Talking Turkey: Five Tips To Make Your Thanksgiving And Your Social Media a Success

Can you spot the real turkey?

Every family has one.  It was the Thanksgiving from Hell.

You remember…as much as you don’t want to, you do.

It was the year that Mom didn’t do turkey.  Instead she tried the Mongolian-Irish-Colombian-Vegan eel recipe she got from the guy handing out fliers at the mall.  The meal was so bad that Uncle Silus got drunk and yelled at Cousin Teddy, who got drunk and took the sledge hammer to Great Grannie Edie’s heirloom crystal cat collection.  By the end of the evening, the men were passed out amongst the crystal chards while Mom, in tears, chased the dogs away from the untouched dinner, not realizing that the animals were the only things that got her cooking.

Ahh the memories.  The terrible, ungodly, please-god-never-ever-let-that-happen-again memories.  I think we can all agree that we never want to go there again.

Amazingly, similar stuff happens when businesses get cute with their social media.

The boss has no clue about social media so he appoints some kid to do it for him.  The kid “totally knows this rad new platform that all the other kids are using” and ends up spending thousands on some site that can only be accessed in South Korea.  Meanwhile, the Twitter page that a former worker set up, is being used as a “why work sucks” discussion between two other employees who had access because the ex-worker sent everyone the password in a email.

Yeah…no.  We don’t want that either.

Never fear.  Here are five tips to ensure that your Thanksgiving, and your social media, will be a success

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Too often, people treat Thanksgiving as a game of “anything you can do, I can do better.”  They try to make the dish that will be the one that the family will talk about for years.  The problem is, it usually is.  No one wants vegan eels for Thanksgiving.  They want turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Just because it’s not unique doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious.   And because you’re comfortable making turkey, it probably will be.

The same goes for your social media.  Here’s a secret, the reason why most businesses stick to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is because those are the sites the everyone else is using.   Social media is a tool to let people know about all the great things your business is doing.   I could have the coolest social media set up, but if no one sees it, it won’t do me any good.  Sticking to the social media sites that your familiar with, that other people are familiar with, will give you a better chance of successfully getting your message across.

DON’T PUT TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE

Let me tell you what "seconds" means

This is something we all do, and regret it every year.  We see all the food on the Thanksgiving table and want to eat it all.  Now!  Unfortunately, by the time we’re done piling everything on our plate we have mixed everything together into an indistinguishable brown pile of mush.  It might still taste good, but we miss the chance to taste each dish individually. We might find that some of the dishes we liked aren’t as tasty as we thought, while other that we might not have liked turn out to be our favorites.  Knowing this can be helpful when you’re going back for seconds.  Because there will always be seconds.

Too many of us seem to have the same problem when it comes to social media.  There are so many interesting social media tools that we just can’t resist using all of them.  Sadly, when it comes time to use those tools, we don’t have the time or understanding to truly take advantage of each tool’s unique strengths.  By using fewer tools and getting to know them well, you can find which ones really suit your social media needs.

REMEMBER GRANDMA’S THERE

Remember the time Crazy Uncle Silus got really drunk and started telling loud tales about his escapades in the red light district of Amsterdam, using the dog’s favorite toy to explain every graphic detail?  So does your Grandmother, which is why Unky Silly doesn’t seem to make Thanksgiving anymore.  No one wants to feel uncomfortable at Thanksgiving.  Keep it that way.

Same goes for social media.  The last thing you want is people to see your social media and feel uncomfortable.  If they do, you can bet on two things happening.  The first is that they won’t look at your social media anymore.  The second is that they will tell lots of other people who, also, won’t look at your social media anymore.

A good rule of thumb for making sure your social media is appropriate is to ask yourself if your grandmother would be o.k. reading your stuff.  If you can’t say yes, you might want to rethink what you’re writing.

You may remember Thanksgiving but your family will

SCREWS UPS WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

I don’t mean to keep reminding you about that Thanksgiving nightmare you’ve been trying to forget, but it should serve as a reminder of why everyone should mind their manners over the holidays.  Crazy Uncle Silus wasn’t always “crazy.”  But down a whole bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream and lay waste to a family heirloom and that’s all anyone will remember.  Don’t be that person.  Don’t talk politics.  Don’t bring up embarrassing stories about yourself or anyone else.  If you do, I can assure you, you’ll be hearing about it for the rest of your life.

