New Year, New Crisis Plan

When was the last time you reviewed your crisis response plan?

Whether they would admit or not, many organizations either do not have a crisis response plan or have one that is barely, if ever, reviewed. In the changing political and global context of today, having a dynamic crisis response plan that aligns with your business and is integrated across channels is critical to your operations.

In my experience, crises have a higher tendency to occur as a result of actions taken by an organization or in response to their mission or philosophy. You may, without realizing it, trigger a crisis by your actions – the releasing of a statement, a comment, a change in direction, an exit from a country, an issue with a program, funding, etc.

Rule number one with a crisis is that it will be incredibly fast-moving and will involve both digital and traditional media. Rule number two is that the issue that becomes a crisis will shock you – it will not be what you expect. Rule number three is that the press will seek comment from anyone with a relationship with the organization, past and present.

Some important tips:

  • Ensure senior leadership is committed and involved in the development of your plan (or updating your existing plan) and is actively engaged in live drills across the organization at least twice a year.
  • Be ready to respond and take control of the message with prepared spokespeople – not associated with the organization – who can speak on your behalf and to have supporters counter accusations on digital or start counter campaigns if needed.
  • Respond quickly – do not sit on the issue or bury your head in the sand – the longer you wait to respond, the more intense the crisis will become. Publicly provide action steps that you plan to take, the timeline in which you will take them and keep apologies short, and only apologize once.
  • Avoid becoming social shy – several recent crises showed that organizations and individuals tend to avoid digital when the heat is turned up, locking comments or maintaining scheduled posts throughout. You cannot – no matter how negative the comments or the campaigns or the memes – avoid your digital platforms.
  • Monitor digital, emails and calls so that any press that contact you are directed to the media team taking charge of vetting incoming calls and one spokesperson who had previously been trained and selected as the crisis spokesperson.
  • Stick with your talking points each time your spokesperson is interviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the facts. If an error has been made, admit it and state the necessary steps to ensure it will not happen again in the future – and make those steps publicly known.

The more visible you are, the more others may try to use your visibility for their own objectives and to advance their own agendas – for both positive and negative reasons. Recognizing the power of the collective and engaging with it will enable your brand to stay flexible and aware of changing trends and sentiments. But being prepared, and ensuring your leadership is prepared, is your ultimate strategy.

 

A Reality Check for Your Global Communications Strategy

When was the last time you took a hard look at your communication channels and compared the message and experience with your communications strategy? Are they aligned?

Most of us use analytics as the litmus test for communications campaigns to prove return on investment. The downside of which can make us quite micro-focused, losing sight of the overall messaging and experience. And in a global context, with different staff managing different channels, this is where drift can come in over time – undermining your efforts to support your company’s goals long-term.

Here is a checklist to help your realign your day-to-day efforts with your strategy:

Revisit your strategy, as a team: Review your current strategy with your team and compare it to your company’s strategy. Are they still aligned? Have there been changes in your market due to competition or a disruptor? Is there a need to make adjustments? Then review your communications strategy and goals against the reality of what has actually been happening to ensure you are on track.

Create a strategy culture: Hold regular meetings around the strategy with your staff. Create buy-in by assigning ownership of quarterly goals, either through KPIs and/or by team agreement. Encourage staff to be more cognizant of the long-term and reward them for it.

Implement supportive technology. Do you have a dashboard that reflects your overall strategic goals or are they campaign based? Are you using annual editorial calendars matched to your strategic goals? Audit what you and your team are using on a day-to-day basis and ensure they are aligned to your strategic goals.

Engage your customers. Have you been engaging directly or indirectly with your customers (or stakeholders) lately on your channels? Conduct some Google Hangout focus groups with a cross-section of your customers as a message and experience check-in. Make this a regular habit.

