Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Key Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan

Today's business landscape is littered with risks of crises and unexpected issues. Should a crisis arise, it’s vital to respond in an accurate, timely and thorough manner.The key to responding well in a crisis is preparation. While most organizations are aware that it’s critical to have a crisis communications plan in place, many often struggle with what to include in the plan.

A crisis communications plan should include several key details, such as protocol to follow and how to respond and communicate appropriately, but also should be kept as simple as possible so it’s easily understandable during a time of crisis. Following are some key elements to include:

  • In-Depth Overview: Introductory materials should outline why the plan was developed and detail best practices for how your organization will handle the situation and how messages are communicated.
  • Crisis Team: Identify and include complete contact information for each member of the crisis team. Then outline the responsibilities of each member. Determine who will collect information, who will field media calls, who will serve as the spokesperson, and who will handle internal communications.
  • Key Messages: Develop some overarching messages about the organization to convey should any crisis occur. These messages should guide your organization’s response to the crisis. Develop no more than three key messages and expand on each message with appropriate supporting facts and statistics.
  • Tactics and Targets: Once messages and talking points are created, establish a communications action plan for reaching key publics. List all possible internal and external target audiences as it’s essential to communicate with any audience that might be touched by the crisis, using a consistent message. Consider adding support materials such as communication checklists, media lists, company policies, fact sheets, news release templates and other important materials in appendices.
  • Outline of Crisis Scenarios: Every crisis plan should include examples of a crisis or incident that would trigger the need to respond. Examples of potential incidents include a natural disaster, lawsuit, cyberattack, violent crime, rumor, health issue or workplace harassment. A plan should include several hypothetical situations, a communication action to respond and key messages and talking points for all stakeholders.
  • Internal Procedures: Determine how employees will receive key messages and how they will be reached during a crisis. Identify who will monitor the crisis so that the course of action can be adjusted as events warrant, as well as to further refine message development and focus communications activities more precisely.

Once a communications plan is complete, be sure to share it with all key executives and crisis team members. Prepare both digital and hard copies so that it’s easy to access quickly if needed. Keep in mind that a crisis plan should change over time. It should be a living document that is tested, re-evaluated and updated as needed. Incorporate the date the document was last edited or in an index that lets reviewers know what section was updated and when.

Incorporating key elements into a quality communications plan ensures your company will be more prepared to effectively handle communications related issues that arise during a crisis and should be a key component of an organization’s overall disaster recovery plan. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shifting Expertise from Office to Home During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic took its grip on the world in March, office workers suddenly changed to a new “work from home” structure. Our client Boise Paper, which has carved out a social media niche as an expert on “Office Life,” needed to adjust its content and pivot messaging to better appeal to a drastically different workforce.  To achieve this, we worked with them to adjust to timely topics and provide needed advice to workers via its blog and social channels. 
  • Working remotely won’t disappear post-pandemic, so the Boise Paper blog provides a perfect opportunity to provide valuable insight on how to be both productive and happy while working from home. Post topics included getting acquainted with Zoom meetings, how to maintain professional development remotely and ideas for how to build teammate rapport at a distance.
  • On Boise Paper’s social channels, we also shared remote working tips that followers could relate to. Additionally, we bridged the content to highlight community topics of interest during the pandemic. In particular, we drove awareness of Boise Paper’s partner the American Red Cross’s blood donation shortage. We also highlighted employee efforts band together to make masks for employees. The shift in content direction not only highlighted things of interest to followers, but also allowed Boise Paper to support its partners and communities from afar.
Check out Boise Paper’s social pages – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and blog for more career advice – whether you are working from an office or your home!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Global Partners Set the Tone for PR in ‘Era of Responsibility’