Screwing up on social media has the same effect.  You make one unfortunate remark in a blog post, or malign someone’s mother in a tweet and you will never be able to put it behind you.  This is particularly bad if the faux pas happens on your businesses’ social media sites.  Your business will always be associated with that mistake.  Google will make sure of that.  So make sure you proof your work, and please no drunken Twitter posts.  No one wants that.

HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER

It is natural at Thanksgiving for the alcohol to flow as much as the food does.  A pre-meal martini, wine with dinner, a beer watching football and pretty soon you’re feeling pretty happy.  Make sure you aren’t driving.  Getting a DUI would definitely fall under the “Screw Up” section above.  Worse would be having a crash that killed you or someone else.  Thanksgiving would never be the same.  Having a designated driver will ensure that your family remembers Thanksgivings past for the right reasons.

Having a designated driver for your social media is essential as well.  Giving multiple people access to your businesses’ social media is just asking for trouble.  The more people who have access, the better the chance of an online train wreck.  Remember the “work sucks” employees?    You just don’t want that.  Make sure you have one person who is in charge of your social media.  It will make your message clearer and there will be a significantly less chance of having any social media “mistakes.”

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities to having a successful Thanksgiving and a successful social media campaign.  If you make sure to keep it simple, don’t put too much on your plate, remember grandma, limit your screw ups and appoint a designated driver, your Thanksgiving and you social media will give you a lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

 

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Probing the TSA Mess: Four PR Tips To Stop A Bad Situation From Getting Worse

O.K. quiz time.  What’s the one job you wouldn’t take if it were offered to you tomorrow?

Yes, yes, I know.  Gorilla milker and phone book proofer are on the list, but I’m sure there were plenty of folks who immediately thought….

Not everyone likes TSA's screening procedures

TSA airport screener.

The TSA, or Transportation Security Administrations, has been getting a lot of grief lately for their “thorough” body search policy at airports.  Now, I’m not here to “probe” into whether the TSA deserves the criticism they’re getting for the invasive pat downs.   What I wanted to do was use the TSA to illustrate how a poor public relations response can turn a bad situation into an unbridled disaster.

It’s a lesson that every business really needs to learn.

The problem is that with the growth of social media and all the access that goes with it, businesses are becoming increasingly susceptible to getting bad publicity.  It happens a lot.   What most businesses don’t understand, however, is that it’s not the initial bad press that gets a company in trouble, but their response to it.  A lot of times that means simply making sure you don’t do anything to make matters worse.

Here are four tips to stop a business from making a bad situation worse.

TAKE THE HIGH ROAD

Put yourselves in the TSA’s position for a moment.  You are in charge of every airport in the country.  You must screen millions of passengers, many of whom are just plain disagreeable, every day.  And now you have to read daily accounts of people who have had nightmarish experiences at the hands of some of your agents.

Your first instinct is to want to fight back.  You want to defend yourself.  You want to shove everything back at your “know-nothing, stupid, bus riding” critics and make them eat their words.

Don’t.  You’ll regret it.

Just ask TSA Head John Pistole.

John Pistole, Head of TSA

What a business needs to understand is that most folks take the side of the perceived victim when there is a dispute.  TSA is NOT the victim, the passengers are.  It may not be fair, but its reality.  Maligning the victim and trashing their supporters will only make you look worse.

Instead, take the high road.

Had the TSA showed any sympathy to the people having problems with the invasive screenings, rather than say “digging their heels in,” there wouldn’t have been quite the backlash.

SHOW WE’RE ON THE SAME SIDE

One of the TSA’s worst mistakes has been to turn the issue of invasive screening into an “us-versus-them” situation.  By doing this, the TSA has framed themselves as the opponent rather than as a supporter of the flying public.  Not very wise.  The TSA would have been better served to take this type of stance.

We understand and sympathize with everyone regarding the inconvenience of the increased screenings.  Believe us, we hate it as much as you do.  We feel badly about the increased screenings, but we would much rather feel badly about that than about sending hundreds of people into harm’s way because we chose convenience over safety.

Please.  We need your help.

If any of our agents are not treating you with respect and professionalism let us know.  We are all in this together.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Letting people understand that you’re on their side helps to diffuse many situations.

NO VENDETTAS

In many cases a business will want to “punish” the people who are causing them problems.  It may feel good, but acting on vendettas might be the worst thing to do.  Take TSA.  There are reports that TSA workers will start a work slowdown to show their displeasure about screening criticisms and a possible protest over Thanksgiving.

I can’t think of  a worse idea.

If people are angry with you, treating them worse won’t help.  Furthermore, if you find that you have employees who are acting on vendettas and you don’t get rid of them, your business will be looked at as having been in on it.

You must treat everyone even better than you normally would.  Especially the people complaining about your business.

BE OF GOOD CHEER

Let’s face it.  Screenings aren’t going to go away.  What doesn’t help, however, is when the TSA agents are grumpy, stern, and rude.  This just feeds into the public’s perception about the TSA as an opponent, rather than a partner in safety.

If you are pleasant, (not annoyingly cheerful or acting like a joker) people will be much more patient.  If you are already dealing with a bad situation, showing some understanding that the customer is being inconvenienced will let people know that you care about them.

In short, people want to know that you care when your business in making their life harder.

TSA didn’t do this.  Instead, they dug in their heels, threatened work slowdowns, and acted like they didn’t care about the passengers they were working with.  And because of that, they made a bad situation much, much worse.

So take a lesson from the TSA.  Everyone gets bad publicity, it’s how you respond to it that will truly help, or hurt your business.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

Crisis Communications Fail: How EA Sports' Bad Public Relations Turned A Molehill into A Mountain

EA Sports made an error

I’d like to share with you a public relations nightmare I’m witnessing first hand.

When I have a bit of free time, I like to play online games.  My game of choice is Tiger Woods Online by EA Sports.  I like it because I can just fire it up on my browser without having to worry about any additional hardware.   The problem is, I can’t just reset it when there’s a glitch.

Like today.

See, with online games, the developers feel that if the game isn’t constantly updated, people will get bored and they’ll lose their jobs.  For EA Sports this means an update every week or so.

Now it’s a good thought to keep the game fresh, but in reality more updates means more glitches that need fixin’.  In this case the glitch is that no one can play any of the tournaments, which is why we play in the first place.

To fully understand the issue I’ve posted a bit of the timeline for the announcement of the update.  It starts with…

11/15/2010 15:06:14            Subject:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
Excellent right?  But shortly after comes this message from a player.
11/16/2010 05:37:02          Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
URGENT – Since update, cannot load tournaments. Load stopping at confirming log in. Please check this out.
Now that’s a problem, but I’m sure that a huge company will be all over this issue, letting us know what’s happening. 

Ummmmm.  Let’s fast forward MORE THAN 24 HOURS LATER.

11/17/2010 06:37:12              Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
I cant play in Full screen now either. Longest drive missing from Friends’ contest, no EXP from making the cut, cant play tourneys, etc…. How is this an update? Maybe the reason we havent heard from EA is because they are working on a fix
Well yes, I’m sure they are working on a fix.  But I’m afraid the damage has been done. 

Why?

Simply put, a company must never, ever, neglect their customers.  This means you need to keep them updated.  Always.

I know.  I can hear it now.  “But they’re in the middle of a crisis.”

Doesn’t matter.  In fact, it is critical that you utilize your public relations during a crisis in order to keep your customers informed.

Let me explain.

What makes a crisis so bad for a company?  It’s the uncertainty.  How bad is the problem?  Is there anything that can be done?  Who’s working on this?  When will things get back to normal?  People need reassurance that a company is working to fix whatever problem they’re having or else they panic.  Or get angry.

When people don’t hear from a company like EA Sports about a problem for more than 24 hours, uncertainty creeps in and people start coming to their own conclusions about what’s happening.  And that’s always bad news for the company.

How do you stop it?  You keep people updated.  Frequently.  You let them know what the issues are.  What problems you’re having, and most importantly, what you’re doing to fix it.

You control the message.  EA Sports didn’t do this and it’s killing them.

Is EA Sports working to try and fix this?  I’m sure they are.  But how do we know?  We don’t and now people are posting things like this….

The lack of a fix in 24 hours is bad enough, but what is losing me as a supporter of EA is the total lack of response in 24 hours.  Not a word… NOTHING. As many have said before this post, this failure to communicate is totally UNACCEPTABLE. 

