Both tear provoking and thought provoking. As a “card carrying member” of that sandwich generation, I find myself staring at an eclectic mess of my mother’s things and at my two daughters who’ll eventually have to deal with all of it if I don’t first. Great inspiration to “live lighter.”
Plan Now for Tomorrow’s Crisis January 5, 2012
Last year may well go down as “the year of the crisis.” The killing of six individuals and wounding of Senator Gabby Giffords in February; the devastating earthquake in Japan and the subsequent precarious state of its nuclear power plants; the devastating spring tornadoes that ripped apart communities like Joplin and Tuscaloosa and then the debilitating Penn State debacle.
This list makes the potential problems your company might face seem miniscule, but don’t be fooled; it doesn’t take a crisis of epic proportions to cripple a business. As you plan for the upcoming year, I encourage you to set aside some time to think about your crisis communication plan.
A crisis is traditionally defined by business leaders as “any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of your company, usually brought on by adverse or negative media attention.” These situations can be any kind of legal dispute, theft, accident, fire, flood or manmade disaster that could be attributed to your company or impact your ability to operate. It can also be a situation in which the public perceives your company did not react in the appropriate manner.
In an increasing litigious society in which information is shared with the masses as fast as a “140-character Tweet,” a proactive crisis communication plan has become an essential document for every business. And while some public relations firms may see it as a beneficial “add on” to their services, I firmly believe a proactive crisis communication plan – performed long before a TV news crew is standing on your doorstep – is an essential piece of an overall communications strategy for organizations.
The first step in this plan is performing an audit of the business to determine potential scenarios. This includes consideration of its number of employees, its vulnerability in terms of potential exposure and risk and its standing as a private entity, public company or government agency. Some things to consider:
- Do your employees interact with the public, particularly minors?
- Does your company provide a service on which the population depends?
- Does your workplace have potentially dangerous equipment or products?
- Do your employees operate a vehicle as part of their jobs?
These questions are fairly obvious and can prompt a long list of “worst case scenarios.” And rest assured, just when you close your eyes for sleep, you’ll probably think of one more. That’s okay – that’s why you’re going through this exercise: so you can rest easy.
The next step is to take this long list and cull them down to about one dozen – you’ll find some of them have common themes like “traumatic incidents of a personal nature that profoundly impact workforce” (which would include an employee’s death, suicide or being the victim of a violent crime, non-work related) to “incidents of disaster that impact both the facility and business” (tornado, fire, etc.). Once identified, decide your core message points for each of these scenarios (and put them in writing!) as well as to whom and how you will be responding. Do you issue a news release? Do you wait for the media to contact you? Is the message the same for stakeholders as it is for customers and clients? These variables make the difference between a well-executed response and a botched attempt from which a company might never recover.
Likewise, identify who should be notified of the crisis and when as well as who will be doing the talking to the previously identified audiences. These respondents should not only include the company president and management, but appropriate advisors like legal counsel and a public relations professional. This “phone tree” should include cell numbers, home numbers, email addresses, etc. Here’s the most important part of the phone tree and the rest of your communications plan: It doesn’t do you any good if it’s in your desk drawer at 3 a.m. In today’s “mobile” society, save a copy on your smart phone, on an external server, on thumb drives for the entire team and a few hardcopy notebooks distributed around “just in case.”
A crisis never happens at a convenient time, exactly as you have planned and most often, not even between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. … that’s why it’s a crisis. But you can take some control of the situation by proactive preparation. If you remember nothing else, remember this: The most important thing to remember in a crisis is tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth. If you do this you have done all you can to minimize the situation.
With that, I wish you a happy (and hopefully crisis-free) 2012!
What I Did On My Summer Vacation August 16, 2011
It was recently brought to my attention that I had not posted a new blog in quite a while. Upon further investigation, I was surprised to see that I had not managed to write one blog during the last few months. So, to borrow from one of my favorite school assignments, we’ll call this “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”
We started out the summer making some new friends, including the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.
And then we had about 150 friends over for an open house at the new office in Carmel.
I enjoyed some sunny, funny days with my grandsons.
We played lots of golf.
I discovered Florida in July can be exceedingly pleasant with inexpensive golf, plentiful grouper and quiet beaches. (And this summer, it was cooler and less humid than central Indiana.)
We made several trips to local farmer’s markets and had some great harvest dinners.
