The one thing companies are still doing wrong in crisis communications

“Let’s wait to put something out until we can get the message JUST RIGHT” used to be the old adage for handing crisis communications. And, back when that was the expert advice, it was good advice.

 

Today, it is still wise to think heavily about the message you are putting out there, but the timing of communications has changed what is a reasonable time to wait before responding to a crisis.

 

Because the news cycle and rumor mill was slower, we had time to gather a group and brainstorm for hours about the perfect message, we had time to consult with our legal counsel, and we had time to craft the story our way. The problem is, with the new age of rapid information, we’ve lost that time.

 

So what do we do? What hasn’t changed is that it’s important to get out in front of the story, to be the one to tell the story. So we must be willing and ready to just that, respond within minutes and, at the same time, be unapologetic about not having all the information people want right away.

 

School shooting communication as a model

We see this often with messaging for school shootings. We see messages that say things like:

 

  • Shots fired on campus. Shelter in place and await further instructions.
  • We can confirm that there was one shooter but we cannot confirm the shooter’s identity at this time.
  • An ALL CLEAR has been announced at campus. Please resume normal campus activities. Further details on the emergency will be announced at a later time.

 

So, information is disseminated, but not unknown or touchy information. That you can take time seek counsel on. One of my most-used lines in crisis communications I learned from watching Donald Grady, the Police Chief at Northern Illinois University, during their 2008 school shooting post-press conference. Whenever someone asked him a question he wasn’t ready to answer, he would simply say something like, “I’m not prepared to answer that question at this time. Next question.”

 

Bringing crisis communications advice into the business/organization world

We can use similar crisis communications strategies in the business world. For example, if a CEO unexpectedly resigns, the company should be prepared to respond immediately. Waiting three days to craft the perfect announcement is public relations suicide. By then, employees have come up with their own version of the story and leaked it to the press/community and the former CEO has probably published his or her version of the story as well.

Crafting the perfect message is ideal, but step one should always be to get out in front of the message. Then, by all means, work on crafting the perfect response.

Social media isn’t free advertising

I regularly run into small business owners that want to do social media because it’s free advertising. In some ways, the statement that social media is free advertising is free is true, but, in reality, it isn’t.

 

Effectively using social media for your business requires strategy

Effectively using social media for your business requires careful planning and strategy. Often, people create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for their business without putting much thought into it. Although you may gain some “likes” or “followers” that way, it’s not the most effective way to build your brand and sell your product or service on there. In order for your social media strategy to turn into a brand-building/selling advertising tool for you, you’ve got to create an effective strategy behind it

 

There are a  lot of great books and online articles on how to do this, the top one I recommend is The New Rules of Marketing & PR

 

Time=Money

I’ve yet to see an effective social media strategy that doesn’t require careful planning and writing/designing posts and monitoring and responding/interacting in a timely manner. It is a conversation, after all, and how would you feel if you walked up to a customer service counter and had to wait there a week for a response?

 

Effectively planning, designing, writing, monitoring and interacting on social media takes more time than most people think and that’s where you find the “cost” of social media. Places like Facebook and Twitter may be free marketing and advertising tools, but time=money and, to utilize these tools right, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on them.

 

My advice

My advice to be effective but not have social media eat up all your time is to start with one platform, research and develop an effective strategy, and implement it.  After that is running well and you have a good feel for the amount of time it takes to maintain and continually improve it, move on to one or two more platforms.

Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Put down the camera and enjoy the moment

A male pointing his camera at an object that we can't see
From flickr ginnerobot

Not too long ago, I read an article by Clifford Pugh on Culture Map titled, How Instagram is ruining New York fashion week: Shows are meant to be savored, not shot and it got me thinking. I like fashion, but what intrigued me more was what he had to say about how our incessant need to photograph every little thing and how doing so was robbing us of those moments that we should be enjoying.

This may not be true for everyone, but it is for me: The more photography, videography and visual imagery becomes part of my job, the more obsessed I’ve become with obtaining the “perfect shot.” I will wander around looking for the perfect lighting, the perfect person to represent what I need, etc. and then take hundreds of photos in a single hour. Obviously, if it’s for my work, that’s what I do, but this obsession has crept into my personal life as well.

So, last week, while I was on vacation, I tried to put down the camera. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t. And, admittedly, my obsession and her talent led one of my friends to take one of the best portrait shots I’ve seen in a very long time. But, there were a few times during the week that I was able to stop myself, put down the camera, and just soak the image in.

