Communications During Restructuring

communications during restructuringWith so much uncertainty and many businesses suffering, it’s time to have a candid conversation about how to communicate as you restructure. This is trickier communications than the messages everyone has been sending out about COVID-19. We are not just adjusting hours or changing business practices in light of the virus. We have to maintain confidence, tamp down fear, and show leadership that we will persevere.

This is a time for leadership. Once you have your plan, communicate it to your employees and stakeholders confidently. Convey that you as the business owner believe in your company’s ability to weather this crisis.

It’s not going to be a surprise, so don’t make it one. No employee wants to hear that they are losing their job or facing a reduction in hours, but it will not be a surprise to your employees given what’s going on. If your company’s doors are currently shut or no customers are coming in, it won’t be a shock. We all know what COVID-19 has done to the economy.  So, give it to your employees straight and as soon as it makes sense.

Know what the scary terms mean. If you “furlough” an employee, you are asking them to work fewer hours or take a certain amount of unpaid time off. Though furloughs suck, they are usually meant to be temporary. A “layoff” is a temporary separation from payroll, usually when there is not enough work to perform. Laid-off employees should be able to collect unemployment benefits, during what is hoped to be a temporary situation. A “reduction in force” means that a position is being permanently eliminated. A temporary layoff may lead to a permanent reduction in force. (Note that you should consult with a human resources or legal professional when making these types of decisions.)

Develop a strategy and implement a plan. Aside from the financial calculations, you need to create and distribute effective communications which might include news releases, social media posts, websites, fact sheets and training materials. You have to coach-up managers to communicate with employees and be prepared to handle media inquiries.

If you are considering or are currently restructuring your business, let me know, and we can discuss a plan to help you best communicate with your stakeholders. We are currently developing an online toolkit to assist business owners quickly and efficiently. You can call me anytime to discuss at 305-724-3903.

–John

 

What’s the New Demand? (Pandemic and Your Brand)

What's the New Demand?We know that we’re looking at a new normal for business, at least in the short term. Once the economy “turns back on,” some businesses will not survive while a few lucky companies will be able to quickly begin doing the same work they have always done. Eventually, restaurants will reopen. Same thing with hotels. Services will be offered again (and hopefully I will be able to get a haircut.) Realistically, most of us will be operating at some reduced capacity.

Right now, many business owners wished they diversified their book of business or expanded the offerings that they sell. Now, while things are in flux, it is a good time to look at demand in your industry. What will it be in the future? What will consumers and business owners need? As we pull through this crisis, what can you offer to help them? Where’s the opportunity?

Can your company assist with the new demand? Can you reach more customers by embracing new platforms? Can you expand e-commerce? Can you help folks refinance debt? Restructure their business? Get money so they can scale up? Liquidate stuff?

If you are in a service business or professional services, you are likely operating on an amended schedule. Lots of things are stalled. What I’m saying is: You’ve got time. Use it to figure out how you can be less dependent on a few sectors or worse, any one part of the economy. Look for ways to meet the newly identified demand.

Once you have some ideas, take action. Revamp your marketing plan, update your website copy, think about launching a new entity. When the new normal arrives, hopefully sooner than later, be prepared to kick ass and meet the new demand.

Like many of you, I’m working from home. There are only so many carpool karaoke videos that I can watch in my downtime. So, I too have time and am working on meeting the new demand in the communications world. And believe me, I would enjoy a chance to discuss your plans as well. Consider me a sounding board while my next video buffers. Call me at 305-724-3903 and let’s figure out the new demand in your business.

–John

Need to Know (Pandemic and Your Brand)

Need to KnowAn article in today’s Wall Street Journal said that some people are already ignoring corporate COVID-19 emails. Since last week, there’s been an onslaught of them from businesses both large and small. Some are a bit tone-deaf, and some companies are taking corporate responsibility too far – so their customers are starting to ignore them.

As you might imagine, I don’t necessarily agree with the WSJ’s assessment as I think most businesses need to do a better job of communicating, and many are fighting for survival. To me, distributing a meaningful update is a good practice, even if it causes a little backlash – at least you know some people are paying attention. But it leads me to an important point: Are you telling customers what they need to know?

By now we all know what most businesses are doing: people are working from home, hand-washing, drive-through/pickup, adjusted hours, social distancing, etc. At this point, we have to rely on our fellow business owners to do the right thing, and we are essentially giving everyone a checkmark for corporate responsibility. This crisis is moving so fast that we need to communicate the next thing, not last week’s thing, so you should only be focusing on what people need to know about your business.

What do they need to know?

  • If you see customers at your place of business, they need to know your hours and how you are “delivering” your product or service. This goes for essential and non-essential businesses, alike.
  • That you are a phone call or email away and that you will talk to them anytime, day or night. (By the way, please publish your phone number and your email address. This is not time to rely on a website form. Give out your phone number.)
  • They really need to know how you can help them. Are you offering a product or service they need right now? Can you help them get a small business loan? How to restructure their business? Can you offer a great deal on a product or service? (Gas prices and interest rates will likely never be lower, for example.)
  • How you can help them be ready to re-launch once the COVID-19 crisis ends.