I spent a girl’s weekend with my college friends.
And I enjoyed the simple joys of summer, like the sweet yellow finches … and hanging out on the porch at “the lake house.”
I worked a lot. I laughed a lot. And now, rested and revived a bit, I’m ready for fall, a possible trip east in October, college football and digging into some fairly large projects at work.
Timing is Everything May 1, 2011
There are two questions I receive multiple times each week:
Question 1: How is business?
A: Great! Happy clients, new clients, clients in the pipeline; we’re looking at office space and will soon retain an administrator, an assistant and an intern.
Question 2: Don’t you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner?
And that answer is the topic of today’s blog … because “timing is everything.”
I believe my successes to date are certainly not “overnight” in origin. I can track the origins of my clients back 10, 15 even 20 years. Whether it is a referral from someone I worked with in a previous position or a relationship I developed through the local chamber of commerce, these are people with whom I have a shared a common interest or a mutual friend.
When I found myself abruptly downsized from a local PR agency, I began letting my contacts know that I was available for hire through LinkedIn, emails and telephone calls. A referral from a former co-worker (from 1998) got the ball rolling within the first week, and the rest followed.
But none of these projects would have been as successful without the experience of moving from my secure position I had enjoyed for nearly five years at an established public relations firm to a younger, more Internet and social media-focused firm. And even though things didn’t work out there as I had planned, I would not have garnered the awareness or knowledge that has resulted in happy clients and ultimately more referrals.
Life’s path should not be spent ruminating about the past or anxiously anticipating what the future may bring. Likewise, we can get so caught up in trying to fit into our plans and attain our dreams that we may miss those golden opportunities stretched out before us, ready for the taking.
In yoga class, we learn about being mindful of each moment and rejoicing in the clarity of the stillness that comes in those blissful moments of meditation. It’s a reminder that if we’re just “still,” and approach life with an open heart, good things will come.
So, do I ever wonder “why I didn’t do this sooner?” Not so much … for now is the perfect time.
Happy May 1 to all …
Flipped Out April 1, 2011
Okay, I admit it.
I am a Flip-o-phile.
Before you call the authorities or report me to some list, allow me to explain. Over the course of the last year, I have become a huge fan of the Flip video camera. This little gadget goes with me wherever I go … just hangs out in my purse until I’m ready to pull it out and shoot something. It’s called “The Flip” because a little “USB” plug pops right out of the camera for seamless, easy uploading to your computer via FlipShare. From there, you can email it, upload it to Facebook or distribute through YouTube.
The addiction started slowly … Much like Facebook, it was initially a means to capture and distribute updates on my grandchildren. Then I began sharing its wonders with friends and clients. Of late, I have created YouTube channels for clients and begun posting videos that we integrate into their Websites.
For instance, Randy Sorrell, owner of Surroundings by Natureworks+ is a perfect fit for this medium. His YouTube channel (that’s integrated into his website) allows him to not only show his expertise, but his natural ability to communicate with others. And let’s face it … talking into the camera is sometimes a lot easier than sitting down and writing a blog … and it serves the same purpose. Most importantly, he “gets” that it’s NOT all about him, but about the quality of content of information he shares. So he reaches out to industry peers (and, yes, competitors) to provide viewers with a wide range of subject matter.
Likewise, WealthPoint Advisors has gotten on the Flip-wagon and are in the process of integrating their “WealthPoint TV” YouTube channel into their website. They, too, understand the value of informational content and provide knowledgable yet personable insight into financial planning and wealth management.
I’ll give credit where credit is due. Lee Lonzo first got me hooked on the Flip as a business tool. He began using the Flip two years ago with his KickOff Program that empowers high school upperclassmen to be mentors to incoming freshmen. He’s able to capture the enthusiasm and excitement he incites as the KO Program trains about 50,000 students during the spring and summer. If a picture paints a thousand words, a video paints a million.
If you’ve not ventured into the world of Flip, give it a shot. Whether you’re a grandma or a PR pro, you’ll find it a tech tool you won’t want to live without!
A sunny Friday here in Indianapolis … needless to say, Go You Mighty Butler Bulldogs! Here’s hoping for “the glow of the vict’ry firelight!”
The Fleeting News Cycle March 11, 2011
In this nice, comfortable room at the Magnificent Mile DoubleTree, we’ve had MSNBC on since the middle of the night, watching the devastating news from Tokyo. And we know the news is just going to get more tragic and devastating.
