Skip to content

The Business Insurance Plan You May Be Missing

September 15, 2011

The reputation of an organization or business is its very lifeblood. In fact, sixty-percent of CEOs would estimate more than forty-percent of their company’s market capitalization has direct ties to brand reputation, according to a survey released jointly by Fleishman-Hillard public relations and the World Economic Forum.

That reputation is always at stake. Whether it’s a customer’s interaction with a grumpy sales associate or a catastrophic workplace event, how an organization responds and communicates is vitally important to its survival.

Crisis communication plans help companies prepare for the unplanned catastrophe which could result in “sudden death” if handled incorrectly.

What is it?

Crisis communications plans identify as many business threats and weaknesses as possible. They also look at who may be impacted and address how to communicate with various stakeholders, customers and media during a crisis. The plan should be complementary to an organization’s emergency operation plan which serves as an operational guide in the midst of a calamity.

Why have one?

Warren Buffett once said “If you lose dollars for the firm by bad decisions, I will be understanding, (but) if you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”

CEOs agree that a company’s reputation has a direct correlation to sales, attracting talented employees and increasing credibility in times of crisis.

If reputation equity is that important, then a recent report by Oxford Metrica should serve as a wake-up call. According to the report, within the next five years, more than 80-percent of companies will face a reputation crisis that could diminish share prices by 20- to 30-percent.

Just as you can’t predict natural catastrophes, terrorist events or employee misconduct, you can’t control when vicious attacks threaten to take your company down in 140 character strokes, or less. A vile “tweet” has the potential to explode on Twitter, slandering your previously good name – and you never saw it coming.

A delayed response can have devastating effects, as silence is almost always interpreted negatively by the public. A response of “no comment” or asking your lawyer to manage public questions may seem like a good idea while you sort out the mess internally, but doing so may cause more damage than good.

Acknowledgement from an internal, informed spokesperson is a positive voice for the organization. People want to know you care, and are intimately involved.

Having a plan not only means key information, templates and communiqués are in place, but that you are poised to take control of the situation and demonstrate strong leadership.

How to get one

If you do not have a crisis communication plan in place, start with organizing a crisis communication team. The team usually includes representation from the CEO, public relations, key department heads, security, and legal in an effort to gain a holistic view of the company and identify critical threats and weaknesses. Companies often hire communication consultants to help guide them through the process to gain an outside perspective and ensure no stone is unturned.

Together, this team will identify a spokesperson, develop internal and external communication plans and draft templates for various forms of communication.

Like any good insurance policy, a crisis communication plan should be tested with drills and reviewed at least once per year to ensure it is up to date and any new threats and communication tools are identified.

Risk can’t be predicted, but communication can be planned. Crisis communication plans offer a jump-start in the process, enabling a speedy response that may reduce the negative impact to your bottom line. Like any insurance coverage, its value is only known when tested, but operating without it means you may risk losing everything.


Objectivity, beware!

July 8, 2010

The latest news about CNN’s firing of Octavia Nasr, over a tweet last weekend, should serve as a serious warning to journalists throughout our nation – if not around the world.  Octavia, who was CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs, tweeted this past weekend “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

CNN rightly believed that such a statement compromised her credibility in her position.

The issue goes right to the heart of something I’ve personally been concerned about for quite some time:  the encroachment of personal opinions of reporters into their news reporting.  Don’t get me wrong – the idea that a reporter can be purely objective is at best a dream. We all have our own opinions of things, and no matter how hard we try to be objective, somehow, those opinions will shine through whether through a choice in words or a smirk on our faces.  However, reporters should try their hardest to be objective – and when they are not, it’s their editor’s job to catch it.

With the advent of social media tools such as facebook and twitter, the line has become blurred more than ever. As we get to know some of our favorite news reporters on a much more personal basis than ever before, reporters are putting themselves at great risk by sharing a lot more about themselves and revealing where personal biases lie.

Regardless of what you think about Octavia and her position (good or bad) CNN should be applauded for their decision to let her go.  Still news such as this makes me very, very sad.

Read more about Octavia’s firing here:

If you’d like to read more about the ethical guidelines which SHOULD be governing journalists worldwide, read here:

Funny headline

March 25, 2010

Ok, I just have to post this for the levity value… Wish I could tell you which paper this was from – it was set to me via facebook. Enjoy!