There’s no doubt that the public relations industry has faced new challenges during the global pandemic. Whether it be reduced marketing budgets, saturated media landscapes or decreased consumer engagement, PR pros have seized the opportunity to find creative communication solutions while strengthening brand authenticity. To stay up to date while navigating COVID-19 and heightened social activism, we’ve turned to the expertise of our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partners for global trends and insights:
  • As consumers spend more time online, managing clients’ web reputation has never been more important. According to our PRGN partner Toomas Kull of Cabinet PrivĂ© de Conseils, S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland, The Five Pillars of Online Reputation Management point to building cohesive messaging and transparency. Consumers crave authenticity, but it has to be backed up with integrity, and more importantly, with brand action. Adapt content to be timely and reflect a concern for what your audience cares about by listening, staying informed and staying engaged.
  • As states reopen, agencies will begin to revisit in-person event planning. According to Keri McIntosh of The Castle Group in Maui, Hawaii, event planning must place a substantial emphasis on public health and safety. Reinventing the Live Event Experience – Key Considerations for Meeting Planners includes taking significant, transparent precautions to ensure that vendors are vetted and credible, venues are compatible with social distancing and participants are informed. Most importantly, planners must integrate and document COVID-19 protocols into official emergency response planning.
  • In an exploration of Female leadership and PR: What have they in common?, PRGN partners’ Alessandra Malvermi of Sound Public Relations in Milan, Italy, discusses the value of having women in leadership roles within the industry. At a time when empathetic, complex communications are essential, the value of skills that are often owned by women must become central to communications strategy.
  • Going back to the basics might be exactly what your clients’ social feed needs. Canadian PRGN partner’s Ashleigh Cartier of Media Profile in Toronto claims that now It’s Time for a Social Media Marketing Reset. For starters, foster two-way conversations on social media platforms rather than one-way content pipelines. Focus on quality of content rather than quantity. Lastly, think of your social audience as a huge focus group. Listen to what they have to say!
  • Dawn Burke of Cullen Communications in Dublin, Ireland, provides relevant insight on How to communicate in our new era of responsibility. Now is not the time for brands to go silent, but rather to reflect on communication strategy, core values, community engagement and how to build or rebuild public trust. If done right, brands will come out of the pandemic stronger than when they entered it.
Balancing public safety, marketing and credibility to meet the emerging needs of consumers during COVID-19 has placed a larger responsibility on companies to steer conversations and set authentic, progressive standards. We’re proud to have a strong partners in our global network of independent agencies to collaborate with as we navigate newfound public relations challenges and opportunities.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Five Tips to Prepare for a Successful Zoom Interview


The media landscape has shifted significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Instead of in-studio or in-person interviews, virtual interviews using videoconferencing tools like Zoom have become the norm.

To prepare for success, below are five useful tips to make the most out of a virtual video interview:
  • Secure your setting – Pick a quiet, well-lit spot to do the interview without an elaborate backdrop so that you can be the focal point on the screen. Remove anything distracting behind you and keep it neutral.
  • Prepare your technology – Use a computer if possible, and put your camera at eye-height, using a computer stand or stack of books if needed. Ahead of time, test the lighting to ensure it is not too bright and test the sound. Don’t forget to clean your camera lens, too!
  • Think about appearance and body language – When it comes to what you wear, treat the video interview like an in-person interview and dress professionally. Also, be sure to have good posture but don’t be stiff – hold yourself up and be relaxed! Double check your Zoom username and picture as well to ensure that they are both interview appropriate.
  • Eliminate possible interruptions – If you are interviewing in a space with multiple people or pets, be sure to let everyone in the area know ahead of time that you will be in an interview while securing any distractions away from your interview space. Also, make sure all other windows on your computer are closed and turn off any notifications to prevent sounds during your interview.
  • Practice, practice, practice! – Consider doing a practice interview to test the technology beforehand so that when it’s interview time, you are prepared. Try to look directly at the video camera to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer. One trick here is to center the face of the other person on your screen to be right below your camera.

Keeping these best practices in mind will help you make the most out of any video interview. Check out these recent Zoom interviews we secured on behalf of our clients the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) and Monte Nido & Affiliates:
  • HCPLive – Featuring Dr. Gregory Cosgrove, chief medical officer of the PFF
  • WFLD-TV (FOX, Chicago) – Featuring Melissa Spann, chief clinical officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates (pictured)


Thursday, July 9, 2020

It Might Be Time to Think Small(er)

The current challenges presented by the pandemic have resulted in enormous changes in the way we do business. Companies are reevaluating how they work, reconsidering processes, systems, office spaces, vendors and budgets. This transitional period might be an excellent time to take a closer look at your public relations agency to ensure you are maximizing your budgets and getting the level of services you need and deserve. In other words, it might be time to go small(er)!
               
