About

BuzzFeed CEO offers lessons on how social media has changed the way we communicate

November 20th, 2014

by Carol Lundberg

If there’s anything that BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti wants media professionals to understand about social media, it’s that they should never underestimate the importance of cute animals.

He would know, probably more than almost anyone. He founded the digital media company, which some describe as a viral-content machine, in 2006. And much of its content indeed goes viral, from lists and quizzes to serious news and lifestyle features, to (of course) cute animals.

BuzzFeed cute animals

Never underestimate the importance of cute animals on the Internet.

In the early days of social media, much of the content people liked to share included cute kittens and puppies doing things that cute kittens and puppies do.

“Things like basset hounds running were very important to the Internet because they are cute and very LOL,” Peretti said at a Nov. 12 Adcrafters luncheon, where he offered insight into the way social media is changing the greater media landscape. “But it’s not just the cuteness that was, and is, important. It’s the connectedness. People feel connected when they share.”

Sometimes sharing is therapeutic. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, there was a “shared emotion was a zeitgeist of depression,” Peretti said. People were going into BuzzFeed’s archives, and finding “faith in humanity” types of posts to share, with status updates that stated things like “I needed this today.”

And often it’s just fun, like many popular identity quizzes, such as “Which city shout you actually live in?” which was the first of BuzzFeed’s quizzes to take off in a big way.

Peretti offered a few other takeaway lessons:

Messages go viral in days or hours. Peretti was a pioneer in viral content, and went viral before social media, back in 2001, when he asked Nike to make him a “SWEATSHOP” shoe.  That message took six months to go viral by way of email forwards. The following year, he and his comedienne sister developed “Rejection Line,” which took just three months to go viral. Now it can take days or hours.

People want to share. It doesn’t matter if it’s something funny or serious, people like to find common ground through sharing content. The latest BuzzFeed brand, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which operates on a four-acre studio lot in Hollywood. The studio has already enjoyed early success with its “Weird things all couples fight about,” which went viral in September 2014. The video expresses identity and ties viewers together with common experiences.

Sharing brings out our better selves. For example, Peretti credits social media with the marriage equality movement gaining recent momentum because people will share messages supporting positive change if they feel like they are among like-minded people. Though he said that brands should not become involved in political issues, when issues cross over into human rights, sharing an identity and supporting a stance can be powerful.

Mobile is huge and growing. Seventy percent of traffic to BuzzFeed is from mobile devices.

Social content is changing the overall media landscape. People have more choices now. On any evening, they have a choice between seeing what’s on television or cable TV, or surfing YouTube and other social media, Peretti said. Social content is making a dent, one that will grow larger, in consumption of television and cable television programming.

Respect cute animals. Cute animals are a great way to deliver messaging in a way that is entertaining. BuzzFeed works with 82 of the top 100 brands, Peretti said, and they have figured out how to make entertaining, and often adorable, content-based advertising.

BuzzFeed is not just an aggregator. The company produces its own content, including entertainment media, lifestyle features and news. BuzzFeed has invested heavily in its news division, led by Pulitzer Prize winners Mark Schoofs and Chris Hamby. The news division has broken some fairly weighty investigative pieces, such as an October story about possible conflict of interest at the NSA.

The greatest takeaway about social media and viral content is that  “It’s not all about A/B testing and APIs,” Peretti said. “Social things are powerful human stories.”

Be careful what you wish for: The curse of going viral

November 5th, 2014

by Carol Lundberg

Viral social mediaIt’s a marketer’s dream: You create a social media marketing campaign that not only grabs the kind of attention you had hoped for, but it also goes viral. It gets millions of views, and The Today Show reports on this clever (genius, really) idea that took the world by storm.

Wake up. It’s just a dream. And it could be a nightmare if your viral marketing goes bad.