Be Careful Who You Friend

September 21, 2009

Billy Jo Bob has sent you a friend request…will you accept?

 Ah, Facebook. 

Within a matter of days it may make you feel like one of the most “popular” people  on the planet as your friend count climbs by the minute.  You will experience elation as you reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in decades and always wondered “what ever happened to Jimmy from first grade?” It’s like the 10- 20- or 30-year class reunion you never went to…all in the privacy of your home. 

Ever wondered what your co-workers do in their spare time?   Guess what? Facebook puts you in the “inner circle” of the people they share their most intimate thoughts, ideas and pictures with….and they may never know you peeked!  In fact, unless you regularly comment on their page, they may forget you’re one of their 789 Facebook friends.

Ever wonder who’s looking at your photos, posts, or quiz results?  Ever wonder about the real motivation behind someone’s friend request?    It’s easy not to think about such things when you’re in the middle of a post…until you happen to glance over and see just how ridiculously high the number of your “Facebook friends” has become.  “Where did all these people come from?”   It’s in those moments you realize that a little more caution about those posts, photos, comments, games and quizzes might be wise – don’t forget, they can see what time you were playing “Mafia Wars” or “Bejeweled.”  And then there’s this…how do you know for certainty that any of those people you’ve not seen in 20 years are mentally unstable?  You may have known them well way back when, but what’s happened since then?

Time to pare down?  Well that’s not so simple either.

If you’ve ever realized you got “unfriended” as one of your “friends” pared down their list of groupies, you know the shock value of “What happened?!”   You wonder if it’s something you said – or didn’t – or if they just plain don’t like you anymore.  Probably, it’s none of the above.  Which leads me to something my mother used to always tell me as a child, that I think today carries a great deal of relevance…. “Be careful who you your friends are!”

Recently, I have had a significant number of people ask me “what to do” about their Facebook friends!  When they started out on Facebook, they sent friend requests and accepted friend requests like it was going out of style.  The only qualifiers were:  “Sure, I know who they are,” “It would be interesting to know more about them,” or “We have 2 friends in common, they have to be alright…” 

Friending that person today might seem like a good idea, but is it really?  There ARE other options! And you DON’Thave to accept! For example, if you’re reconnecting with high school buddies, maybe the best place to leave your re-found friendship for a while is at the reunion group page.  And co-workers?  Hmmmm…  What about the boss you just adore? Some things are just better left alone. And if you refuse the friend request, tell the person why: “Hi Susan, thank you for the friend request.  It is sure nice to reconnect with you.  I have decided however to keep my Facebook page private to just my family and closest friends.  I joined the AHS reunion page though – would love to continue our conversation through Facebook mail or on the reunion page….”

So, what do you think?  Is it time for some ground rules? 

1. HOW    Decide HOW you want to use Facebook.  Is it for networking? Reconnecting with people?  Sharing photos, and personal life experiences?  

2. WHO     Once you’ve decided HOW you want to use it, you need to put parameters around WHO you allow into your personal space – aka your Facebook page.  If you are using it strictly for networking, what are your criteria? Mutual friends, people you know, business acquaintances, etc.  If you are using it to share life, you need to be more careful about those ground rules – and stick to them… Say “no” to work related friends and anyone you don’t know well. 

3. WHAT     The how and the who will determine what you post.  Did you know that every time you post, you are branding yourself?  You are creating a distinguishable mark that someone may remember about you – favorably or unfavorably.  THINK about what you are posting and WHO is listening!  If you have 1,000 friends from all walks of life, and gathered them all in a room, would you grab a microphone and say what you are posting?  Probably not.  If you are using your FB page strictly for professional networking posts, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want quoted in the paper, and by all means DO NOT POST anything offensive or polarizing!  Sure, an occasional post about the stunning sunrise, or a great little place you tried for dinner are appropriate as you share some life experiences, however, your business colleagues don’t need to know the intimate details of your date last night, neighborhood gossip or all the gory details of your day.  You may also want to be more guarded as to photos you post of your family and children – you never know who’s looking!  If you are friending only people you trust deeply, you have a great deal more freedom to post at will. 