I don’t post here often because I’ve felt some progress has been being made but this incident shows that I’ve been a fool. What EA has failed to realize is that if you take the heroin away, a crack dealer will soon fill the void. And right now I’m Jones-in for a game and will be checking out the other new golf options. Thanks, EA, for cutting me off….

And come renewal time, my one subscription won’t make them pay attention…. but if we get 1,000 of us organized and ready to boycott come April, well I guarantee you $50,000 worth of subscriptions will make someone start paying attention….

I’m done enabling EA’s crap behavior and poor decisions..gonna see some tough love from now on until they kick their bad habits with TWO members.

The goal is 1,000. Count off.

1.

Yikes. 

If only they had kept their customers informed.  A simple lesson, so expensively learned.

So a lesson for all you businesses that may face a crisis in the future (that’s pretty much all of you).  Don’t neglect your public relations in a crisis.  Customers understand mistakes.  All they want is some reassurances that you care and that you’re trying to make things better.

If you don’t give them that, well they’ll go to someone who will.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

Crisis Communications Fail: How EA Sports’ Bad Public Relations Turned A Molehill into A Mountain

EA Sports made an error

I’d like to share with you a public relations nightmare I’m witnessing first hand.

When I have a bit of free time, I like to play online games.  My game of choice is Tiger Woods Online by EA Sports.  I like it because I can just fire it up on my browser without having to worry about any additional hardware.   The problem is, I can’t just reset it when there’s a glitch.

Like today.

See, with online games, the developers feel that if the game isn’t constantly updated, people will get bored and they’ll lose their jobs.  For EA Sports this means an update every week or so.

Now it’s a good thought to keep the game fresh, but in reality more updates means more glitches that need fixin’.  In this case the glitch is that no one can play any of the tournaments, which is why we play in the first place.

To fully understand the issue I’ve posted a bit of the timeline for the announcement of the update.  It starts with…

11/15/2010 15:06:14            Subject:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
Excellent right?  But shortly after comes this message from a player.
11/16/2010 05:37:02          Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
URGENT – Since update, cannot load tournaments. Load stopping at confirming log in. Please check this out.
Now that’s a problem, but I’m sure that a huge company will be all over this issue, letting us know what’s happening. 

Ummmmm.  Let’s fast forward MORE THAN 24 HOURS LATER.

11/17/2010 06:37:12              Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
I cant play in Full screen now either. Longest drive missing from Friends’ contest, no EXP from making the cut, cant play tourneys, etc…. How is this an update? Maybe the reason we havent heard from EA is because they are working on a fix
Well yes, I’m sure they are working on a fix.  But I’m afraid the damage has been done. 

Why?

Simply put, a company must never, ever, neglect their customers.  This means you need to keep them updated.  Always.

I know.  I can hear it now.  “But they’re in the middle of a crisis.”

Doesn’t matter.  In fact, it is critical that you utilize your public relations during a crisis in order to keep your customers informed.

Let me explain.

What makes a crisis so bad for a company?  It’s the uncertainty.  How bad is the problem?  Is there anything that can be done?  Who’s working on this?  When will things get back to normal?  People need reassurance that a company is working to fix whatever problem they’re having or else they panic.  Or get angry.

When people don’t hear from a company like EA Sports about a problem for more than 24 hours, uncertainty creeps in and people start coming to their own conclusions about what’s happening.  And that’s always bad news for the company.

How do you stop it?  You keep people updated.  Frequently.  You let them know what the issues are.  What problems you’re having, and most importantly, what you’re doing to fix it.

You control the message.  EA Sports didn’t do this and it’s killing them.

Is EA Sports working to try and fix this?  I’m sure they are.  But how do we know?  We don’t and now people are posting things like this….

The lack of a fix in 24 hours is bad enough, but what is losing me as a supporter of EA is the total lack of response in 24 hours.  Not a word… NOTHING. As many have said before this post, this failure to communicate is totally UNACCEPTABLE. 

I don’t post here often because I’ve felt some progress has been being made but this incident shows that I’ve been a fool. What EA has failed to realize is that if you take the heroin away, a crack dealer will soon fill the void. And right now I’m Jones-in for a game and will be checking out the other new golf options. Thanks, EA, for cutting me off….