Reading Clifford’s article reminded me that sometimes the true beauty of something cannot be captured in a photograph, it can only be captured in a memory.

5 million U.S. households without TV. My house is one of them.

A laptop sitting on a chair hooked up with an HDMI cable to live stream content.
Bye bye expensive TV service, hello HDMI cable. Photo from flickr: tawalker

 

USA Today  published an article about the 5 million U.S. households without TV. I’m very proud to say that my household is one of them. After interviewing more and more college students (my target audience) without TV, I decided to try it . It was a struggle at first because I was so used to relaxing in front of the TV, but now I can’t imagine having TV service.

 

Some notes on the lifestyle:

– I physically HAVE a TV, but if you turn it on, nothing happens. But, I can play DVD’s on it and hook up my HDMI cable to stream anything from my computer to my TV. Some of my friends have taken it even more to the extreme by removing their TV altogether.

– I find I read a lot more now, which is great!

– I can live stream pretty much anything I could want (presidential debates, etc.). The only time it failed me was my Thanksgiving tradition of making fun of the poor people freezing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The live stream wasn’t working.

– In the rare event that I want to watch a sporting event live, I go somewhere and watch it, which is no different from what I was doing before because I wouldn’t pay for ESPN.

– It doesn’t limit my capability to keep up with advertising trends since so much is also online now.  If someone mentions a particular commercial to me, I’ll bring it up on YouTube. If I see an ad campaign that intrigues me, I’ll go online to check-out their broadcast ads.

– My only costs now are my internet service and my $8 something a month for Netflix. I’ve heard rumors that cable companies are trying to figure out how to charge people like me for watching so much online, but I haven’t seen anything concrete yet other than faster speeds costing more.

– As the article points out, I’ve often thought about what I’ll do when I have kids. Although, I had two four-year olds running around my apartment this weekend and I found, in the absence of any toys, that Netflix’s Batman cartoons worked really well to keep them busy for a while.

 

Lessons from the NCMPR community college marketing conference

This week, I was at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) professionals for community colleges conference in Chicago, IL. Below are some of the main take-aways for me:

– If you can’t be number one in your market, redefine the conversation to give yourself an advantage. For example, McDonalds is number one in the fast food market, but Subway launched into the number two spot by arguing that fast food can, indeed, be healthy.

– When building new locations/buildings or renovating spaces, include environmental branding elements (wall murals, architectural elements, vending machines, etc.). Work with the build team from the beginning to incorporate these elements into the design.

– If people have a need to design marketing pieces in programs such as Publisher and Word, consider creating branded templates in these programs.

– Like the powerful poverty simulation workshops, is there some simulation you can do to get a better understanding of what your customer’s experience?

– “Advertising is paid for, public relations is prayed for.” – Dominic Calabrese

– According to a panel of five non-traditional students, the best way to position community college education is as a “career tune-up.”

– Utilize, to a greater extent, opportunities where parents are bringing their children to campus to also talk with the parents about education for them.

– Not responding to a social media post is like hanging up on [your customer] in front of a baseball stadium full of people. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media. He also emphasized that responding to positive social media posts is just as important as responding to negative posts.

– Engage with high school influences via social media, such as the football captain or the class president. They are most likely to pass your message along. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Use social media to “surprise and delight” your customers. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Social media is like a cocktail party. Not all of your conversations are going to be perfect as they aren’t in real life, so if you have a typo, don’t worry too much about it. Just keep going. Similarly, you can’t start off meeting someone at a cocktail party by trying to sell them right away. Develop the relationship. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– I work in one of the best fields in the world with some of the most amazing people I can think of. For those of you I saw at the conference, it was a delight. I hope to see you again soon.

Air New Zealand and the Hobbit safety video, a win for both!

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a minute to watch the new safety video for Air New Zealand that has a Hobbit theme and actual Hobbit characters.

Obviously, this is a huge win for New Zealand, Air New Zealand and the Hobbit. Not only is the video getting millions of views via YouTube and other video-sharing sites which is great marketing and publicity, but it’s helping promote tourism of New Zealand, Air New Zealand gets a fun video for their flights, and the Hobbit generates interest in the movie.

On a different note, as an American, just from what I can see in the video, Air New Zealand looks like a MUCH better flying experience than we get here in the U.S.!