Breaking up is hard to do…

So, what to do with the “unfriending” quandary?  It’s never easy, but if you DO decide to “unfriend” anyone on Facebook, be prepared to explain!  True, some people may never notice – or care – but others will feel jilted or crushed that they weren’t “good enough” to be your friend and their imaginations will run wild. Be prepared to explain to a “former Facebook friend” why they no longer have access to your page.  I’ve found that people generally are understanding if you explain that your large friend base became too difficult to manage (honestly, who can keep up with 1,000 friends every day – let alone 100!), so you decided to scale it back.

In the end, treat people as you would want to be treated.  It goes a LONG way!


Style Rant!

July 25, 2009


Everyone has their own “style” of dressing, talking, living and, yes, writing.  When you are working in journalism – whether on the reporting or pitching side of the equation – there are very strict style guidelines your writing must follow.  It’s called Associated Press (AP) Style

The reason is for the guidelines is simple.  AP Style employs solid grammar and has a sole focus of keeping written communication consistent and understandable to the reader. 

Think about how confusing it would be to read a newspaper or magazine where each story had a different use of punctuation, abbreviations and tone. In addition the entire publication would appear extremely sloppy. With AP Style, the reader knows what to expect…and editors often get an ear-full when readers find those sloppy grammatical errors!

Recently, I was asked by a client to consider moving all punctuation outside of the quotation marks in our media materials.  The reason for the request was the individual’s personal crusade to change the way we use quotations because he personally finds punctuation inside of them confusing.  

Since I’ve seen a growing number of people making this punctuation move, I wondered if style and grammatical rules on quotations had changed.  I consulted my AP Style guide.  Here’s what it says:

  Quotation marks (“ ”)

• Periods and commas always go within quotation marks. (emphasis mine)

• Dashes, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

I stood my ground on the punctuation, with the full backing of the style guide behind me.  The placement of a small punctuation mark may not seem like that big of a deal to you, there truly are multiple reasons why it’s very important.  It comes down to the number one reason we have success in our jobs as PR practitioners: RELATIONSHIPS.

When you are building relationships with reporters and editors, you have to speak their language. Their language: AP Style.  When you send a release, you make their life much easier when you take the time to ensure the writing aligns with their style guidelines. When you make their life easier, you’ve just made a friend.

I’ve often had news releases printed word-for-word.  Therefore, I know the importance of a properly written document that can fit into the fabric of the news and look like it’s been written by a staffer.

Pay attention to style and build healthy relationships for the future!

For more information on AP Style, you can buy a copy of the book at any bookstore, or purchase an online subscription to AP where you also have access to “Ask the Editor” for confusing style situations. You can also follow them at @APStylebook on Twitter.


The Changing Landscape of Public Relations

March 17, 2009

Last week, I had the pleasure and honor of visiting with several local colleagues about how our profession is changing.  Michael Boss, who writes a blog for the Idaho Business Review took the opportunity to record the conversation and then blogged about it. 

I am sharing the link with you below as I thought you might be interested in what my colleagues and I had to say about the the current state of the public relations industry as well as its future.

Enjoy Michael’s blog, “How many PR people does it take to issue a press release”!

Use Google News Alerts to Stay Afloat!

March 13, 2009

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with the internet. On one hand, is there any way you could ever live without your computer these days? I know I couldn’t! On the other hand, you can get sucked in to surfing the net for hours. How long have you spent looking up topics that interest you, or staying current on your industry’s trends, or even checking to see if your business is being talked about? If you’ve never heard of, or used Google alerts, now is a good time to learn!

A basic news alert can be filled out at, but there are tricks you can use to fine tune your search to a specific city or state, or even a specific news source. To do that just go to Google News advanced search, type in your specifications, click “Google search” and then copy/paste the search terms into your Google news alert form.

Business owners will benefit from searching beyond traditional media sources.  Monitoring “new media” a.k.a. blogs and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter could be the life preserver that keeps your business afloat.  If someone comments about a bad (or good) experience with your business, this service will find it. Google news alerts can scan blogs for your business’ name, giving you the chance to react any time you are mentioned.  If you want a good example of why monitoring social media is important just Google “Motrin moms ad” and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about! Or check out these links for the story!



Here’s a recap of the entire story: