Video Series: Public Relations Tips To Get Through COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, business as we have known it has been upended. While we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, there are things companies can be doing to position themselves to withstand the pandemic, help the community, and ultimately come out of this crisis stronger.

Public relations can play a role in delivering on these goals. 10 to 1 President Josh Weiss has created a video series of brief videos to give you ideas on how you can best position your company utilizing basic public relations and crisis communications tactics.

You can check out our video series below or on our YouTube page.


PR & COVID-19: Share Your Expertise

https://youtube.com/watch?v=4rCj5Sf89oY%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Find Opportunity for Every Story

https://youtube.com/watch?v=atS6Rv0KRDs%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Walk Through Your Warehouse

https://youtube.com/watch?v=emdFN9dWdA0%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Pivoting The Right Way

https://youtube.com/watch?v=pnpAuAJ82Dg%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Follow The Leader

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3eroAMKpMNM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Be Honest With Your Customers

https://youtube.com/watch?v=E0drKp1XgoM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

More videos will be added on a regular basis – stay tuned!

12 Tips for Successful At-Home Remote Video Interviews with the Media

You’ve landed a remote interview with a television station, congratulations! How do you make sure it goes well and you get your message across? How can you best avoid any technology failures or unwanted interruptions?

There are several things to keep in mind to ensure that you are prepared for the interview, both when it comes to visuals and audio.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

1. Ensure you have the proper technology. Things to consider:

  • Make sure that you have the appropriate video software downloaded to your computer and that it is the most updated version.
  • If you have an external camera and/or microphone, ensure they are set up and working.
  • You can use headphones during the interview to enhance your audio, as the microphone will be higher quality than a standard computer microphone and be closer to your mouth to pick up your sound better. However, do not use large over-ear headphones as they will not look appealing on camera. Earbuds are recommended. If they are corded, use the one side with the microphone and hide the cord as best you can.

2. Identify your interview location. This should be a room in your home that has a door that can be closed to shut out unwanted interruptions. It should also be as close as possible to your internet router to ensure you have a strong internet connection.

3. Set up your space. Things to pay attention to:

  • Light source – You want to avoid any light coming from behind you. If you have to position yourself in front of a window, close the blinds. A “fancy” at home set up will include a “ring light” that will cast a favorable light on your face to make you look your best. If you do not have access to a ring light but your face lacks the proper lighting, find a lamp in your home that you can position that shines some light on your face.
  • Background – You don’t want a cluttered space in the background, but you also don’t want it to be barren. Positioning a bookshelf behind you is usually an appealing visual. Doublecheck the bookcase before the interview to ensure that all of the viewable titles are appropriate. If you don’t have a bookshelf, you can use a small table or desk behind you to arrange some memorabilia like photos or other décor for some visual interest. If you have merchandise or props related to your interview/company, they should be placed somewhere in the video frame.
  • Set up a comfortable chair – You will want to be seated during the interview to prevent any random movements that may be distracting. Avoid a swivel chair if possible.
  • Camera/Computer Position – Depending on how you will be seated, you will want to set up your computer or camera so that it is elevated. The camera should be level with your eyes for the optimal image. Elevate your computer by using a laptop stand or a stack of books. For the best framing, you’ll want to position the camera about an arm’s length away from you.

4. Run a Test. Using the appropriate video software with any external equipment set up, run a test call with a friend or colleague to ensure that your video and audio are working well and that you are happy with your setup.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

5. Prevent any noise interruptions. Items to check off:

  • Turn your phone to “do not disturb” mode.
  • Put a sign on your door that says, “do not disturb.” If necessary, do the same for your front door and ask people not to ring the doorbell.
  • Alert family members of your interview time and request that they stay quiet or in another part of the house.
  • Hide pets in another room for the duration of the interview.

6. Wear the appropriate clothing. Avoid bright patterns or colors that would blend in with your background. Solid pastels are best. Do not wear bright white or green, as these colors do not work well on screen.

