‘Cut out and keep’ guide to crisis management

Nobody likes to dwell on the possibility of it happening, but should a crisis hit, the ability to act fast can make all the difference.

No doubt you’ve read all the books that tell you ‘the key to crisis management is advanced planning’, and yet it’s surprisingly common to find that this particular job never quite made it to the top of your to do list.

It’s a fact of life that every organisation is vulnerable to crises, so should you find yourself in this position, this blog post is for you. Cut out and keep it (or rather cut and paste) so that if the unthinkable occurs and you get a call from a journalist who has uncovered a major fault in your product, or from a customer who says your products have corrupted their data, you have a starting point on how to act.

  1. Get the facts from the horse’s mouth

As a PR person, you need to ensure that whatever you say to the media is true.  Never state that the situation is under control if it isn’t. This means you need to go directly to the team or manager dealing with the problem and get the information straight from them. Do not accept a well-meaning messenger as a go between – the Chinese whisper effect can completely change a story.

  1. Limit the damage

If you can take steps to prevent more damage occurring while the situation unfolds, do so. Stop production, send emails or call customers to alert them to the issue and let them know how they might be affected. It’s also a good idea to review all your marketing, advertising and events that are in the pipeline and put them on hold if need be to avoid provoking any awkwardness or negative reactions.

  1. Decide who needs to be contacted

Work out who the stakeholders are – employees, customers, investors, the press – and who needs to be liaised with in order to communicate with them effectively. For example, are there other partners who need to be involved in a joint statement? Can contact be made so that releases can be co-ordinated and notice given to each other of statements? This approach ensures you are not blindsided by any surprise statements from others involved.

  1. Adopt a holding position

Consider releasing an interim statement until you get the facts straight. ‘We are aware of the situation and are investigating the cause. We’ll be in touch as soon as we have more information,’ is far better to a journalist or customer than complete silence. It shows you are open and willing to talk, so the press are less likely to jump to conclusions.

  1. Draft a response

When drafting a statement, there are two sides to consider:

  • Put yourself in the mind of the victims – what do they want to hear?
  • Put yourself in the mind of your client – what are they able to say?

An effective response will give equal weighting to both these points. But be careful with the wording – any line from a statement could be taken out of context.

  1. Choose the right channels

Decide how to communicate the response and via which channels. If the story has been picked up widely you will need to be communicating to the media directly, plus to customers via your web site, social media channels and even on a one-to-one basis via email and phone when customers contact you directly.

  1. The personal touch

A personal response from a named spokesperson is always best, even for a written statement. If you need a ‘live’ spokesperson, make sure that they are your best and most skilled speaker, and that they have been recently media trained. Also ensure they are fully briefed on the situation so that they can answer questions as fully and honestly as possible.

  1. Don’t play the blame game

Avoid placing the blame fully and explicitly on someone else’s doorstep. Even if others were involved, it looks bad. If appropriate, and legally possible, apologise. That is often all people want to hear; that the company accepts they have made a mistake.

  1. Encourage positive stories

By being open and honest, and giving clear information about the steps you are taking to quickly address the issue, you will find that not every story is relentlessly negative. You can carefully encourage this subtle change of focus by bringing in allies to help, perhaps a happy customer or an association contact. Above all, making sure you do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it, will reap dividends in the long run.

  1. Review your strategy post-crisis

After the crisis has passed, review your strategy. What worked, what didn’t work, what needs to change should the unthinkable happen again in the future.

If you want this post as a PDF to keep on file, feel free to email us at hello@theinfluencecrowd.co.uk.

Photo by Ian Panelo from Pexels

Checklist for selecting a PR Agency

You have finally decided that you need a PR agency to help you get noticed by your target audiences. So, what points do you need to consider when choosing which will be the right agency for you?

Here are some guidelines to help.