It’s true — there are disadvantages to a marketing campaign that goes viral if you don’t have the right team in place to handle it. After you’ve spent much time and money getting the messaging just right, there’s a downside:

You can lose control of the content. It may wind up being shared across the Internet with no mention of you or links back to your website. Or it could be altered without your knowledge or consent. In turn, that can require you to spend time and energy tracking the content, sending out cease and desist letters, etc. And it doesn’t guarantee that it will boost your bottom line.

It’s difficult to measure. Measuring analytics are key to your messaging. But viral campaigns are more challenging to measure because they are passed along by many people, through many channels, and some of the clicks or likes or video views may never even lead a viewer to your digital properties. So you have no way of knowing what the end result was.

It can actually harm your brand. Let’s face it. People make mistakes. Such was the case when DiGiorno, a brand known for having excellent social media strategy, made a most unfortunate error when it fired off a flippant #WhyIStayed tweet. The fallout was swift and severe.

Though the Internet has been forgiving of DiGiorno, in no small part due to the swift apology from the company, it was still at the very least an embarrassing episode that may have chipped away, even a little bit, at its brand.

And consider what happened to the alcoholic beverage Smirnoff brand. Smirnoff didn’t even develop or produce the most viral campaign it ever had, the “icing” phenomenon. Icing was a game, apparently started by college students, that required players to surprise unsuspecting friends with a Smirnoff, at which point the friend must begrudgingly drink it. If the friend declines, then the victim owes a Smirnoff to the other players. Smirnoff enjoyed a boost in sales when a game became popular, but once the sales dropped back off, it was left with nothing but the reputation of being something you would only drink on a dare.

So, should we aspire to produce viral social media campaigns? Maybe, for the same reasons that we buy lottery tickets from time to time.

But remember: While it’s nice to dream about creating a message that creates nationwide or worldwide buzz overnight, your chances of doing so may be a about as likely as picking the winning Power Ball numbers. A very small number of videos go viral during any given week, and often it’s by accident rather than the result of a brilliant marketing campaign.

Instead, we’re better off keeping our focus on what really works, and what poses fewer risks: producing fully integrated, brand-consistent content that reaches an intended audience and produces great results. Campaigns like that may not reach all corners of the globe overnight, but they do result in audience engagement that grows steadily and organically over months instead of hours, and that engagement is likely to pay off in the long-run.

 

“Mums” the word? Key Messages and Your Audience

October 30th, 2014

I like politicians. From a communications perspective, they are inherently interesting.

 

Their speeches are generally carefully crafted and each message they deliver has been thought out at length and vetted by official and unofficial advisors.

 

But listening to a particular politician running for office over the course of the past few months, I was struck again by how important it is to deliver the right message to the right audience.

 

Now this nameless candidate (with whom I admit my own personally political ideologies align) likes to share with audiences that she’s a mom. It’s clearly important to her, or she’s just trying to sway the mom vote, or she feels it’s important to her audiences in general. That’s all fine and good. She should take a closer look at her key messages and strategy. Perhaps she’s just received some bad advice.

 

Her speaking engagements have included events comprised of (almost) completely male audience members, dressed in the professional uniform of pressed suits and carrying thick briefcases. Important looking CEO types who might want to hear her thoughts on the economy, and about how she would support business and economic growth.  I’d like to hear about that, too.

 

When this candidate speaks, the audience doesn’t look so interested in the fact she’s a mom. Admittedly, it could even weaken her position in the eyes of some of these pep rally attendees. Watching repeated broadcast interviews, she always manages to work in the same line, regardless of the direction of the conversation. “I’m going to do blah, blah, blah … because I’m a mother and I have a son …” (forgive my paraphrasing but I think it’s pretty spot on). I can’t recall an interview in which I have not heard her remind us of her parental status.

 

I stated my biases upfront. My beliefs align with hers. But as a thirty-something with no kids, I am starting to find myself having trouble relating to her, and even wondering if she’s the right candidate for me. Her inability to match the message to the audience to which she’s speaking, or over-emphasize a particular message, has actually started to alienate me, and I was on board from the beginning. All I hear over and over is “MOM.”