And come renewal time, my one subscription won’t make them pay attention…. but if we get 1,000 of us organized and ready to boycott come April, well I guarantee you $50,000 worth of subscriptions will make someone start paying attention….

I’m done enabling EA’s crap behavior and poor decisions..gonna see some tough love from now on until they kick their bad habits with TWO members.

The goal is 1,000. Count off.

1.

Yikes. 

If only they had kept their customers informed.  A simple lesson, so expensively learned.

So a lesson for all you businesses that may face a crisis in the future (that’s pretty much all of you).  Don’t neglect your public relations in a crisis.  Customers understand mistakes.  All they want is some reassurances that you care and that you’re trying to make things better.

If you don’t give them that, well they’ll go to someone who will.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

The Self-Inflicted Crisis: Six Things You Can Learn From Pinnacol Assurance's PR Blunder

Self-Inflicted mistakes hurt the worst

As a public relations person, I like to think of myself as an “image advocate.”  Essentially, that means I work to publicize anything you do well and try to minimize any bad press.  What a lot of PR and business people don’t understand, however, is that an “image advocate” also needs to protect a business from itself.  Many times this means letting a client know, in no uncertain terms, that they are responsible for their own bad press and that they need to change the way they do things on every level.

The problem is that businesses don’t seem to like getting that type of advice.  They don’t understand that public relations isn’t just about media relations.  It’s about customer relations, employee relations, and community relations.  Heck, any relations you have as a business falls under PR, and when a business is screwing it up they need to fix it.  Or face the repercussions.

Think I’m blowing smoke?  Ask Pinnacol Assurance.

You see, Pinnacol Assurance has had some public relations trouble in its past.  All of it self-inflicted.  You would have thought, after all that nonsense, that Pinnacol would have made sure to fix some things to try and stay out of the media’s cross-hairs.

You’d be wrong.  From 7News in Denver.

DENVER — The state’s largest worker’s compensation insurance company denied a Denver man’s claim, celebrating the denial in e-mails, a CALL7 Investigation found.

Workers comp provider Pinnacol Assurance lost a lawsuit by Michael Schuessler claiming the company improperly denied his claim.

Incredible.

What is most egregious is not that the workers were celebrating the denials, but that there was no one inside the company with the public relations sense to try and stop this kind of stuff in the first place.  Now, Pinnacol Assurance will be, justly, raked over the coals for the second time in roughly six months.

And it could have been prevented.

Don’t make the same error Pinnacol Assurance made.  Here are six things that a company can do to recover from a self-inflicted crisis.

APOLOGIZE AND THANK

A company that has been through a self inflicted crisis will never truly get over it.  Nor should they.  Ten years from now, Pinnacol will still be hearing from people about this mess.  They must continue to apologize to people, and thank them for remembering.  Why?  Because each time  Pinnacol’s mistakes are brought up, it creates an opportunity to explain how they have changed.  If a business has changed and has embraced their past, there is an opportunity to regain some of that lost trust.

DO A COMMUNICATIONS AUDIT

If a company like Pinnacol is so tone deaf in one area of their company, chances are they’re tone deaf in lots of areas.  You need to look at every part of your company to see what can be done better.  Not only will you see where your problems are, but you’ll quickly see your strengths as well.  Once you have that, you can understand the true scope of your problems and get to work fixing them.

TAKE A FRESH LOOK

One of the main issues all industries have is the dreaded “echo chamber.”  There are things we do that seem normal to us, but to someone from the outside it may seem offensive.  I’m quite sure that many insurance companies, who must deal with, and deny, millions of claims a year can act quite callous about it.  It’s a tool for coping.

You must bring in someone from the outside to give you a fresh look at your procedures.  They can show you areas where you need repairs that you didn’t even think of.  Plus it will give you credibility by showing that you are serious about fixing your problems.

FIX PROBLEMS

This seems silly but you’d be surprised how many businesses think that because the spotlight is no longer shining on them they can go back to business as usual.  This will only turn that one day story into a six month story (Read more about that here).  You must understand that once you are involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you are on the media’s radar.  Anything other problems will send the press back to you in a heart beat.  You don’t want that.

Any problems you find have to be fixed, and fixed properly.