7. Keep your body in check. Things to keep in mind:

  • Check your posture. While seated, make sure you are sitting straight up. Roll your shoulders back to check you have the right posture.
  • Stop bouncing your legs. It’s normal to experience some nerves before or during an interview. Keep your feet planted to avoid bouncing your legs.
  • Watch your hands. Some people are very expressive with their hands when they speak. This can be distracting during a video interview. Try to keep your hands in your lap while you’re speaking for the most part, a little hand motion during some of the interview is okay.
  • Grab a glass of water to keep by your setup in case it is needed during the interview.

8. Speak slowly and clearly. Speak more slowly than you normally would, it may sound weird to you but it will help you reduce the number of “ums” and allow the viewers to better follow your messaging.

9. Keep eye contact with the camera. It may feel awkward not looking at the computer screen when answering the reporter’s questions, but you’ll look your best for the interview when you are looking directly at the camera while you are speaking.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

10. Thank the reporter. Ask if there is anything else that you can do to help them with the story. If the interview was recorded and will be used later, ask when they anticipate the interview will air.

11. Send b-roll and photos. If the interview was recorded, send the reporter any additional b-roll or photos that could help enhance their story.

12. Share the interview. Once the interview has aired or been posted, share it far and wide via your social media channels and email newsletter! Be sure to also post it to the media or blog page of your website. 

Following these tips should guarantee a successful remote at-home video interview. It is particularly important to consider these tips at this time while the coronavirus pandemic has forced many television news stations to shift operations and prioritize remote interviews like these. By providing an excellent interview, it’s more likely that you’ll be invited back for another interview in the future.

— written by Erica Fetherston, Sr. Account Exec at 10 to 1 Public Relations

Does Your Company Have a Media Emergency Playbook?

How your Company Can Win By Preparing for a Media Crisis Like It’s a Game.

Remember from childhood the game “Mad Libs”?  It’s the grammar game where there’s a one-page story with a bunch of missing words in the narrative.  The game leader asks the other kids to yell out what’s called for in the blank space- like a Verb, or a City name, a person’s occupation, an Adjective, etc.  After all the missing words are filled in, the game leader reads the now silly story to the enjoyment of the other kids who help contribute to the narrative. 

Games are fun, but some games are more important to win than others.  If you want to your company to win during a media emergency/PR crisis, you need to prepare in advance.  One way to win is by copying the Mad Libs game structure to creating a media emergency playbook your company can use when needed.

Let’s face it, it’s not IF a media emergency will occur, but WHEN.  A bad response can create a significant, lasting negative perception for a company, while a well-handled crisis can earn you long-term customer, employee and investor loyalty. The good news is that it’s possible to manage a crisis well, aided a little bit of planning.

Here are some tips to create a media emergency response plan.

Start by creating a list of the five most likely negative crisis scenarios that could happen to your company. 

For example, if you have employees driving company branded vehicles, a likely crisis could be a bad crash.  If you have employees performing manual, skilled labor, maybe there’s potential for a significant injury or loss of life. If you handle personal information or credit card information, there’s a significant risk of a hack or stolen data.

Create a one or two paragraph written statement for each scenario of how you would respond. 

The initial statement is simply to acknowledge the issue and demonstrate to the public and media that you’re taking the issue seriously and professionally and are investigating it to gather more facts.  It isn’t supposed to be detailed nor is it to explain how you’re fixing the problem.

This initial statement (often called a holding statement) will give you time to provide a more meaningful update (several hours or even a day) later, when you would share more details and examples of how you’re dealing with the situation.

Get sign-off from Executives, Legal team, etc. on your proposed statement.

