Why You Shouldn’t Hold Off on a Crisis Communication Plan

Why You Shouldn’t Hold Off on a Crisis Communication Plan

Did you participate in fire drills at school? If the fire alarm goes off in your building – do you know what to do? We prepare for that danger, but it’s important to be ready for whatever crisis may come.

Weather, world events, technical difficulties, and yes, even global pandemics throw a wrench in our lives. And for businesses, these events can put the brakes on everything. And while you are scrambling to problem-solve, your customers or clients are contacting you for information and updates.

You need a plan. You don’t wait until you’re in the middle of the fire to talk about what should be done. There’s no need to wait until a crisis hits to scramble for ways to communicate.

When an ice storm hits, and you need to close or cancel appointments – how will your patrons be notified? If a negative tweet about your organization goes viral – how can you respond in a way that won’t add flame to the fire? What happens if your Internet, power, or water goes out? Or of your systems are hacked and your customers’ private data is breached?

This might cause you to feel slightly panicked about the future, rest assured there is really no need to freak out. You’ve got this! Especially if you have a good crisis communication plan. When there is an issue, there are a few questions that your crisis communication plan can help answer:

Digital Crisis Strategy

Who Will Communicate?

Sometimes when a crisis is happening, leaders can feel like they are being pulled in a million directions. Plagued with solving the problem at hand while communicating to employees, clients, and the community can be daunting.

And like a game of telephone that we played as kids, a message can get confused when it comes through many different sources. Having a communication plan prepares you to designate someone to speak to the public, respond to phone calls, and manage social media while you work to come up with solutions and resolve the crisis.

Knowing ahead of time who you can trust to show grace under pressure and get accurate and timely information goes a long way. Someone who is proactive and not reactive when it comes to crisis communication can help save your business’ reputation.

The old adage tells us that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But when your business is in crisis and you can’t afford to keep quiet, having someone who may communicate impulsively can do a lot of damage. Waiting until a crisis occurs to find the right person for the job is not the best idea for such a critical role.

How Will They Communicate?

Figuring out who will get your messages out is half the battle. Most businesses wait until they are in the middle of a situation to decide how they are going to notify their community of what is happening. But in a crisis, not all your communication methods may be functioning.

Here are some issues to consider:

  • How will you communicate if you are without power or Internet access?
  • If you normally send people to your website for the latest information – what happens if you cannot get ahold of your web content manager during the crisis? What if their updates take 24 hours to publish and your clients need current information?
  • If you have someone else doing your social media – do you have access to the accounts in case they are unavailable for updates?
  • Do you have a paper list with the contact information for key stakeholders in your business that you may need to access if you can’t get online?
  • Can you direct all your clients to one website or social media page for updates?

Having a crisis communication plan helps you answer most of these questions ahead of time, and that your entire team will know what to do when it happens.

What Will They Communicate

Even if you assign a person to handle your communications during a crisis, you will still need to have a plan in place for how they will have the latest information approved by you. Information can change by the minute sometimes, and you want to make sure you are not passing along a message only to have to change it five minutes later.

Who signs off on communications before it is sent? Do you have a regular update schedule, so your clients, customers, or employees don’t go for too long without information?

With a proper crisis communication plan, you and your team will be able to handle whatever crisis comes your way without panicking. While it seems like extra work now, it will save you time later if it is needed.

If you need help with any of this – strategy, planning, or training please contact us. We would be happy to have a consultation with you to discuss your needs and budget and find a solution that will work for you and your team.

Digital Crisis Strategy

2021 Marketing Roundup

Every brand has different marketing goals and strategies. All year long, we watch our favorite brands try out new marketing strategies and now we’ve rounded up some of the biggest, best, and most notable marketing moments from 2021.

2021 Marketing Roundup

Every brand has different marketing goals and strategies. All year long, we watch our favorite brands try out new marketing strategies and now we’ve rounded up some of the biggest, best, and most notable marketing moments from 2021.

Lead Generation that Goes Beyond the Booth

Lead Generation that Goes Beyond the Booth

We are all adjusting to the new normal. New procedures in the office, remote work, masks, and social distancing – the list goes on. Many of us are just returning to work now after being furloughed or laid off during the stay-at-home orders.

 As the dust clears, we try to predict what the remainder of the year will look like and attempt to adjust our budgets for 2021. While much remains unclear, we know that it will not be business as usual.