KEEP EMPLOYEES INVOLVED

A key thing to understand about Pinnacol Assurance’s latest gaffe is that the employees didn’t understand they were connected to the earlier problems.  That disconnect caused the current screw-up.  When you have a crisis, you must let your employees know that they are affected, but they are also part of the solution.  When employees have ownership of a company’s solution, they will be much more likely to act proactively to fix problems they might encounter.  The more people looking for problems to fix, the better.

NEVER FORGET

If you’ve been involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you know.  The lack of sleep, the heartburn, the worry, and the shame.  No one likes to go through that.   So remember, every day, about how bad that was and you will be much more likely NOT to repeat your mistakes.

Pinnacol Assurance is going through a terrible time right now, and they have no one to blame but themselves.  They will be hurt from this.  But if they take this advice and move forward, they will survive and come out a much better company.

And that, really, is what “image advocacy” is all about.  Making companies better so that there is more good news to celebrate.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

The Self-Inflicted Crisis: Six Things You Can Learn From Pinnacol Assurance’s PR Blunder

Self-Inflicted mistakes hurt the worst

As a public relations person, I like to think of myself as an “image advocate.”  Essentially, that means I work to publicize anything you do well and try to minimize any bad press.  What a lot of PR and business people don’t understand, however, is that an “image advocate” also needs to protect a business from itself.  Many times this means letting a client know, in no uncertain terms, that they are responsible for their own bad press and that they need to change the way they do things on every level.

The problem is that businesses don’t seem to like getting that type of advice.  They don’t understand that public relations isn’t just about media relations.  It’s about customer relations, employee relations, and community relations.  Heck, any relations you have as a business falls under PR, and when a business is screwing it up they need to fix it.  Or face the repercussions.

Think I’m blowing smoke?  Ask Pinnacol Assurance.

You see, Pinnacol Assurance has had some public relations trouble in its past.  All of it self-inflicted.  You would have thought, after all that nonsense, that Pinnacol would have made sure to fix some things to try and stay out of the media’s cross-hairs.

You’d be wrong.  From 7News in Denver.

DENVER — The state’s largest worker’s compensation insurance company denied a Denver man’s claim, celebrating the denial in e-mails, a CALL7 Investigation found.

Workers comp provider Pinnacol Assurance lost a lawsuit by Michael Schuessler claiming the company improperly denied his claim.

Incredible.

What is most egregious is not that the workers were celebrating the denials, but that there was no one inside the company with the public relations sense to try and stop this kind of stuff in the first place.  Now, Pinnacol Assurance will be, justly, raked over the coals for the second time in roughly six months.

And it could have been prevented.

Don’t make the same error Pinnacol Assurance made.  Here are six things that a company can do to recover from a self-inflicted crisis.

APOLOGIZE AND THANK

A company that has been through a self inflicted crisis will never truly get over it.  Nor should they.  Ten years from now, Pinnacol will still be hearing from people about this mess.  They must continue to apologize to people, and thank them for remembering.  Why?  Because each time  Pinnacol’s mistakes are brought up, it creates an opportunity to explain how they have changed.  If a business has changed and has embraced their past, there is an opportunity to regain some of that lost trust.

DO A COMMUNICATIONS AUDIT

If a company like Pinnacol is so tone deaf in one area of their company, chances are they’re tone deaf in lots of areas.  You need to look at every part of your company to see what can be done better.  Not only will you see where your problems are, but you’ll quickly see your strengths as well.  Once you have that, you can understand the true scope of your problems and get to work fixing them.

TAKE A FRESH LOOK

One of the main issues all industries have is the dreaded “echo chamber.”  There are things we do that seem normal to us, but to someone from the outside it may seem offensive.  I’m quite sure that many insurance companies, who must deal with, and deny, millions of claims a year can act quite callous about it.  It’s a tool for coping.

You must bring in someone from the outside to give you a fresh look at your procedures.  They can show you areas where you need repairs that you didn’t even think of.  Plus it will give you credibility by showing that you are serious about fixing your problems.

FIX PROBLEMS

This seems silly but you’d be surprised how many businesses think that because the spotlight is no longer shining on them they can go back to business as usual.  This will only turn that one day story into a six month story (Read more about that here).  You must understand that once you are involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you are on the media’s radar.  Anything other problems will send the press back to you in a heart beat.  You don’t want that.