Get approvals for your template statements now, before the crisis scenario actually occurs.  Examples would be Executives or the Legal team, who most normally would delay a response in the moment because they’d insist on reviewing and wordsmithing it first.  With your pre-approved response, all you’ll need to do is “fill in the blanks” and update some of the details like names, locations, other vital stats, etc.  With the initial media statement out of the way, you will save the entire team significant time allowing them to focus on the actual crisis and to help get it resolved.  Your fast response will also help protect your reputation and influence the public’s response when they learn about the crisis.

Start over and create another list of five potential scenarios which may be less likely to occur, but which scare you (or your CEO) the most. 

Maybe it’s a #MeToo scenario, or fear of an employee being arrested at work even though their crime has nothing to do with your business.  Go through the same process of preparing a short response and getting Executive and Legal approvals.

Strategically share the Media Emergency Playbook with key Executives and company spokespeople.

Not everyone should get a copy of your template responses.  Only share it with the handful of people most likely and authorized to share them with reporters on short notice.  These aren’t public documents for all to see in advance.  While the circle of people with copies should be small, it needs to be a large enough group where the people who ultimately need them can’t locate or find them. Especially in the event the most obvious people are on vacation and/or unreachable. 

While there’s a lot more to be done to properly prepare for, let alone handle, a crisis, having a “Mad Libs” style media emergency playbook is a great start for any company.

The Best Time of Day and Strategy to Contact Newspaper and Magazine Reporters

As a former reporter, who transitioned into public relations, I’m well aware that reporters can be quirky, irritable and hard to reach. Not that I ever was any of those things.

In any case, if you want to play in the news media sandbox, to get your business’ news out to the public, you might find it useful to follow my advice for reaching them and getting their attention. It’s a matter of respect for them and their time.

It’s no secret news media staffing has been shrinking for close to 20 years and that means far fewer reporters are pressed to cover more news with tighter deadlines in a 24-hour news cycle.

Here are six tips to help you connect with reporters and get the stories you desire.

  • Find the Right Reporters

First of all, get to know who is covering or likely to cover your business sector at weekly and daily newspapers, magazines and online, as well as at broadcast outlets and trade publications. It’s vital to find the right target for your pitch to a reporter or assignment editor.

Some media websites will have this information listed. But do a search on a reporter’s byline to see if they’re still covering that beat. Assignments change often and the websites aren’t always updated promptly. You can also find reporters and editors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

  • The Best Time of Day to Contact Reporters

Secondly, it’s important to figure out the best day and time of day to phone a reporter or send them an e-mail. After three decades of working in newsrooms, I can tell you that many reporters are reluctant to answer their office phone unless the caller ID shows up as a number they recognize. Good timing can help but getting past that hurdle can be difficult.

Developing a relationship via e-mail or in person as a trusted source is not easy but it’s the best way to overcome that challenge.

With that said, I recommend trying to reach a daily news reporter earlier in the day and generally avoid calls later than midafternoon when they’re likely to be busy reporting and writing on deadline. Most reporters during my era would arrive by 9 or 10 a.m. and would take some time to get coffee and start their workday.

A call or e-mail pitch might get more attention in that window from about 9:30 to noon. Maybe hit them up a little later if it’s a Monday morning.

  • The First Thing to Do When Calling a Reporter

After introducing yourself and your business, you should ask if the reporter is on deadline.

If they say yes, then give them a brief summary of why you’re calling. Let them know you’ve already sent them an e-mail with some details or that you will be sending an e-mail.

  • What do When Sending an Email or a Leaving a Voicemail.

When sending an e-mail or leaving a voicemail message,  quickly provide the five W’s of reporting – who, what, when, where and why – along with all your contact information and any social media handles you’re comfortable sharing. If you’re leaving a voicemail, lead with you’re your name and a callback number, and also end with it a second time. That way if they’re interested in your pitch and need to listen to a message again because they didn’t write down your phone number and name fast enough, they have it at the start of your message so they don’t need to listen through the entire voicemail again.