If the majority of your sales leads came from networking at conferences, speaking engagements, or trade show booths, your future sales pipeline is going to be experiencing some difficulties as your leads dry up. 

So, how can you generate leads when everything gets canceled? Event planners are doing their best – creating virtual booths and networking events – but it just isn’t the same. How can you fill that pipeline? It is hard to transition from outbound marketing (where you physically go out and collect leads) to inbound marketing (where the leads flow into your pipeline), but don’t worry, we have some ideas:

1. Change Your Website

If your sales and marketing process previously focused on building relationships, your website tone was probably on the passive side. Take a hard look at your website – does it sell? You will need to adjust to an active voice and include multiple calls to action. 

2. What is Your Target Audience Searching For?

Your target audience is searching for different things than they were six months ago before the pandemic began. Take some time to investigate search phrases for your industry, target market, and location. The next step is to optimize your content so that you are capturing the organic searches in your industry. Then you can work on paid search ads to help you get featured at the top of the list.

3. Share Your Knowledge

If you are asked to give presentations at these trade shows, don’t keep the expertise to yourself. Your industry still needs to learn and grow during these trying times, it just needs to happen remotely. Consider hosting consistent webinars or training sessions. Not only are these a great digital lead generator that you can advertise, but your target customers will see you as an expert in your field. This builds trust. 

4. Create More Content

With the time saved on travel to these canceled events, employ your staff to create more content. Training videos, demonstrations, blogs, how-to articles, white papers, and case studies are all items that should be in production right now by all staff members – customer support, engineering, and sales staff. This exchange of knowledge cannot happen in person at these events, but it can happen digitally.

5. Nurture Your Leads

Your new leads are going to look a little different than the ones you would get from the conference floor. You know, the one who did a product demo in a booth and had the budget conversation with your sales team. They are going to take a little more nurturing to move them through your pipeline. 

Don’t get discouraged. Change is always hard, especially if your team has been doing things the “old way” for a long time. If you look at this as an opportunity, however, you may be surprised at what you can discover as you go through this process. You may find opportunities for efficiency that weren’t there before. As you shift your marketing dollars, you may find your new digital efforts give you a higher return on investment than these trades shows did in the past. 

Ten Ways to Improve Communication with your Constituents

Ten Ways to Improve Communication with your Constituents

Things have come a long way from the town criers of old. While you no longer post important announcements in the village square or pay someone to yell at those who pass by, the need to communicate with your constituents remains.  

As with any communication, there is always room for improvement. Ask yourself, do your citizens feel informed by your organization? Are there sections of your population that you just aren’t reaching? Are you getting the right message across to the right segments at the appropriate time? If not, here are some easy ways you can immediately improve communication with your constituents.

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1. Reduce Government-ese

Chances are if you work in government, you are fluent in government-ese. You probably haven’t even realized that’s a new language you have acquired. Quick – update that resume! Unfortunately, most of those in the community you serve do not speak this language, which makes most communication from government sources confusing for the public at large.

Review your communications before they go out to the public with an eye towards plain language. Does it sound like something said in a committee meeting? How would you explain it to your neighbor? Lean towards the latter and your community will begin to listen to what you are saying.

2. Centralize the Source

If you are a larger organization with multiple departments, consider having one single Public Information Officer (PIO) that coordinates and reviews all outside communication to the public. Timing is very important when it comes to press releases, and sometimes information from multiple departments can be combined into one efficient release to the public.

Additionally, the PIO will be able to ensure that the information gets to all the sources of communication and no channel will be missed. This will allow for one single media contact for the press, easing interview scheduling and facilitating talking points for the issue at hand. 

Having a single point of contact also allows one person to be the “keeper of the brand” to make sure all messaging and imagery are consistent with the brand guidelines your organization has developed.

3. Don’t Make It Difficult

How hard is it for the average Joe to navigate your website and figure out where their tax dollars are going? Do you even have a website? Government websites, when they exist, are notoriously cumbersome due to the multitudes of information they need to provide the public.

Having an outside source perform a digital audit is a great way to get insight into improvements you can make. There are often small changes that will have a big impact on how your citizens access or understand information from your organization.

4. Accessibility Matters

Is the information that you are providing accessibility to everyone in your community? How are you communicating with those not on social media? What about those without internet access? In today’s climate, it is important to communicate or do business in a way that reduces in-person interaction.

