Crisis management, Hughes PR

Act before the crisis hits…

Jamie Hershman writes…

Australian businesses spend millions of dollars every year marketing their products and services, but in comparison, how much is actually spent on “insuring their reputation” with an issues management plan in case of a crisis?

Businesses need to be proactive in taking preventative measures to avoid a crisis, and be prepared in case one strikes. But that’s the hard part. It’s a bit like writing a will or taking out life insurance. Most of us don’t want to think about it.

However, if a crisis does occur, it need not be fatal. Indeed, if handled well, it can actually enhance the reputation of the organisation.

Businesses often can’t avoid an issue or crisis, but they can plan for it.

The best thing an organisation can do is to honestly examine the way it does business – find the actual weaknesses and potential threats in the organisation and the industry. Once the issues are known, scenarios can be developed. E.g. What if our oil refinery leaked oil into the sea? What if our products were sabotaged and a customer died? What if someone was injured or killed on our manufacturing line?

While the specific responses to each scenario will vary, the strategy should hinge on being as open and honest as possible – ensuring accurate information is disseminated regularly and any incorrect information in the marketplace is corrected quickly.

In a crisis there are a lot of bases to cover – and they need to be covered quickly and effectively. Having a plan, and testing it regularly, ensures that everyone knows what the processes are and when to apply them.

Building a positive brand and protecting it is vitally important for the success and longevity of an organisation. It means doing all that’s expected – by customers, shareholders, staff, regulators and the general public – so that, ideally, no issue or crisis arises. Or if it does, then there is a spotless history and reputation on which to draw for the defence and ultimate survival of the business.

Rules for crisis management communications:

1. Plan for a crisis
2. Listen for the ‘warning signs’
3. Don’t hide if a crisis arises
4. Own up to the issue
5. Offer solutions, not excuses
6. Be honest
7. Talk to employees – they are the best asset in a crisis
8. Be upfront with customers
9. Proactively inform the media before they find out from other sources
10. Create an ongoing and open dialogue with all stakeholders throughout the issue

To develop your crisis management plan, or to assist with an emerging crisis contact Hughes PR.

Hughes Public Relations, based in Adelaide, South Australia, is a communications and PR consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Crisis management, Marketing, Public relations

Don’t wine about decline, invest in your brand

 

Photo by Mike DelGaudio.

Photo by Mike DelGaudio.

Tim Hughes writes…

I read with interest today of the decision by the new CEO of Treasury Wine Estates, Michael Clark, to increase the company’s marketing spend by 50 per cent in the midst of a $35 million cost cutting program.

In my view, it’s a bold decision with benefits.

Too often, when times get tough, businesses pull in their belt and put their head in the sand.

Seldom do they look up and out and re-invest in building their brand with a view to stimulating market demand and driving their business from the front foot.

Mr Clark’s reasoning makes good sense.

“TWE’s brands have suffered from a lack of consumer-facing marketing investment and we will address this in fiscal 2015 by increasing consumer marketing spend in fiscal 2015 by circa 50 per cent relative to the prior year.

“It is imperative that our marketing and sales capabilities are more in line with the company’s ability to make outstanding wines across all categories.

“Despite the continuation of challenging trading conditions in the second half of the year, I am determined to act upon opportunities to drive sustainable top-line momentum and margin expansion while at the same time, improving TWE’s brand equity and connections with consumers, retailers and distributors.”

In short:

“We cut too hard with our marketing in the tough times.

“We know we make a great product – but now not enough consumers do.

“Our brand is valuable and powerful so we’re going to invest in it – and that will drive our business.”

This strategy makes even more sense when competitors are going the other way. It gives a greater share of voice and – particularly with the volume of media consumed by such a large organisation – it should add significantly to buying power.

Using its increased marketing spend to build connections with retailers and distributors is also a smart move for TWE. Involving its “market gatekeepers” demonstrates TWE is putting its money where its mouth is – and will create shared ownership in the success of its brands.

At Hughes Public Relations, we are fortunate to work with organisations who also view adversity as opportunity and who have the resources and intelligence to invest strategically in brand building when others are not.

The result, a head start when markets pick up – and a greater buffer between them and their competitors when the cycle turns down.

Counter cyclical investment – particularly in marketing – can mean the difference between make or break!

Read the original article, Penfolds owner swings the axe, in InDaily here.