It put the fact that my cell phone woke up “DOA” this morning in perspective, I suppose.
In trying to avoid the Charlie Sheen cesspool, I missed the news as well as Eugene Robinson’s editorial about these hearings. But the sad fact is that these days the hard-hitting news isn’t so easy to come by while the sludge sorta’ rises to the top … much like gaseous waste.
And here’s a question … how is Congresswoman Gabby Giffords? You know, the victim of the tragic shooting in Tucson? Ironically, a story just posted today by our friends over at Politico. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51123.html
Obviously, THAT news is buried by the earthquake today, but the question occurs to me, “How many of us have thought of her since her last condition update in late January?” And what does that say about our willingness to just follow the news cycle and flush everything else?
We are a fickle bunch, the consumer public; we are drawn to “the next big headline” like moths to a flame … and we waste no time in weighing in with our opinions. Angry. Abrasive. Off with their heads … And all that. We don’t need to look far to see it … the war of words and emotions between state legislators provides an angry, too-close-for-comfort illustration.
It makes me tired. More disturbingly, I know I’m not alone when I say, it just makes me turn on something else or turn off the news altogether. And if I, a self-professed nerdy news addict feels this way, what ‘s happening to the majority of the population? As one of my best friends from college – a high-powered, well-paid senior level executive for a major retailer says, “All I read in the Sunday paper is the ads.” And I know SHE is not alone.
Look, like we need to take responsibility for our own health needs and our own retirement plans, we need to take control of our own knowledge. We cannot sit idly by and allow the news networks (helloooo, the major corporations in America own the networks … have you READ Ayn Rand?) to chart our course of knowledge.
Let us not be observers of our destiny. We must be active participants.
Spreading the Love February 22, 2011
“Random Acts of Kindness” became a popular concept a few years back, and it is a concept with which I was not unfamiliar. My parents instructed me from a young age to “treat others as you wish to be treated,” “don’t judge a book by its cover” and “it’s better to give than receive.” The latter not an easy sale to a 5-year-old, by the way.
As a result, I really try EVERY DAY to make a difference in someone’s life. Whether it’s sending an email that I think might bring a smile or helping a stranger in some little way, I like to reach out and lend a hand.
Last week, in the midst of generating content for the upcoming Health Care Heroes special supplement for the Indianapolis Business Journal, I interviewed a family whose story truly moved me … I must admit, first it moved me to tears, but then it moved me to action. Below is the result. I hope you’ll pass this along and consider coming out on March 5 to participate.
In the meantime, huge Kudos to client Randy Sorrell at Surroundings by Natureworks+ who did not HESITATE when I asked him what he thought of hosting a yoga class … and additional kudos to Heather Thomas, co-owner and teacher at The Yoga Center who, likewise, was quick with a “yes! Of course!”
Sunrise Salutations for Aidan Benefits the Aidan Brown Foundation
In May 2010, Carmel residents Michele and Chris Brown learned that their five-year-old son, Aidan, had Neuroblastoma. What would follow would be a parent’s nightmare of doctor’s appointments, hospital stays and treatments … but the one thing that made it better for Aidan was an iPad that a family friend had given him for his birthday.
And the one thing that made the experience tolerable for his parents was the outpouring of love and support of neighbors, friends, friends of friends and people they didn’t even know who offered to help. Such an outpouring prompted them to want to do something for those families not as fortunate.
In July, the Aidan Brown Foundation was established to raise funds to purchase iPads for children diagnosed with cancer in Central Indiana. In slightly more than six months, through bake sales and dance-a-thons and singing Valentines, more than $60,000 has allowed 70 Riley patients to receive iPads.
On Saturday March 5, Surroundings by Natureworks+ will host a Gentle Yoga Class between 9 – 10 a.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Indianapolis Home and Flower Show. The class will be led by Heather Thomas, co-owner and teacher of The Yoga Center. We ask participants to donate $10 that will to directly to the Aidan Brown Foundation. In addition, Randy Sorrell, owner of Surroundings by Natureworks+ will provide every attendee with a ticket to the Indianapolis Home & Flower Show.
Please, bring your own yoga mat and join us for a peaceful way to start a Saturday morning and continue the love and blessings of the Aidan Brown Foundation.