  • What To Do If the Reporter Doesn’t Call You Back or Respond to Your Email

If a reporter does not respond to your call, e-mail or voice mail, you can try a follow-up e-mail to persuade them to cover your news. But don’t hold your breath. You’ve made your case and they’ve made their decision that it’s not newsworthy for them.

Aim high with your first outreach and then move on to other reporters down the media food chain who might be more interested in your story.

  • When to Contact Reporters of Weekly Newspapers or Monthly Magazines

If you’re pitching to reporters at weekly or monthly publication, figure out what day they publish and when their deadline is for final copy. Magazines have long lead times and will often list this information online. Weekly publications usually have deadlines at least two days before distribution. Getting information to these outlets as far in advance as possible is going to pay the most dividends.

While legacy media outlets have been disappearing for decades, there still are a significant number of neighborhood and community newspapers, monthly lifestyle magazines, business publications and digital outlets with an appetite for well written news releases they can publish with little editing required.

In conclusion, don’t be intimidated by reporters and don’t be offended if a reporter doesn’t write your story.  Just do what you can to set yourself up for success.  You’re two steps ahead of the game if you can write a good news release and find the right publications and media for your target audience. If not, a good public relations company like 10 to 1 PR can write one for you. We also have trusted media contacts and a list of thousands of media outlets to help tell your story.

About the author: Before joining 10 to 1 Public Relations, Peter Corbett worked for three decades at the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Gazette, Scottsdale Progress and weekly newspapers in Flagstaff, Sedona and Verde Valley. He most recently served as a public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

How to Prepare Before an Interview

I was recently rereading a New York Times article about Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s Fresh Air who is widely acclaimed as an amazing interviewer. The article was entitled “How to Talk to People” and it included several examples of her interview techniques that she uses to engage her interviewees and deliver an informative and inspirational story.

Many of Terry’s interview suggestions mirror what I coach clients before a media interview, so I thought it might be helpful to list some of my own tips here. 

Six Interview Tips for Executives and Spokespeople:

  1. Don’t be surprised by the questions a reporter is likely to ask. Even for interviews on the happiest of topics, most reporters will refuse to share a list of questions they plan to ask ahead of time. That doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared in advance to answer them. Create your own list of likely questions and prepare an answer for each. You may not get asked each question on your own list, but the preparation will give you confidence that you’re ready with the answers, which will result in a better overall interview (and minimize the “ums”). 
  2. Decide your boundaries before any interview begins. Before ever talking to a reporter and participating in an interview, know your own boundaries. Decide in advance what you’re NOT going to say and, regardless of how many ways you might get asked, stick to your plan. Knowing your boundaries and limitations in advance will make it easier not to accidentally share information you later regret providing.
  3. Pivot when necessary.  Sometimes you’re going to get a question where you don’t have a good answer. It’s not that you’re trying to hide something, it’s simply that you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to answer the question and you don’t want to get it wrong. A great way to pivot is to say: “Let me give you an example of how we handled a similar scenario in the past.” In setting up the scenario and focusing on your strengths of how it was handled, you can often successfully reframe the question in an appropriate way where you’re more comfortable answering the root of the original question, and the reporter will likely move on to the next question.
  4. Don’t fill dead air. It’s the reporter’s job to keep the conversation going, not yours. Once you’ve answered the question, stop talking. Some reporters use an old interview trick of not saying anything when they were looking for a different, or less rehearsed sounding answer. It often makes the person being interviewed uncomfortable so that they start speaking again. The second answer to the same question often isn’t as polished as the first—thus sometimes making a less flattering quote—or that’s when the person being interviewed sometimes offers up more information and details which they otherwise would have preferred not to share.
  5. It’s okay to refuse to answer a question. Sometimes questions are uncomfortable on a personal level, or legally on a professional level. It’s okay to not answer every question, but you do need to acknowledge it was asked. If the question is appropriate and you simply don’t know the answer, tell them that but offer to try and get them the answer after the interview. If it’s something that you can’t answer, or don’t want to provide an answer later, it may help to simply be more blunt. It’s okay to say you’re not comfortable discussing the topic, or that you only have permission to discuss the topics that were the original reason for the interview. Another tact might be to refuse to answer because you’re afraid the answer will hurt someone’s feelings.  Don’t be defensive when answering, but also don’t be angry that a reporter is asking. They’re simply doing their job, and most reporters will accept your decision not to answer.
  6. Take the Open Question– twice.  You often will have two opportunities to frame the interview. The first is at the very beginning of the interview when they often ask an open-ended question like: why are we here today or could you tell us about your big announcement? This lets you share your good news unfiltered, and it’s from this initial answer that the reporter will ask follow-up questions for additional details. Lay it all out upfront for the reporter and don’t assume they already know what questions to ask. Without getting in to too much detail, give a good outline of what’s happening that’s worthy of this interview. The second opportunity you’ll have is often at the end of an interview. When a reporter has finished asking all their prepared questions, they will often ask: anything else?  You should ALWAYS answer this question with any important details you think were missed that you want included in the story, or simply to give one last short highlight recap of your big news which could ultimately be used as a quote.

Oh, and if you ever find yourself being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, I want an autograph. Not yours, hers! She’s simply masterful at getting people to share their stories, whether it be celebrities, politicians, media members or scientists. If you’ve never listened, I highly encourage you to download a podcast or listen on your local NPR station.

Why PR Campaigns Should Be Run Like Political Election Campaigns

A lot of people are rejoicing that the elections have ended.  Their elation isn’t necessarily about who won, but simply that they’re thrilled that the campaign ads are finally over!  For me, campaign season never ends, because I believe that the best public relations campaigns should be run like a political campaign- and that’s how we set our strategies for our clients. Let me explain.

Some of you may know that in the late 90s I used to work in politics— hardcore Illinois “machine” politics at that– before moving to Arizona and formally starting my career in public relations.   Working on multiple campaigns across the State, I learned several lessons which I still use today.

Plan backwards. What does a politician want when they start running for office? To win!  In order to do that, the candidate needs 50 percent of the votes plus 1 on election day.  Not today, but on election day.  So if election day is 15 months from now, circle election day on the calendar and start planning backwards to reach your goal.  For example, if the vote were held today and you were only at 35% and the vote was 15 months away, if you increase your percentage 1% each month you’ll be at 50% on election day.

When we first engage with a client, we want to know their end goal, and when they want to achieve that goal. We then plan backwards to get them there on time. It won’t happen the first month, but if we do our job right, we’ll get closer to their end goal every month and ultimately achieve our client’s desired result.

Make your negative your positive. Every candidate has a flaw that will be attacked or something which might turn off some voters.  The best politicians can acknowledge the negative and the best campaign managers will prepare a response to an attack in advance and will even work to turn that perceived negative in to a positive.   We view our role as a PR pro as the company’s campaign manager- identifying flaws and dealing with them head-on before they become fatal.  Sharing with media and the public how a flaw was fixed is often a great way to build confidence, gain support and grow a company.

Know what you want people to remember before you start talking. A good politician walks in to any speech knowing what they want to tell their audience before they say a single word.  A company needs to know what take-away they want their customers, prospects and employees to remember and feel before any action they take.  The public relations strategy and wording used needs to mirror the intended take-away.

Be consistent. It’s hard to trust a flip-flopper, so repeat the same message as often as possible.  Only then will people hear it and remember it.

Own it. In the rare cases where you must do a flip-flop, own it.  Explain why the change was the right thing to do.  People are more than willing to forgive a mistake, but only if you own it and don’t hide it.

There’s a lot more I learned working in politics which I credit to how we create strong, effective PR campaigns for our clients.  But, for the rest of this month, let’s all take a deep breath and just enjoy the end of the non-stop political attack ads.  Please?!?!?