 

The moral of the story is to think about not only your message before you deliver it, but also about your audience, your goals and their goals before launching into a media tour or even single speaking engagement. Not adjusting your messaging can drive your audience away from you.

Facebook Eliminates “Like” Gate and Fan Gates, Limits Promoter Options

October 14th, 2014

Facebook is no fan of fan gates.

During the past several years an ingenious (well, maybe just very helpful) digital advertising tool popped up on Facebook: the fan gate. Fan gates enabled marketers to require Facebook users to become fans of a business page before getting access to its content. This specific type of gate is more properly referenced as a “like gate.” The tool was often used by gaming companies and contest makers.

Like gates were made possible by third-party applications. Many were free and easy and fun to use. Most importantly, they got your message squarely in front of potential customers.

Businesses loved them. Consumers were lukewarm depending on what was “behind fan gate #1?” If the content was high-value, they were likely to like a Facebook page to get it.

But then, just as businesses were mastering how to best use fan gates, without much notice or fanfare, “like” gates very quietly will disappear on Nov. 5, 2014.  No new gates will be allowed to be created now and users with gates up after Nov. 5 risk having their pages shut down, according to Facebook.

I encountered the problem recently while launching a coupon promotion for a client. I abruptly discovered that my trusty promotions and gate applications weren’t functioning properly, and did some quick research to find out why.

Though information is hard to find, it appears that Facebook’s reasons for disallowing fan gates is the notion that we shouldn’t incentivize people to like your page, that it’s not fair to require Facebook users to like a page in order to get content.

That wouldn’t be so bad, except that Facebook also did away with the ability to set the its landing tab to anything but a business’ main timeline some time back. This means a business can not even control the messaging users receive when they land on their Facebook page initially (think a big colorful graphic instead of just written, boxy content). So fan gates in general don’t work, even if a fan isn’t being forced to like the content. Simply going to a Facebook page no longer shows page visitors the content a business wants them to see unless the visitor also clicks on a separate tab.

The fact of the matter is that Facebook is looking bolster their own promoted posts and ads. And why not? It’s their company.

However, just because I understand it, that doesn’t mean I like it.

The widespread suggestion to replace the loss of the fan gate and “like” Gates is to post links repeatedly to a business’ Facebook timeline, or run the promotion through Facebook as a promoted post. Because Facebook also is blocking the installation of tabs that are visible on mobile devices, this is also the solution to address incompatibility with mobile devices. (Note: Tabs appear on its website, but don’t make the transition if viewed from a mobile device.)

Facebook eliminated these attractive tools for developers and page managers to build and maintain highly visible promotions. Facebook is its own company and can obviously do what it wants, but it’s really forcing the hands of the individuals who use it for business purposes.

It’s also taken the fun out of it for developers and community builders. Small businesses with minimal budgets have come to rely on it as a marketing tool, too.

Businesses will always be able to find consumers because there are so many users on Facebook, still the behemoth of social media. But if Facebook doesn’t work to be more friendly to third-party developers and business owners, the company may lose more of its share of the business pie than it intended.

 

 

STILL THINKING ABOUT TED, TEDx DETROIT THAT IS

October 7th, 2014

TEDx Detroit 2014I’m not wrong very often. And when I am, I admit it.

After years of shunning TEDx conferences, I finally attended my first. Sure, I’d seen my fair share of TED Talks via Podcast and on “the YouTube,” but, frankly, many of them seemed like esoteric, idealistic crap.

Held at the Detroit Opera House downtown on Tuesday, September 30, TEDx Detroit lived up to its own expectations and then some. The conference delivered not only, as its motto says “Positive ideas for the world from Detroit,” but also inspired additional ideas, action and analysis.  The most powerful talks got people thinking, a process that (I personally think) is lacking these days.