Any problems you find have to be fixed, and fixed properly.

KEEP EMPLOYEES INVOLVED

A key thing to understand about Pinnacol Assurance’s latest gaffe is that the employees didn’t understand they were connected to the earlier problems.  That disconnect caused the current screw-up.  When you have a crisis, you must let your employees know that they are affected, but they are also part of the solution.  When employees have ownership of a company’s solution, they will be much more likely to act proactively to fix problems they might encounter.  The more people looking for problems to fix, the better.

NEVER FORGET

If you’ve been involved in a self-inflicted crisis, you know.  The lack of sleep, the heartburn, the worry, and the shame.  No one likes to go through that.   So remember, every day, about how bad that was and you will be much more likely NOT to repeat your mistakes.

Pinnacol Assurance is going through a terrible time right now, and they have no one to blame but themselves.  They will be hurt from this.  But if they take this advice and move forward, they will survive and come out a much better company.

And that, really, is what “image advocacy” is all about.  Making companies better so that there is more good news to celebrate.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow, Dude: An Aspen Snowboarder Helps To Explain the Secret to Successful Crisis Communications

Mitch Reed in a happier moment

Before I was a P.R. pro for hire (go here if you’re interested), I spent a lot of years working as a reporter.  Back then, it felt like winning the lottery when a story like this one from the Aspen Daily News fell into our laps.

A local man has confessed to stealing hundreds of copies of the Aspen Daily News and The Aspen Times from newspaper boxes throughout the valley last Friday morning.

Mitch Reed, 23, said he drove around to various newspaper boxes about 7:30 a.m. Friday, removing copies of both newspapers in an attempt to spare embarrassment to a buddy who was in that day’s police blotter in both publications.

You see, anytime I could take a one day story and turn it into a two day story, well, that was just awesome.  Now I think  the opposite.  How can I keep that one day story from spilling over to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Well, thanks to Mr. Reed, and his honorable stupidity, anyone can learn the secret to crisis communications success. Here are four things Mr. Reed didn’t do that you should to minimize a crisis.

TAKE A BREATH AND THINK

I  know this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to stay rational in a crisis.  Take a minute to gather yourself and think about what the worst possible outcome could be.

Take Mitch here (may I call you Mitch?).  It’s obvious that he saw the looming problem that was his friend showing up in the Aspen Daily News police blotter, and freaked out.  If he had chilled out for a sec, he might have seen that, while showing up in the blotter is bad, there are worse places for your name to show up in a paper.  Like the front page.

Giving yourself a second to breathe and think will give you a chance to see the crisis in its proper perspective.  Mitch didn’t do this.

ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS

Once you have a grasp of the problem you face, you can now start figuring out the best ways to fix it.  Come up with as many solutions as possible and follow them to their probable conclusion.  Choose the one that gives you the best chance to minimize the damage.

Had Mitch done this, he might have seen that, yes, stealing all the newspapers in Aspen is a possible solution.  Is it the best option to try and keep a buddy’s name out of the spotlight?  I’m thinking NO.  Perhaps helping his buddy work on explaining himself and apologizing to people that actually brought it up might have been a better choice, but that’s just me.

DON’T COVER UP

There is one hard and fast rule about crisis communications that no one ever seems to learn.

Never, Never, Never try to cover up bad news.

Ask Nixon.  If a reporter thinks that you’re hiding something they are gonna investigate.  They will find the truth, do a story on the cover up then do more research into what else are you possibly hiding.  Maybe they ask ex-employees about you.  You know, the one you fired who said you’d regret it one day?

In Mitch’s case, he didn’t understand the when folks don’t get their papers, they complain to that paper.  When hundreds of people complain, they investigate.  Then they write another article talking about Mitch while mentioning his friend’s name in the blotter.  I bet more people read that blotter now.

WEATHER THE STORM

It’s never fun when bad stuff happens, but the one thing you need to remember is this.  Hit it Annie

You will get passed this crisis.  And how you handle it will tell everyone as much about your company as any problem you might have had.

So thank you Mitch.  You’ve done all of us an invaluable service.  You have illustrated that turning a small problem into a bigger one is exactly the wrong way to deal with a crisis.

Instead, take a breath, assess your options, never cover up, and weather the storm.  You do this and that bad story they wrote about you today will be forgotten tomorrow.