Hughes Public Relations, based in Adelaide, South Australia, is a communications and PR consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Crisis management, Hughes PR, Media training, Public relations

Communication the glue to mend broken business

Tim Hughes writes…

AdvertiserIt was very professionally satisfying to note a feature article in The Advertiser recently titled “Back from the Brink” (May 21, 2013 P19) which detailed the survival of a number of local and global brands in the face of corporate “near death experiences.”

Hughes PR played a key role in ensuring the survival of half the local organisations listed, including respected juice producer Nippy’s and iconic retailer Harris Scarfe.

The factors attributed to their survival included “public support, visionary leadership, grit and pure luck.”

In my experience over more than 30 years, organisations make their own luck; public support must be earned; leaders certainly need a positive vision and profile; and yes, true grit is required to bring an organisation back from the brink.

But the glue that puts the broken pieces back together is communication.

Make your own luck
Every organisation should have an issues and crisis communication plan integrated with its risk management process.

It’s as vital to business survival as insurance.

The plan should nominate members of the crisis management team including the CEO, financial, technical, legal and communication expertise, delineate key responsibilities and establish management procedures.

It should identify potential issues and crisis scenarios and canvas potential responses – anticipating potential news angles and areas of media and community interest.

Scenarios should be tested and key personnel trained in responses (including media training) and the plan should be ready for roll-out without notice.

Being alert to risk and prepared to manage it plays a much greater role in corporate survival than luck.

Public support must be earned
There is no better preparation for surviving a crisis than having a strong brand.

This means working pro-actively at every level of an organisation to deliver consistently high levels of quality in terms of product and customer experience and communicating effectively with your constituency – filling the “Goodwill Bank” to the point that if an organisation needs to make a “reputational withdrawal” it won’t go into deficit.

The corporate survivors mentioned in this article are all well-regarded brands with strong consumer followings – mostly ill-deserving of the strife they found themselves in. Locally, Coopers, Nippy’s, Harris Scarfe and Spring Gully and globally Apple, Aston Martin, IBM and Harley Davidson.

Not only will doing the right thing (across all levels of an organisation) help minimise reputational risk and avoid a crisis, if an issue does escalate, the weight of public support will be with you, not against you.

Demonstrate leadership
Key to winning the battle of public opinion in times of corporate crisis is clear leadership – not only in terms of managing the business but (via effective communication) being seen to manage the business and the community ramifications of the crisis.

The buck must stop with the CEO – particularly when dealing with the media. I have not yet seen an effective crisis communication program where the “PR Guy” takes the lead with the media. To this end, the CEO must front the media, must take responsibility for the organisation’s actions, and actively demonstrate the values of the organisation’s brand to staff, stakeholders, shareholders and Government.

The role of the professional communicator is to support the CEO, assess the facts, tap into the mood, assist with key messaging, and take responsibility for consistent communication across all stakeholder groups.

True grit
Despite the best preparations and the best intentions, managing a crisis requires a lot of hard work and commitment from every member of an organisation – top to bottom.

It also requires an organisation to have the fortitude to follow through on the commitments embodied in its brand – in so doing, living up to the expectations of its customers and other stakeholders – despite the many internal and external pressures which can build up during a crisis.

In short, if organisations have a plan – and stick to it – any crisis when it comes, need not be fatal. Indeed, if handled well it may actually enhance their reputation.

To read case studies on crisis communication visit http://www.hughespr.com.au/our-clients/our-case-studies/

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Crisis management, Hughes PR, Media, Media training, Public relations, Social media, Twitter

Truth, lies and aeroplanes

by Mark Williams

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Merry CrisisWhy do so many companies invest significant time and money on risk management strategies, yet overlook the fact that media-driven public perception, factual or otherwise, can destroy a company’s reputation in the time it takes to type a Twitter message?

Case in point:  On November 4, 2010, an engine on a Sydney-bound Qantas A380 exploded over Indonesia.  The aircraft returned to Singapore and landed safely.  Qantas’ crisis management team swung into action.  It had a written media statement out within half an hour of knowing about the incident, and the company fronted a packed media conference a short time later.

But it wasn’t ready for social media.

Within minutes of the incident, Twitter messages from Indonesia’s Batam Island carried photographs of Qantas engine parts, media speculated the A380 had crashed, and social media followers around the world wore out the ‘Retweet’ button on their phones.

Incredibly, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce admitted the first he knew the media were incorrectly reporting the plane had crashed was when the company’s share price started to collapse.

Now if a company like Qantas, which had a detailed crisis communication strategy in place, can still be caught off guard, imagine the impact on a business that has no such plan in place.