Being Don Draper is not easy

Over the past year, I’ve been hard at work developing a 2-year public awareness campaign. Next week, the first ad spots for this campaign will air on national broadcast and cable channels here in the US as a second phase of the campaign. The first phase was a soft launch on social media in December. Many lessons were learned from creating the campaign plan to selling the idea to leadership and to members of the Board of Directors across the country. Many modifications were made along the way, but the vision remained the same. Here are my five lessons learned:

Stick with your vision. Establish the desired end scenario from the beginning. You can adjust how you get there, what tools you use and what audiences you reach but stay true to that initial vision.

Adjust smartly. With anything related to the field of communications, most people believe they are experts as they engage with the medium in their daily lives – from social media to advertising. However, exposure does not necessarily translate to expertise. Many will freely offer their advice – and it will differ widely – listen intently but be decisive and smart in choosing what advice to take onboard.

Never fear visibility. Creating any type of public facing campaign for an organization will raise the stakes for them both internally and externally. Such increased visibility will result in a lot of interest and a lot of conversation. What naturally follows on from that is criticism. The more public you are, the more critics you will face. Don’t fear the conversation and encourage direct engagement with those critics.

Even airtight launches falter. No matter how well you plan a launch, something will ultimately go wrong; in our case, an erroneous tweet. How did we recover? We jumped into the conversation created by the tweet and continued to reach out to those offended online and offline. And we kept the launch going. End result – we had new champions emerge and new potential partnerships (as well as more engagement with the campaign than planned – see number three above).

Stand strong. It’s your campaign. If you do not believe in it through thick and thin, no one else will. That goes for the communications and marketing team, leadership and the organization as a whole. Believe in the product and communicate about it with one unified voice.

Don’t Panic: How to Create a PR Plan

The following article appeared in PR Insider on May 19th.

You’ve been asked to create a comprehensive public relations plan. Maybe a three-year or five-year plan – you are either filled with excitement or anxiety – most likely, a mix of both.

The goal of a comprehensive public relations plan usually falls into three buckets: a) to increase awareness for a company or organization entering new markets, b) to increase awareness for a company or organization experiencing a slow-down in market segments or to increase awareness of a new product or division.

Here are six tips for creating a comprehensive public relations plan.

Understand your current scenario. What is the needle that needs to be moved and why? Design your plan to do just that. Have discussions with your senior leadership, and Board where appropriate, on their concerns and desires. Research your industry to see what competitors are doing with their public relations. Develop a strong understanding of the climate your organization is operating in, both internal and external.

Establish your goals. Determine what will be achieved after implementation of the plan. Is it a change in behavior or perception of your organization? Is it more customers? Is it greater brand recognition and higher sales? Try to keep your goals in the area of three to five and remember to ensure that they are measurable along the implementation of the plan.

Define your audiences. Who are you trying to reach and what do you need to communicate to them? Defining your key audiences, segmentation, is a critical part of ensuring your plan will be effective. It’s important to also have consensus among leadership and your Board as to who these audiences are and how they are defined.

Choose tactics and channels. Next are your tactics. How will you communicate to your audiences using what mix of channels? To get your mix of tactics and channels right do research on your individual audiences through personal development to determine a.) the most effective tactics to grab their attention, and b.) what channels they engage with most to target them where they are.

Determine measurement and reporting.
As you are developing the tactics and channels think of how you will measure and how you will report these measurements and to whom. Typically, it is a combination of campaign metrics, benchmarking and surveying/focus groups. Choose the right combination that works for your organization and measures your audience engagement as effectively as possible. Don’t forget the internal here – decide early on how you will present the results of your measurement to senior leaders and how often.

Prepare an itemized budget for each year of the plan. Your last step will be to prepare an itemized budget for each year of the plan to determine overall costs and areas for potential scale back. It may be hard to cost for every step of the implementation. If need be, provide as close to accurate range estimates as possible.

The last, and the most crucial step, is to shop your plan to your organization starting with presenting to your CEO and Board and then your senior leaders. Adjust your plan as you go to reflect the input you receive but be mindful of any input that may create obstacles within the plan and raise that issue to senior leaders.

By building consensus, you will create a clear path ahead for the implementation phase of your plan.