And in the case of outright theft or foul play, an organization will need to cooperate directly with law enforcement or in certain cases national security. If the cause is not just sinister intent, but real or perceived lax IT security by your client, then you can be virtually assured that the trial bar will see an opportunity to tap deep pockets on behalf of aggrieved “plaintiffs.” http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/06/11/most_data_theft_tied_to_basic_security_flaws/

Whether an organization decides to hire a new breed cyber crisis communications specialist or not, we do know for certain that the Internet-driven world of the 21st Century has brought forth a variety of new digital opportunities and threats that were not even conceivable a mere generation ago. Welcome, regardless of whether you are ready or not or whether you agree or not, to the brand new world of cyber crisis communications.

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