Category

Crisis Communications

COVID-19: Time for Pull, Not Push Marketing

By | Crisis Communications, Marketing | No Comments

Like me, you have gotten dozens if not hundreds of emails that start, “Out of an abundance of caution,” and go on to tell you about closings, changes in operation, care for employees, etc.  all in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Please stop email marketing. Now is not the time for push marketing.

As people all over the world are adjusting to stressful work-from-home situations, adapting to kids who are out of school and daycare, coping with potential unemployment, it’s critical for their email communication to have space for them to see the most important updates about, for example, local news, their healthcare, their employment, or other basic needs being met.

It is not the time for a luxury shoe brand to let me know how they are adapting to COVID-19.

What do to instead

Naturally, your business still needs to let people know what’s going on, especially in the case of changes, and that’s when we recommend changing to a PULL vs. a PUSH method of marketing. That is, publish your message very clearly on your own website and your social media platforms so that your audience can FIND the information when they need it. Use keywords so the content is searchable.

Please stay in your lane, focus on how you can continue doing what you do best, allowing people to quickly get the information they need the most, and find yours when they’re curious.

A Reporter’s Advice on Media Relations

By | Communications, Crisis Communications, Media | No Comments

A reporter friend texted me about his frustration with communications professionals who are either hamstrung by their bosses and unable to do their jobs, or who otherwise fail to conduct media relations in a timely manner. The situation doesn’t help anyone, as no one can do their job, and the public doesn’t get the correct, or sometimes, any information. “How do we get you to teach the communications professionals in this town how to communicate?” he said.

I have taught many people how to work with the media, and especially how to communicate in a crisis. I think it’s good to hear directly from the media how they want to receive information from their sources, as a refresher for all of us. Here’s the gist of what my reporter friend wants all people working in communications to know.

  1. It’s important to say something. Saying nothing means information comes from other sources, and the rumor mill is very active.
  2. It is critical to understand how quickly rumors spread and whip people into a frenzy. Social media can make any communicator’s job even harder, as the battle to correct misinformation mounts depending on how long the true story is delayed.
  3. You really can ask for something to be off the record. We understand that there are times you can’t tell us at the time, but you CAN say, “Hey, I can’t tell you much yet, but off-the-record, don’t send everyone home for dinner just yet.”
  4. Stop trying so hard to protect your people or control the narrative. In most cases, your subject matter expert is smart, capable, and willing to answer questions. Let them. You will get grilled less often if there is regular, proactive communication. If you never say anything, it looks like you’re trying to hide something.

I’ll add to this that it is OK, in the case of a crisis to say that you don’t have all the information, while sharing what you do have (stating the facts), and that you will get back to the reporter as soon as you have more to say. If you’re waiting for your client or boss’s approval before sharing information, you can at least let reporter’s know that you’re working on it, rather than leaving them hanging.

Doug Muir, the Bella’s Boycott, and Black Lives Matter

By | Crisis Communications, Social Media | 3 Comments

A week ago, we attended Rooting Out Injustice, the signature fall event put on by Legal Aid Justice Center and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. Full disclosure, I’ve been involved with Legal Aid for more than seven years and am on their advisory council. The event featured co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, who was a fantastic, inspirational speaker. The speaker panel, emceed by local attorney and author John Grisham (you may have heard of him) explored the intersection of race, injustice, disparities within the system, and ways the nonprofit organizations are tackling civil injustice.

In the midst of the event, a local business owner, Douglas Muir, saw fit to post a comment on Facebook stating, “Black lives matter is the biggest rasist (sic) organization since the clan. Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!”

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Mr. Muir is the owner of Bella’s, an Italian restaurant in Charlottesville. He’s also listed as a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia.

What Mr. Muir obviously didn’t know is that the wrath of the offended via social media is swift and ruthless. There’s a hashtag #boycottbellas and there has been a peaceful demonstration. But that’s not the end of this. Doug Muir deleted his comment and is, no doubt, keeping a low profile while his employees suffer a lack of income (restaurant workers make their money mostly in tips. No customers = no income.)

I think this is an opportunity for all people — not just the people who attended the event, or who have heard and seen Mr. Muir’s comment and are aware of the boycott of Bella’s to go look at the http://blacklivesmatter.com/ page. Think about civil rights and a movement that didn’t just start last year, but has been going on since before Abraham Lincoln was president. This isn’t new. Racism isn’t new. Social media is, though, and how we use it can change minds and change our society.

UPDATE 10/12/2016:

The Cavalier Daily ran an apology from Douglas Muir about the comment. It’s a good apology.

What to do When Your Campaign Accidentally Goes Viral

By | Communications, Crisis Communications, Social Media | No Comments

There’s really nothing that can prepare you for that moment when you pick up your phone and/or  log in to Facebook and see 8,000 new messages. Just yesterday, you think, we were trying desperately to get 300 likes on our page!

It’s the stuff some companies dream of. It’s a nightmare for most.

The thing is, you’re not going to know when your campaign is going to take off like wildfire. You may be pretty sure you’re going to get some attention, but you don’t really think it’s going to be Snuggling Baby Goats attention.

It doesn’t matter — it’s still worth the time to do a little preparation — a bit like the conversations people are having about the nearly $2 billion Powerball jackpot and how they would spend the money if/when the win. (Buying baby goats!)

Know these four things:

  1. To whom you will turn to help manage the overwhelming number of messages across all channels. This must be a trusted, experienced individual. Do not throw your intern under this bus.
  2. To whom you will turn to increase production/meet demand, etc. How big could you scale, if necessary?
  3. If things go viral in a bad way (you mess up, a terrible review gets major attention, etc.) what will your apology say, and how will you make it right? Write that message now, leaving blanks to fill in later, of course,  long before you need it.
  4. What will be your strategy when people are mean, overenthusiastic, threatening, troll-like, etc? If it’s to turn the monitoring of comments over to the person identified here under number one, that’s OK. Shutting down and disappearing might feel like the right action in the short term, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. The flames will die down, a new viral story will emerge, and you don’t want to be in a position to build your audience from scratch. Hang in there.

And if it happens to you suddenly, and you have no idea what to do, and you don’t know any of the four things, just give me a call.