Written by Josh Weiss, President, 10 to 1 Public Relations, josh@10to1pr.com

Are Reporters a Pain in the Ass?

This recent exchange between a reporter and Senator Lindsey Graham applies to business too, not just politics.

Reporter: Do you believe the news media is the enemy of the people?

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “No, I think the press in America is a check and balance on power. … Sometimes you can be a pain in the ass, but you’re not the enemy of the people.”

I often am asked by clients if they can have a reporter’s questions in advance or if they can review a story before it runs.  I do understand this from their perspective. They want their story told in a certain way and want to look as good as possible.

But reporters aren’t writing advertisements for your company.  If you want an ad, go pay for it.

Reporters are supposed to give their readers information that they believe is timely and important for them to know. It’s not their job to care if you like the final story or not.  Their job is facts and accuracy, and making sure the reader sees value in what they learned from the story.

The truth is, not every story is worth telling. I hate being a buzz kill, but pretty often I have to pop a client’s balloon and tell them their story idea won’t get the coverage they desire.  Yes, a good PR strategy can put “lipstick on the pig” to make an otherwise tired story more interesting, timely and worthy of a reporter’s consideration. We do that all the time with excellent results- but that’s a different blog for a different time.

The point is, reporters are the main gatekeeper to what’s ultimately a story and what’s not. Respect that and use it to your advantage, don’t fight it, because you’ll lose.

And yes, I can agree, sometimes reporters ARE as Lindsey Graham put it, a pain in the ass. Why?  Because it’s their job to dig in and find the real story, to share new information that hasn’t already been told that they can give to their readers.  After all, it’s called NEWS not OLDS.

  • If your business wants a story about a major purchase or contract win, the first thing the reporter is going to ask is for detailed numbers. It’s a legitimate, important detail of their story.  Don’t be surprised if they push you for an answer.
  • If you make a claim in an announcement that something is new, you better be able to easily explain how it really is new and not the same story you tried to share six months earlier.
  • If you want coverage on your company doing a food drive or participating in a 5k during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Figure out what makes your effort unique and different from all the other companies doing similar things. Why should a reporter choose you for the story over someone else, or even worse, why should they do the story at all when it’s already been told several times?

The reporter isn’t being an pain for asking hard questions or questions you don’t want to answer.  They’re doing their job. If you want good stories, give good answers. When we are pitching stories, we always look for a unique visual way to describe the story. We offer stats and details. We give them different story angles to choose from.  The easier you make it for them (and us) to tell the story you want—the full story—the more likely you’ll get the story you want.

The vast majority of reporters are good, honest reporters.  They genuinely try to tell the story minus any personal or political bias. When you read a normal news story, you don’t read it thinking about who wrote it or that their personal opinion was included in the story.

That’s not to say that a reporter’s past personal experiences or implicit bias doesn’t influence what they write, but there’s a big difference of a reporter trying to be anonymous and simply provide facts within a story and a Columnist or reviewer writing in the first person whose job it is to try and “be” the story or create conversation and disagreement.

Let me leave one last thought. Sometimes, even when you get the story, you might find it’s not as robust or glowing as we expected.  The story might leave out information we consider important, but the reporter didn’t include. Complaining doesn’t help.  At worse, it could even result in the client becoming the pain in the butt not the reporter (at least in the eyes of a PR firm!!).

The truth is, we just need to accept it and be happy we got the story at all.  I still rather get an okay story than no story for a client.  Every collected drip of coverage combines to create a pool of long-term goodwill (if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, watch the video at www.10to1pr.com).

by Josh Weiss

Why Companies and PR Pros Should Think Small to Make a Big Impression

Have you ever heard of the 10 to 1 rule? It’s the idea that it takes 10 good things to be said about a company to make up for one negative story. And since it’s only a matter of time before somebody says something negative (regardless of if it’s true or false), it’s essential to build up a good will bank to protect and inoculate your reputation.