A mid-sized, independent agency offers a number of advantages over large, international conglomerates. Some of these pluses include:
  • Senior involvement: At a firm the size of LCWA, you’re guaranteed involvement from senior staff. At larger firms, senior members tend to “preside” over an account, while at smaller, mid-sized firms, senior folks jump right in and help with the actual planning and implementation of programs. The experience, skill set and insights of senior managers could prove invaluable during these unprecedented times. 
  • Flexibility: A smaller, independent firm is also a nimble firm, quick to respond to changing market conditions. Without a cumbersome bureaucracy to slow it down, good things can be accomplished in a shorter period of time.
  • Focused attention: Regardless of your budget, chances are you will be a big fish at a smaller pond (shop). With a shorter client roster, your business will get the attention it deserves. What’s more, your team will have the time to know your business – and industry – inside and out.
  • Global reach: A smaller firm doesn’t necessarily mean a local firm. Many mid-sized agencies offer national services, and also are affiliated with other like-sized firms around the world. This network of agencies will provide your business with diverse resources if needed. LCWA, for example belongs to the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), and works closely with partner agencies throughout the country and around the world on an as-needed-basis.
As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, this might be a good time to consider an independent public relations agency. The advantages listed above might just make it the right decision at the right time.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Insomnia Awareness Night Drives Conversation and Awareness


Insomnia Awareness Night is held on the Monday nearest the summer solstice to drive conversation and awareness about chronic insomnia. On Monday, June 22, our team organized several online events for the observance, which is organized by our client the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) along with the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM) and AmericanAlliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS). Online activities included:
  • Facebook Live – We started the night off with a Facebook Live from 9:30 – 10 p.m. ET. Influencer Kelly Olexa acted as host for the event, interviewing AASM’s sleep expert Dr. Emerson Wickwire in a Q & A format on her page, www.facebook.com/thekellyoshow.
  • Twitter Chat – Next up was a Twitter Chat from 10 – 11 p.m. ET with Dr. Deirdre Conroy behind the AASM Twitter handle, Dr. Jade Wu as expert on the SBSM account and Kelly Olexa serving as moderator. In addition, the AAHS joined to provide patient perspectives on insomnia, along with many others who chimed in with questions and thoughts on the disease using #InsomniaNight.
  • Reddit AMA – The night wrapped up with an hour-long Reddit AMA. From 11 p.m. to midnight ET, clinical sleep specialist and AASM board of directors’ member Dr. Jennifer Martin hosted an AMA to answer a wide range of insomnia questions. The AMA received a “Moderator’s Choice Award,” meaning the conversation was of top interest to many Redditors.
In addition to the scheduled social media events, our team created content for all social channels, including Instagram story posts, to help inform audiences about insomnia throughout the night. Combined with our media outreach efforts, the Insomnia Awareness Night campaign was a success, garnering more than 136 million impressions and engaging many patients and healthcare providers.

To learn more about Insomnia Awareness Night and to find resources on healthy sleep, visit http://sleepeducation.org/insomnia-awareness-night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Monte Nido Brings Eating Disorder Recovery to Chicagoland

This spring, our team was tasked with driving media coverage for client, Monte Nido & Affiliates, which was entering the Chicagoland market for the first time with two new residential eating disorder facilities. Little did we know, the openings would occur just a
s focus shifted to a global health pandemic.

With our initial, pre-coronavirus pitching, we landed coverage in major outlets like Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Daily Herald and WBIG-AM.

Then the coronavirus outbreak drastically changed not only our everyday lives, but the healthcare media landscape. The news cycle was focused on covering COVID-19 around the clock. We had to get creative and shift our pitching strategy. We dug in and did research, and learned about the unique impact that quarantine and stay-at-home orders were having on people with eating disorders, especially adolescents who had lost their regular routine of attending school and activities.

For the opening of Clementine Naperville in June, which offers programming for girls ages 11 to 17, we focused on the impact coronavirus was having on adolescents with eating disorders, and tied in the new resource that would soon be available in the area. This pitch resulted in coverage from WFLD-TV (Fox Chicago), Daily Herald, Glancer Magazine, Naperville Sun and in an upcoming issue of Chicago Parent.

In total, we generated 12 stories that led to almost 16 million impressions, far surpassing our original goal of 5-6 placements. This is a great reminder of why it’s so important for PR pros to make sure stories have a tie to current events when working with the media.