Sandy-driven crisis real in major areas and benefits prepared leaders


Bruce Springsteen was supposed to play Rochester tonight and he and his fans enjoyed riffing all over social media yesterday off his song Fourth of July, Asbury Park. The audience for the rescheduled concert will still likely hear Bruce sing it, and he’ll probably dedicate it to his home state. New Jersey’s Asbury Park and Atlantic City — another Springsteen anthem — are under water. The E Street Band can’t fly in to Rochester, so the date’s off.

Sandy, the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July
Down in the town, the Circuit’s full of switchblade lovers, so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers on the shore
Chasin’ all them silly New York virgins by the score

And Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh, love me tonight, for I may never see you again
Hey, Sandy girl
My, my, baby

Sandy blasted Bruce fans all over the Northeast, but not everywhere. Monday we discussed leadership, political decision making in a crisis, and it would appear that New Jersey, New York City and Connecticut benefitted from those leaders’ proactivity. Flooded subways, transit and traffic tunnels and hanging cranes are beyond dangerous. Likely their foresight, and smart action by first responders, saved lives.

Aside from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s [another huge Bruce fan] absurd spat with Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford over how many people didn’t evacuate the seaside city, political leaders served their constituents effectively.

For vast areas of Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine — whose residents had the beejeezus scared out of them — maybe not so much. We mean to be gentle here, because what governor or mayor can risk downplaying a storm that then proves worse than he or she predicted? None. Especially on Oct. 28-29-30 with national elections a hop, skip and jump down the road.

Nonetheless, thousands of schools, universities and businesses closed across the broad region based on the proactivity and most didn’t need to.

The other highlight of this crisis, especially for politicians, is how social media allows them to insert themselves and their version of leadership into the maelstrom and come out ahead.

For instance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has 45,3o3 Twitter followers of his official account, tied to @nygovcuomo. In just the last hour, whoever writes his Tweets put out 53, one every minute. Seventeen hours ago, or at between 8 and 9 p.m. last night at the height of the storm, he tweeted 18 times, one every three minutes.

In one context, the Tweets seem superfluous when you read them; but if they’re the only source of information for people without power, transportation and a warm place to stay, they’re a lifeline.

We can also track the tweets as media and other public officials and office holders pick them up and the illusion is he’s everywhere, leading, pumping out information, helping. In a crisis like a storm — Cuomo no doubt learned from Irene 14 months ago — social media is an ideal communication mode.

Overall, if I were to grade the Northeast’s leaders in this crisis, I’d go with a B+ to A-. Smart work.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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