Luckily, every company has lots of good stories.  Unfortunately, few of these stories are recognized internally or shared externally.  The real error or threat is in the mindset that many of these stories are too small or unworthy of your effort. Failing to take advantage of smaller story opportunities is one of the most common, and most negatively hurtful things a company can do to their long-term success.

Think of each small news story as a drip out of a faucet. If you collect the drips, you can use the water any way you need it going forward. Compare that to doing one big story where it’s like taking a shower. It feels great when the water’s running but as soon as you turn it off the water goes down the drain.  Before long you dry off and forget the experience.

Need a more direct example?  Let’s say a new restaurant opens in your neighborhood.  If the first thing you hear is negative- like that the food was bad or the service was terrible- you’re never going to walk in the door. But instead at first you hear lots of positive comments from various friends and neighbors (that they liked the food, enjoyed the ambiance, had good service, etc.,) before hearing about a negative experience, you’re still open to try the restaurant out yourself. Granted, it may not be the first restaurant on your list anymore, but you’re still willing to walk in the door.

How about a sports metaphor?  Too many PR Pros are constantly trying to hit home runs.  I get it, I love hitting a home run too.  But the problem with home runs is that even the best players strike out far more often than they knock it out of the park.  Change the strategy.  Instead, focus on hitting lots of base hit singles.  Play “small ball” and run up the score.

Or how about a more selfish reason:  Would it be better for you professionally, as well as for your company, to have multiple stories listed on your website? Even if those stories are from smaller and mid-sized media outlets spanning six months? or would you prefer one story link from a prime media outlet during that same time period? Oh, and don’t forget the benefit to your sales team.  Multiple articles gives them more examples to add to collateral materials and sales kits providing more third-party validation of your company.

To be clear, I’m not saying to avoid big story efforts.  Big stories are great and should absolutely be part of your PR goals.  They just shouldn’t be your entire PR goal.  Stop ignoring or minimizing the importance of small stories and the power and protection they provide companies.  The added reach and frequency small stories collectively provide your company will create the desired echo chamber for your target audience.

So think small, to make a big impression.

Part 3 of What Companies Should Do During a Media Crisis: Communicating to your Impacted Customers and Supporters

The hardest and most important communications you have to handle during a crisis is to set the right tone and be responsive when sharing information to your supporters and any impacted customers.

Your customers are the ones who ultimately hold your company’s destiny in their hands.  If you want to weather the storm, the easiest way is to protect and save what you already have secured.

Assuming you’ve already read through Part 1 of this series and already have your simplified and clarified message finalized, let’s discuss the next section of this four-part series.  How to communicate with impacted customers and your supporters during a crisis.  

Tips for talking to impacted customers:

Be Honest and Be Direct.  People will be upset- don’t ignore or belittle that anger.  Be humble and empathetic in your wording, but also tell customers what to do or what to expect.  Provide usable information in the first few sentences, don’t bury the detail halfway through your statement.  Someone who’s stressed by your company shouldn’t have to search a long document to find updates or answers.

Provide Expectations and Instructions, Even When You Don’t Know the Answer. Even if you don’t yet have all the answers, acknowledge the issue and explain that you’re working on an answer. A simple statement on your website and SM channels can help, such as:  We are aware of the issue and are working on a solution.  We will provide an update with additional information at 3pm today, or earlier if possible.

Move the Issue Off Your Main Page.  If you’ll need to communicate lots of information over time, or will be giving lots of updates over several days, create a secondary website or social media page to separate angry customers from unknowing or unimpacted customers.

Respond to Social Media Posts.  Angry customers will make lots of posts on your social media pages. Create a series of short responses that can be used. One response may simply be that you’re working on a resolution to the issue and that the company will provide an update as soon as it can.  Another might be to direct impacted customers to another page for more information, updates and how the company plans to help impacted customers. Ultimately, people want to be acknowledged, and others will see you responded.