What don’t they need to know?

  • That you’re observing the crisis and making decisions on a day-to-day basis. Guess what, that’s everybody.
  • Things unrelated to your business that have become givens in the past week. For example, we are all deeply in praise of healthcare workers and first responders. We all know we are indebted.
  • Overly optimistic projections about when things will turn around.

This crisis has changed how we do business, and it seems like it is evolving by the minute. Last week, I was practically begging folks to communicate, but this week, I’m saying that you better do it smarter. Start by telling your customers what they need to know.

Let me know if I can help you turn this crisis into a marketing opportunity. If you have questions or just need a sounding board, give me a call at 305-724-3903.

–John

Storm tips from a veteran PR guy

Storm tips from a veteran PR guy

From the Miami Herald.

Hurricane Dorian is an incredibly frustrating storm that currently has the entire state of Florida in the “cone of uncertainty.” Residents and business owners from the Keys to Jacksonville are in “wait and see” mode. It’s almost humorous to me that the weather service, which is in the prediction business, can have forecasts that are off by 500 miles and still be “accurate,” but I digress. I have been through many hurricanes, including the big dog Andrew in 1992, and I have a few thoughts and communications tips as we wait for the next advisory.

  • Do what you can to help your customers and clients. This morning I noticed a restaurant in my neighborhood left its outdoor flat-screen TVs on and tuned to the Weather Channel. Somebody at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ realized that even though they aren’t open for breakfast, why not leave the TVs on overnight so people who pass by can get the latest info. The Miami Herald lowered its paywall for the duration of the storm. I think they view it as a public service, and the publishing company has a long history of supplying information during hurricanes. If there’s something you can do to help your clients, even if it’s a little thing, give it a try as you can build goodwill over time.

Read More

Social Media Lessons from an Unborn Royal Baby

Social Media Lessons from an Unborn Royal BabyBritish royalty news is usually not my cup of tea, but last week a reporter asked my opinion about the “delayed announcement” of the impending birth of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby. Harry and Meghan are breaking from recent tradition and will not offer a photo opportunity for the press on the day after the baby’s birth — as has been the case with William and Kate’s children.  (I’m not big on protocol, so I’m calling the princes, dukes and duchesses by their first names.) While this may seem like tabloid gossip and blog author pandering, the media relations strategy surrounding the birth provides a lesson in controlling your narrative while also shedding light on how social media attitudes might be evolving.

First, the scuttlebutt on the big reveal. Obviously, the birth of a new royal baby is widely anticipated news, but it is monumental in the United Kingdom. Harry and Meghan’s child will be seventh in line to the throne and in the spotlight forever. After the birth of the most recent royal babies, William and Kate had a public photo op on the steps of the hospital the day after the little ones were born. Kate set an unbelievably high bar. This satiated the British press and the royal-loving public around the world. Meghan and Harry are saying “nope.” Can you blame them? After my kids were born, I was exhausted and all I did was watch and get my hand nearly clenched off. In my opinion, the last thing new mothers want to do is get their hair done and step out in high heels for pictures. Most new moms want to be home in their pajamas and slippers with only their newborn and immediate family. I’m guessing Meghan feels this way – and Harry will agree if he chooses to remain married.

Some will say the royals have an obligation to cater to the media, but few people owe less to the press than Harry. Crazed reporters and paparazzi contributed to the chaotic scene which led to the death of his mother. Recently, he has said he has a low opinion of social media: “Social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol, yet it’s more dangerous because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it.”

All signs point to Meghan and Harry setting a new standard for media relations. They have shown they won’t kowtow to the British media. My guess (with a big nod to my The Crown loving wife) is that they will release the first photos of the new baby on their Instagram account for everyone to see – with no special treatment afforded to the traditional press. They are making the rules, controlling the narrative and not giving a darn what anyone thinks of it.

More importantly, this could be a sign that the social media pendulum might be changing its arc. Too often today, celebrities and regular people alike over-share on social media. I have regularly said in my online reputation presentations that we need to resist the urge to digitally document everything that we do. We are not that interesting! Everything we do does not deserve to be tweeted, Instagrammed or Facebooked. My hope is that actions taken by Harry and Meghan will filter down to the rest of us commoners.

My favorite part of this is that the lessons – set your ground rules, be transparent and don’t back down – are coming from an unborn royal baby.

–John

For Southwest and Airbnb, Response Makes the Crisis | David PR 

For Southwest and Airbnb, Response Makes the Crisis | David PR How you respond to a crisis often impacts your business more than the crisis itself.  Evidence of this emerged last week with two high-profile incidents in the travel industry.  First, Southwest Airlines, typically a reputational darling, got dinged for its handling of passenger complaints following the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.  Next, Airbnb took a hit after reacting too slowly when a family found a hidden camera in the room they were renting.  In each case, the company wasn’t the source of the original problem, but how they responded caused damage to their reputations. 