A common company refrain to having a crisis management strategy is “We’ll call you if we have a crisis.”  That’s like saying “We’ll buy fire insurance if we see smoke.”  It’s too late.

It doesn’t matter if the information being posted online and/or picked up by the media about your company is fact or fiction.  If you don’t have a strategy in place that allows you to respond – and quickly – media will run with whatever information it can find.  It may be comments from members of the public, claims by your competitors or an off-the-cuff remark by one of your own employees.

A client recently referred to the Latin phrase ‘Semper Paratus’, which means ‘Always Ready’.  If you were once a Scout, you would no doubt still remember the motto ‘Be Prepared’.

In today’s globalised online society, it can be extremely difficult to counter pretty much anyone around the world with an opinion and an iPhone.  It’s even harder if you’re not ‘always ready’ with a strategy in place to deal with it.

And if you think this is just a new social media-driven phenomenon, think again. The quote at the start of this article was not written by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, but by Mark Twain* in the mid 19th Century.

*This in itself may be a lie.  While the quote is widely attributed to Mark Twain, it may in fact have been first sermonised by a British clergyman named Charles Spurgeon.

– Mark Williams

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Crisis management, Public relations, Social media, Twitter

Social media risk management

A few months ago I came across a really useful infographic about Social media triage. Credit to Charlene Li for this one as outlined here. Click on the image to view in full.

Steps to follow in a social media crisis

The first thing outlined in the diagram above is to assess the message. This means that someone has to be monitoring your brand. But are you?

Last year, there were many examples of companies that failed to monitor their brand and consequently were unable to react to a crisis in the time that social media users expect. Messages from people using Twitter and Facebook can spread very quickly and their reach can be enormous.

Here are some examples of crises that were managed well and not so well via social media.

Good social media responses

  • Harvey Norman ran a radio ad about photos with Santa at Christmas with a reference to lap dances. People found this offensive and voiced their opinions in Twitter. Because Harvey Norman were monitoring social media they saw this and the ad ended up being pulled four hours after the first Tweet. Read about it here.
  • Two Domino’s Pizza employees made a video of themselves doing unsanitary things to food being prepared for customer delivery and posted it to YouTube. Domino’s responded with a video of its own. While the Dominos response was good, it was perhaps a bit late.

Not-so-good social media responses

Harvey Norman and Domino’s both responded to the criticism positively and relatively quickly. They assessed the message, evaluated the purpose, and fixed what needed to be fixed. In Harvey Norman’s case, they took the radio ad off the air. In Domino’s case they responded with a video saying that the employees had been dismissed and that this was an isolated incident.

Qantas didn’t respond at all which just added fuel to the fire and while Nestle did respond, they responded negatively and defensively which impacted their brand negatively in both cases. Qantas should have responded more rapidly (and one would assume the company has put mechanisms in place to do that in future). Nestle shouldn’t have deleted Facebook comments or responded defensively to others. It should have used the criticism as feedback about its brand and made appropriate changes – which it eventually did, but not before the damage was done.

These case studies show that social media can spiral out of control, but how do you mitigate potential risks?

  1. Monitor social media. There are paid tools to do this but there are also free ones, namely: Google Alerts, Social Mention, Twitter search, Booshaka. Setting these up should cover most of your bases.
  2. When/if something does happen, take a deep breath, stay calm and respond to it using the social media triage shown above.
  3. Are you in the social media space now? If you have a crisis, what social media channels will you use to respond? It’s better to have engagement with followers who can become your advocates in a potential crisis rather than scramble to find them if a crisis occurs.
  4. Do you have policies in place for social media? If not, it’s worth setting some policies up so that employees know how to respond, if they should respond etc. Usually companies have some sort of communications policy or guidelines and the social media component can form part of these.

Have you had to deal with crisis that involved social media?

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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Crisis management, Hughes PR, Media training, Public relations

Are you sure you don’t need media training?

This video shows a great example of a chief executive who has no idea what to say to the media. We saw this video on the Mumbrella site and they say:

News.com.au reports that the chief exec in question – the Australian Dr Stephen Duckett – has been let go by the Canadian health service as a result of the bizarre cookie-fixated exchange going viral.

Hughes PR offer media training as one of our services. We partner with Ron Kandelaars who runs a half day media training session which includes:

  • background, theory and practical media management experience, including time in front of the camera
  • a focus on equipping up to three or four participants at a time with the skills to manage issues or promote their business through the media in a positive way

I’ll bet their next CEO will have media training and spending half a day media training has got to be worth it.

Read more about our media training and how to organise it.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.

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