Accept that media is a conduit to talk to upset customers.  Upset customers during a crisis will be watching media to see how you respond to the crisis.  Therefore, your response needs to have them in mind.  If customers need to do something as a result of the crisis, tell the media what customers should do and use them to help give instructions.  I’ll get more in to talking to the media in Part 4 of this series.

For the most part, people can accept that mistakes occur, and that not everything is in our control.  Customers just want to know you’re genuine in your desire to fix the problem and truly do apologize and accept responsibility when it’s expected.  If you handle the crisis well, and your customers are content with how you handled everything, they may become even more loyal to you and your brand, knowing that they can count on you to do what’s right even when it’s not easy.

-written by Josh Weiss

Part 2 of What Companies Should do During a Media Crisis: Communicating Internally to Your Staff During a Crisis

A crisis doesn’t only effect customers, it directly effects your staff. It’s your staff that has to communicate with angry, scared customers – calming their fears and resolving their problems. It’s your staff that needs to keep their cool, show empathy and have crazy amounts of patience.

Like a sports coach, leaders need to give their team the strategy and direction to implement during a crisis.

In Part 1 of this four-part series we focused on simplifying and clarifying your goals as a formal statement that all parties can focus on during a crisis.  Now let’s focus on the audience that often gets ignored and forgotten during a crisis—your own employees.

But leadership often forgets that employees themselves are often scared during a crisis. They’re scared for their jobs, they’re scared of the extra work that will be required of them, and they’re afraid of not knowing what’s really going on.

There are some important steps company leadership must take (to keep employees on their side).

Leadership needs to be seen and heard, and employees need to be told what the company is committed to doing, and how they’ll be acting in the future (see part one of this series on simplifying and clarifying your goals during a crisis).

  • Hold small group meetings with team leaders. Very quickly (within hours) have a series of small group meetings with your senior team leaders.  Hold the meeting in-person if possible, but even a video streamed meeting or conference call will work.  Tell them what you’re doing, and what they should be telling their teams.  Their staff will be looking to their supervisors for instructions, and nothing is scarier to morale that managers not knowing what to do or if they themselves look scared.  A five minute meeting can make all the difference to your teams. Make the time.
  • Walk among the workers. Have leadership walk through the cubicles and offices thanking employees and portraying confidence- even if leadership doesn’t completely feel that confidence.  If you’re in multiple locations this may not be possible, but have local leaders do the walk-around instead.  When leadership smiles and displays confidence in employees it goes a long way for morale.
  • Have your talking points and be prepared to repeat them. The key points should all revolve around the simplified, clarified statement you set (again, see Part 1 of this series).  Stay on your talking points, even when asked lots of specific questions. Stick to the main points while acknowledging that the question is valid but that you’ll make an announcement to all employees about it soon to ensure everyone has the same information at the same time to avoid more rumors or confusion.
  • Host a town hall in person or live streaming. After the initial shock, and after you have time to digest the core issues, it’s time to hold a large team meeting (or series of meetings).  Your staff may be scared, but you need to show your confidence in them.  Tell them that you know that this isn’t easy for them, but that you appreciate them. Tell them that your leadership team will support them and do all they can to help resolve the problem. Answer what questions you can, but only share information you want media or the public to hear. Even if it’s only intended for employees, all it takes is one scared or angry employee to talk to someone they shouldn’t.
  • Demonstrate your appreciation. Maybe you can buy breakfast or lunch for your teams as a simple thank you.  Maybe you can hand-write a handful of letters to key team members at all levels telling them they are appreciated.  Maybe you can send a group email to a select team saying that you appreciate their efforts.  Simple acknowledgements and thank yous go a long way in keeping staff on your side.

Your staff is already going to have their hands full dealing with customers and the public, but if you lose the support and confidence in your own employees your task becomes nearly impossible. By investing the time to communicate and solidify support of your internal teams, your likelihood of quickly winning back customers and the public support goes up significantly.

-Written by Josh Weiss