The international grounding of the Boeing 737 Max impacted dozens of airlines and thousands of passengers, and it represented a logistical nightmare for every airline. While travelers might equate it with a weather delay, the reality is that the planes have been removed from service entirely. This caused a decrease in capacity that doesn’t get fixed once the weather clears.  And it’s not Southwest’s fault that the planes are out of service.  However, when the airline was slow to re-book passengers impacted by 737 Max 8-related cancellations, many went to social media to voice their displeasure.   

A family visiting Ireland booked a room on Airbnb. Simple enough, but the husband is an IT expert and discovered a camera hidden in a smoke detector.  This is in violation of Airbnbs rules but not technically the rental property matchmaker’s fault.  Yet, when the family called the problem to the attention of Airbnb, it took the company more than a month to remove the property from its listings.  Callousness in the response hurt them more than the actual issue.  Many news outlets covering the story focused on educating consumers about how to look for hidden cameras.  Others jumped all over Airbnb for its incredibly slow response.  Consumers are left to wonder if this is a rampant problem. 

When dealing with a reputational crisis, here are some tips: Read More

What is a Thought Leader and Do You Want to be One?

Thought LeadershipWhen I first started in the public relations business, I heard the term “Thought Leader” and kind of smugly laughed it off. My young PR guy brain believed it to be a euphemistic term for being influential, or a concept bandied about primarily in MBA classrooms. Today, I’m wiser (at least a little) and now completely understand the concept and believe it offers a great marketing opportunity for executives.

What is it?

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” Source: Wikipedia, which coincidentally can help you become one.

Next, sounds like a good thing, do I want to be one?

You do and for several reasons: 1) Being a thought leader distinguishes you and sets you apart from your competitors. 2) It adds credibility and name recognition. 3) It brings you new opportunities, which might be new business or marketing-related. 4) It helps keep you on the top of your game. Once you become a thought leader, you have to nurture it and continue to build upon it.Read More

NFL’s “No-Call” Heard ‘Round the World

Like most sports fan, I watched the NFC Championship game last Sunday with modest interest.  I’m neither a fan of the New Orleans Saints nor the Los Angeles Rams. (I’m a long-suffering Miami Dolphins fan but that comes into play a bit later.) The big story was the “no-call’ of a blatant defensive pass interference penalty near the end of the game.  If you haven’t seen it, Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis was fouled by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman as a pass arrived from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. For any football fan, it was almost a perfect example of defensive pass interference: A receiver tries to catch a ball but a defensive player grabs, pushes or otherwise interferes so the receiver doesn’t get a fair chance to catch it. In this case, Robey-Coleman annihilated Lewis well before he had a chance to attempt a catch.In most cases like this, a football official throws a penalty flag.  But not last Sunday.

Saints fan are outraged, and football fans everywhere are stunned as the no-call changed the outcome of the game and therefore which team would be in the Super Bowl. It’s one of those plays that will be remembered for many years to come.

In response, the NFL has officially said, well, nothing. Read More

Quick Guide to Online Review Management

David PR Group Online Review ManagementReview sites are here to stay, so we can’t put our heads in the sand and ignore them anymore. Sites exist to review all manner of businesses, and your business may have reviews that you have never seen – leaving the reputation of your business in the hands of the internet community without any input from the business owner or management.  Review sites have strong authority with search engines, and online reputation management firms which have attempted to suppress review sites with positive content are losing the battle. Many online reputation pros have thrown in the towel and are now recommending engagement to change review site content, rather than trying to push them down in search results.

Claim

Claim or create your company page on the main review sites. Your company may not yet have a listing on a site like Yelp, but any customer or interested party could create one without your knowledge and certainly without your consent. Business owners should look at the main review sites and either claim their page if one has already been created or create their own listing – this will give you a small level of control. If you have a claimed page, then you can enable the tools provided to businesses by review sites, such as notifications of new reviews and the ability to respond to reviews. This is the single most important reason to claim your page, so that you will be notified of new reviews.Read More

Top Online Reputation Trends for 2019

David PR Group Online Reputation Trends for 2019After a year that saw a slew of epic social media fails, like an Elon Musk tweet leading to a set of $20 million fines and numerous folks losing jobs over offensive posts, I can say with certainty that 2019 will offer a new batch of colorful online problems. Some of the old pitfalls remain, but there’s also hope as we learn to better manage our online lives – and hopefully be less judgmental of others. Here are five key online reputation trends for 2019.

Your job is watching you, but mainly if you screw up

While most employers truly don’t care what you do in your off hours, what you say on personal social media accounts can still get you in hot water and even fired. For example, last month Green Bay Packers Associate Head Coach Winston Moss posted on Twitter that the team needs to hold star quarterback Aaron Rodgers accountable for the team’s poor play. Moss was quickly fired. Lesson: Don’t publicly bash your organization’s most high-profile employee. Sure, we have freedom of speech in America, but you don’t get to say whatever you want with impunity. I’m not an employment lawyer so I can’t get into the finer points of what constitutes a legally fire-able offense, but I know that in some states an employer doesn’t need a reason to terminate you. My advice is that it’s best to keep controversial opinions to yourself, and don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying in your company break room among all of your co-workers.Read More