Is your website accessible for those with a disability or those who speak another language? If you are advertising, are you considering non-traditional methods or advertising in other languages? Accessibility matters in communicating to your ENTIRE constituency, not just your traditional listener. Furthermore, if you aren’t reaching a segment of your citizens, you may be risking litigation.

5. Massage the Message

Before you hit the send button, think about what you are sending and how it will land.  What questions are people going to have? Can you answer them? If not, what CAN you tell them? What information is missing? What do you need to explain? Even if you understand it, chances are, the public does not. If you’ve told them before, remind them again. We are a forgetful people who have a million messages flying at us constantly.

Finally, if you want people to change a behavior or do something new, give them the WHY.  Tie it to their life so they can understand how it impacts them and why it matters.

6. Pay to Play on Social Media

The days of high organic reach on social media are sadly over. But with a small budget, you can increase the reach and engagement on your accounts by specifically targeting those within your geographic area.

If you are trying to access previously hard-to-reach segments of the population, targeting through demographic qualifiers offers a great way to do that. This, in turn, will help increase the followers on your account which will assist in your organic post reach.

7. Be Everywhere

If there is a message you are trying to get out in your community, it should seem like your citizens can’t turn their head without seeing your content. Website and emails are great, but how else can you communicate with your community?  

Website retargeting ads, social media ads, print advertising, radio advertising, media pitches (for news story coverage), billboards, posters, bus advertising, newsletters, opinion editorials, and in-stream video advertising are just a few examples of ways to saturate the market with your message.

But wait, can this be done on a budget? Absolutely! You just need to be strategic about where your media spend is spread so you can get the biggest ROI for your community.

8. Make Friends with The Media

Journalists want to help you report the pertinent news to those within your community.  Help them help you. Your centralized source should be on a first-name basis with all the journalists in your area – press releases should flow from you to the media, and the media should always be able to contact you for comment before running with a story. If they don’t, there may be some relationship work to do. Don’t treat them like the enemy, they are your friends, but the relationship goes two ways.

Journalists are very open to pitches as well. Is there an angle to a news story they don’t know about or haven’t thought of? Is there someone you can help arrange an interview for? Do you have any additional background information on a story they may be investigating? Make their job easier and everyone will benefit.

9. Engage Your Audience

Angry and frustrated citizens often feel unheard. Great communication involves hearing AND listening. What forums do you have to listen to your constituents? If you’re thinking the 3-minute public comment section to address your board, council, or commission during your public meetings is the answer, you’re missing out.

Don’t expect emails, letters, and phone calls to be sufficient either. Go to where your citizens are and be open and honest, and let them know you want to hear from them.  Solicit feedback. Townhalls, forums, community events, and surveys are all great ways to round out your listening toolbox.

10. Strengthen Your Stakeholder Network

Meet with your stakeholders regularly to create an open dialogue. They are your allies and will help you in these endeavors, so share information with them on what you are trying to communicate to the public. They have their own network and can spread your reach farther than you alone. Together, you make a strong community, and it helps if everyone is on the same page.

These are great, easy steps to take, but this is just the beginning of your journey. If you need help in further developing your communication strategy, let us know. We have experience consulting with many municipalities, counties, state departments, and economic development organizations. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either. Outsourcing part of a project or an entire department is often a great way to help reduce costs and increase efficiency in times of budget reduction.

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Own Your Brand

Own Your Brand

Have you noticed an uptick in messages about self-love and acceptance these days? You know, the messages encouraging you to embrace who you are and what makes you different; to really own it. It’s a nice way of saying quit trying to be someone you’re not! In marketing, as we continue to work on personifying brands, it’s not a stretch to carry over that mentality.

Are you owning your brand or struggling in the identity department? Let’s do a little self-diagnosis.

 

Here are three signs you have a brand identity problem:
  1. Your answer to “What do you stand for?” changes depending on who is asking.
  2. You make marketing decisions based on what’s trendy rather than brand strategy.
  3. You have a lukewarm relationship with your target audience.

If any of these questions strike a chord, it’s time to go back to basics with your brand. It’s not an insult or a sign of weakness; major brands regularly revisit their strategy to evaluate and adjust for maximum effect. This will get you back on track and ahead of those who are too proud to admit they have a problem.

Brands, like people, grow and develop over time. They need constant assessment to understand what they stand for over the years or else they will become outdated and unrelatable.