  • Sector knowledge: Is the agency able to successfully demonstrate that they have achieved the outcomes and coverage in the publications/blogs you want for other clients? Do they understand the market – the issues that affect it and the journalists, bloggers, Twitterati and industry influencers in this sector?
  • Channel knowledge: Do they understand the difference between how a campaign should be pitched to a journalist and how that same message would work on social media? Do they know which channels your target market uses? Do they know if Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter would be best for your campaign?
  • Reputation: Ask to speak to some of their clients. Are they happy with how the agency works to achieve their objectives?
  • The pitch: Does their sales pitch to you meet the objectives of the briefing? Can they answer the question, “What is the first step in this campaign?” as this demonstrates they have thought beyond the creative stage and have also considered how the activity fits with your objectives?
  • The team: Ask who is going to work on the account (it is not always those that will pitch for it) and their experience of this sector. You could even ask to see examples of campaigns the individuals have worked on if you have doubts. Do they understand what makes a good story for a journalist or how to influence bloggers? Do you feel you can work with the team in the long term?
  • Crisis management: Depending on your product and sector, the ability to demonstrate knowledge and successful management of PR crises could be key too.
  • Costs and methods of charging: Ask about their fees, but also how expenses are calculated. Some agencies charge for a lot of additional expenses, which means costs can add up significantly over and above a monthly retainer.
  • Governance and policies: The agency should not currently handle the PR for any direct competitor to you and should have a policy of informing you of any future potential conflicts of interest.
  • Measurement: This is quite possibly the single most important element. What measurements will the agency use to evaluate the PR campaign? Will they work to specific targets, and do these relate to your business goals? Or do they just offer rather vague commitments about where they can get coverage? You should also look at how frequently they will report progress against objectives, as this will be crucial in establishing whether the campaign has been a success or not.

These are the key elements to selecting the right PR agency for your campaign, in our view. If you have other factors you feel should be added to this list, I’d love to hear from you at catherine@theinfluencecrowd.co.uk.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

PR that delivers: A guide to good PR planning

Some companies launch their PR efforts with vague goals. Sometimes it is in response to a competitor suddenly gaining a lot of traction in the market or it may be a general notion that ‘we need to get our company’s name out there’.

What happens next will determine whether your PR campaign will actually deliver what it needs to or fail at the first hurdle.

For PR to be a success, you need a good PR plan. And a good PR plan comes out of asking yourself some tough questions.

Here is a list of some of the main questions we ask before we start to develop a PR plan for a client. The aim of this is to give you the information you need to start to create a strong plan that will support your overall business objectives.

PR Planning Guide

Ask yourself where you are now.

  • PR success/failures thus far – what was liked/disliked? How is your organisation perceived publicly?
  • Competition – what you like and dislike about them and their PR, how are they perceived publicly? What are they doing that could impact on your business?
  • Threats – changes in the political, technical and economic landscape

Ask yourself where you want to be.

  • Sales objectives this year
  • The vision in 3-5 years
  • Which objectives can PR support – the short or long term objectives, or both?

Ask yourself which audiences you want to influence.

  • Who has bought the message so far and who still needs to be convinced?
  • Are there any influencer organisations, bloggers and forums that can help you reach your audiences?
  • What market breakdown do you need to have to target these audiences successfully eg by organisation type, industry, job title? Or prospects vs existing business.

Then:

  • Define your messages to reach these audiences – what issues do they respond to/what makes them tick (focus on solutions to problems, tapping into emotions etc, rather than product messages). Some keyword research will help here as it can often refine your thoughts about what content this audience is already looking for. It is also worth discussing calendar events relevant to your industry as these may be useful to hook certain messages to.
  • Define priorities – it is likely you will not be able to do everything at once so define your top one, two or three PR priorities and stick to those as a starting point.
  • Define timelines and budgets – when you will target each audience, what resources do you have at your disposal?
  • Finally, define your measures – what will be deemed a success, how will you measure and report on this to determine the value of the campaign? These measures can be defined in many different ways, such as changed perceptions of the brand (which you can measure via surveys), the amount of the right type of coverage in the press, an increase in sales leads, an increase in engagement on social channels, increased web site traffic etc – whatever would be a good measure for the original objectives you set.

Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels

Bye bye Catherine Lane PR and hello The Influence Crowd

Why we felt it was time to change our name.

It’s a big day for us today. The time has finally come to say goodbye to the Catherine Lane PR brand that we have used for the last 16 years. From today, we will be known as The Influence Crowd.

Why have we made the change?

Well when we started the agency all those years ago we were a smaller, simpler operation. A straightforward name suited us. Catherine Lane PR just worked.

But for some time now, we’ve been feeling that the name did not 100% represent who we have become.

The factors that influence someone to buy a product or alter their opinion about an organisation or issue have changed. And over the last few years, we have upped our skills and grown our PR team to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Our PR campaigns now include a mix of hard-hitting content, social advertising, influencer engagement and social media campaigns, as well as lots of fantastic media coverage.

We feel it’s time our name caught up.

It’s the same great team behind the scenes and we’ll still be getting you fantastic results, it’s just that we will have a new name to go by that better represents what we do.

Catherine Lane

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