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.


Planning Your Communications Career

While having lunch with my niece last week in Boston, she had asked me many questions on entering into a communications career. Having just finished her first year of college, she asked for tips to help her develop a film career.

Below are six tips for those just starting out in communications:

Find a mentor who is an expert in the field. It could be a professor or someone you have admired for their expertise and the work they create. Do research to find out who best exemplifies what you would like to become in your career. Reach out and ask them to help you create – and navigate – a similar career.

Experiment with your craft.  Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try on different skills to see how they feel to you. Start doing this in college. Is it filmmaking, advertising, producing or writing that interests you the most? Be honest with yourself.

Hone your skills overtime. You may not reach your goals overnight. It may take 5, 10 or 20 or more years. Get comfortable with this. Stay focused and realize the pay off will come in the end through your dedication and commitment. In the meantime, enjoy your journey.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure leads to success overtime. It’s part of experimenting. It may show you where you need to adjust and approach your goals in a different way. And even though its cliché, it does build character and creates humility. We are all just human and mistakes are par for the course.

6 Tips for Leading and Motivating Teams

So how’s your team? Are they motivated, engaged and able to excel?

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to lead teams from 30 globally to 15 domestically, the majority virtual. Each team has been very different in terms of function, collaboration and motivation.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to lead and motivate teams:

Coach individually. Make sure you have one-to-one time with each team member on a regular basis. This will enable you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, how they are evolving and how their job aligns with their future career goals. If virtual, use Skype video, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.

Provide opportunities for motivation. Find out what their long-term career goals are and make sure that some aspect – if not the majority – aligns with those goals. You’ll have a happier, more engaged and motivated staff member if you do. If they do not align, challenge the employee to develop a project that aligns with their goals and also the company’s goals.

Be accessible. And mean it. If global, some portion of your workday should overlap with members of your team and all team members should feel comfortable contacting you directly. Keep your virtual door open and your office door open. Be willing to stop what you are doing to address their concerns with an open and positive attitude.

Be transparent. One habit that many new managers have is to keep information confidential – often as a way to demonstrate power – some more seasoned managers may do this out of fear. There is no better way to alienate your team. Be transparent in your communication, your plans and with the direction of your division and company.

Have clear expectations. And communicate these often and well. Ensure each team member understands the expectations of their role, their interaction with the overall team and the company. Encourage them to improve and expand upon those expectations and provide the support needed to do so.

Be prepared to adapt. Your leadership style will evolve with your team and should meet each employee where they are. Translation: adapt your leadership style for each team member. Each individual is different and will require a different approach from you over time. A one-size fits all approach to leadership will definitely leave you lonely at the top without many followers.

For those of you leading large teams, the tips above would apply to your direct reports; however, make sure you have an opportunity to engage with the full team on a regular basis – either formally or informally.

Executive Media Training: Finding the Right Coach for Your CEO

Have you found the right media coach for your CEO?

Nowadays, there are probably as many media trainers out there as there are lawyers. Finding one that will fit with the culture, style and needs of your organization and your executives can be a challenge.

I have used several over the years both in Europe and the US, with tactics and techniques varying widely from 60-minute style, straight to camera videos to theory-based instruction and mock crisis situations. What I found works best is when your consultant or coach truly understands not only your industry but has in-depth experience working with senior executives over many years.

Granted, they usually have higher fees, but their experience and understanding of what makes a CEO tick allows them to establish credibility with the leader and to modify their training depending on the reaction and personality of the executive being trained. They are flexible and they are street smart.

Here are some essential factors to consider when selecting your executive media coach:

Are they respected in the field? Ask others in the field that you respect for recommendations. Word-of-mouth is an excellent resource for finding your perfect coach. Has a colleague or former colleague worked with the coach previously? Do you know an executive who has been trained by them?

Are they a cultural fit? If your organization is based in Europe, look for someone who is familiar with the culture and media style on the continent. The same goes for other regions and countries.

Will your CEO respect the coach? Consider the types of professionals, and personalities, that your executive leader tends to work well with. Interview the coach by Skype or in-person to assess their style, personality and approach.

Will the training meet your current and future media needs? If your team experiences repeated crises, you will want a coach who is comfortable in that realm. If your building awareness for your CEO, you may want a different, more theory and practice style.

Most importantly, you and the media coach need to partner together to ensure your training meets the needs of your organization, covers issues and reflects the styles of your current media reality and enables your executives to walk away from the training feeling that they have the tools to succeed.