  • Be sure of your values and target audience, and be mindful of just how those two things overlap.
  • Understand the needs of your audience and how they wish to be reached.
  • Present yourself consistently in terms of messaging and frequency.

There are many more elements to building up a wow factor, but these are the ingredients for a strong foundation.

 

Make your Marque

What happens when you get to the point where you own your brand? You aren’t hiding behind anything and you aren’t trying to imitate others. You are no longer worried about pleasing every person on the planet, because you know that is just not going to happen. (Really, it’s not.) Instead, you know that by owning your brand, you’ll attract people that value what you value.

Small City, Big Opportunity

Small City, Big Opportunity

When freshly graduated college students leave their campus nests, they often have the desire to spread their wings and move to a big city such as New York or Los Angeles. Their “take over the world” mentality is inspiring to say the least, but could be arguably more effective when implemented in a smaller area.

The cities with a little less glam (and a lot less traffic) are increasing their share of these valuable college grads at a much higher rate than the New Yorks of the world, ultimately creating a desirable working environment.

 

Draw What You See, Write What You Know

Contrary to what some people believe, working in the area that you grew up in or studied in can be extremely beneficial. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your region is a major advantage when entering the workforce.

There are plenty of unique opportunities that might not be as obvious to those accustomed to the anonymity of a big city. Specifically, in a smaller city, it’s often easier to create meaningful connections with other businesses and higher-ups.

Whether you are familiar with the industries in your area or not, it is crucial to know who you’re working with and who you’re up against. Familiarizing yourself with other businesses provides you with the opportunity to learn from what others do. This helps with the implementation of new ideas into your company’s strategy.

Success in an industry often comes down to who you know, and the tighter-knit communities allow for those successes to happen at a faster pace.

 

Live, Work, Play – Lenawee County

Lenawee County, while significantly smaller than New York, is known for its great educational opportunities, natural beauty, and diverse communities. Though it might be a cliché, it truly is a great place to live, work, and play.

The four exceptional post-secondary schools housed in Lenawee County allow for businesses to pull from the best of the best. As graduates leave their nests they take their knowledge and directly apply it to their career. Regardless of the time spent at these institutions, students have established networks that are bursting at the seams with potential.

 

Hoyden, Why Adrian?

Starting a business in Adrian was a no-brainer for cofounders Sarah Stanley and Molly Mason. Aside from being the only marketing and design agency in the area, the constant support for entrepreneurs from community members, municipality leaders, and other business owners is like no other. CEO, Sarah Stanley, had this to say, “Adrian is a small town eager to do big things. Knowing the attitude toward entrepreneurship, attracting young professionals, and filling gaps in service offerings just reassured our decision to locate here. We have received tremendous support and encouragement that have helped build the foundation of our business and are excited to be coming in at the time of Downtown Adrian’s revitalization effort. Adrian is home for us.”

Due to its recent development, more and more young professionals are moving to Adrian to begin their career. Creative Director, Alex Bourget, relocated from Washtenaw County to pursue her skills as a graphic designer for HCG and couldn’t be happier. “Working in Adrian has allowed me to become more involved with the community and local government. I feel as though I am able to get more accomplished here than I have anywhere else.”

The city’s leaders are dedicated to helping new businesses get started and flourish, and fellow businesses treat your growth as though it’s their own. Quite simply, Adrian provides a plethora of resources, talent, opportunities, and community involvement; the perfect recipe for a successful business.

 

The Importance of Representing Your Brand

The Importance of Representing Your Brand

Imagine that you’re taking your child to their first driving lesson, and out of nowhere, a car cuts you off and the driver is yelling at you. A few moments later, you pull up to the driving school to see the same person is now your child’s driving instructor. More than likely, you would take your child somewhere else. I’m not saying that you have to be a robot, but it’s important to be aware of your actions. Whether you’re on the clock or not, being a positive advocate for your brand is important.

 

React Wisely

I’m no wizard. Therefore, I can’t control when unexpected things happen to me. But, I can control the way I react to them. Showing self-control on tough situations tells people a lot about your character, which reflects positively on your brand.

 

Don’t be average

Demonstrate that your brand is unique. While attending networking events, make it a point to engage with everyone in the room, not just key people. Go above and beyond the norm. Learn about their interests and goals, so that you can offer support or advice. This builds trust, an important factor in business decisions.

 

When people trust you, your brand will speak for itself.

If you can successfully reach out and influence others positively, they will never forget about you.