It turned out TEDx Detroit wasn’t just another pep rally to make Detroiters feel good about themselves. The inspiration I gained from attending is still with me days later (not like the impact of a cheesy high school motivational speaker). For the first time ever, I walked away with positive thoughts about the city, its future and future leaders. Maybe there still does exist a thinking generation.

THE CROWD

The crowd was a diverse group, serious adults often absent of social media accounts, to actual entrepreneurs (not the ones who just claim they are entrepreneurs because they have a cubical in a “techie” downtown ofice building and will likely disappear into oblivion in a year or two because they lack a workable business plan).

If I were The Detroit News’ Chuck Bennett or Detroit Jewish News’ Danny Raskin, I would go a step further now and rattle off a list of specific folks in attendance this year. WDIV-TV’s Andrew Humphrey was there, complete in stylishly-connected Google glasses; former WWJ-AM tech reporter Matt Roush, Trevor George of Blue Wheel Media and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Graves De Armond.

The entire affair was hosted by emcee Charlie Wollberg of Curve Detroit.

THE SPEAKERS AND LESSONS

I was live tweeting during the event, so I didn’t take many traditional notes. But I can tell you the speakers who made an impact on me … well because I remember them.

        • Sam White of Shakespeare in the D told her story of how her love of Shakespeare (induced by a little help from her mom) and her own courage to create a Shakespeare theatre troupe in Detroit. After all, she grew up in the neighborhoods of Detroit and wanted to perform for Detroiters, but her sentiment was “Do people from those neighborhoods even know who Shakespeare was, let alone like his work enough to watch it as a play?” She scheduled her first performance for a small park in the city and more than just her Mom showed up, she knew she was on to something.
        • Pixar’s James Murphy took the stage to share with the audience the importance of putting yourself into your work. He shared his personal tale of conceptualizing the soon-to-be released short film ‘Lava.’ After near work burnout (my words, not his), Murphy began trying to develop a concept for Lava. He combined the memories of an once-in-a-lifetime trip with his family with the experience of his 40-something sister finding the love of her life after a longtime search and preparing to settle down to create a film which inspired him and to which he felt intimately connected.

 

 

      • The University of Michigan’s Dr. Joyce Lee gave one of the event’s most horrific, yet most thought-provoking presentations of the conference. She shared her views on how patients are going to be seen as the “experts” in their own care. She told the tale of her own young son who had worked with her to create a video directed to his caregivers on how to identify that he was having a food allergy attack and how to administer the EpiPen for him. Her emphasis on patient responsibility for their own health was a little unsettling in a culture where we’ve been trained to leave things into the hands of the trained physicians (I’d share the video with you, but I can’t seem to find it). However, she’s correct. It’s your life and most important to you. If you want to prolong it, it’s up to you to figure out how to stay alive.
      • Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Children’s Choir performed twice during the afternoon of TEDx Detroit. They were amazing. And I’m not a big music fan. Those kids could not only perform, but were fearless. Their energy was contagious.

 

If you couldn’t make it, but want to be as inspired around our region and future as I was, you can watch clips from the event by visiting:

Social media in a disaster

September 16th, 2014

by Carol Lundberg

In the aftermath of recent severe storms, the two most popular questions in the Detroit area were: is your power back on? And what’s open?

It’s a common occurrence in Michigan. Whether it’s “Snowmageddon,” a massive ice storm that makes commuting treacherous, or a summer heat wave that wipes out electrical service, from time to time weather makes business-as-usual anything but … well … usual.

During the severe weather this month and the subsequent power outages, many businesses shut down for part or all of the weekend, and in some cases, into the following week.

But even without power, we all still had to go to work, and send our children to school. In some cases, we had to know if we could keep previously made plans for everything from haircuts to dinner reservations to banking and grocery shopping.

Some business owners impacted by power outages simply posted signs on their doors, stating that they were closed. Others had elaborate processes for calling customers, broadcasting on social media channels, and posting up-to-the-minute updates on their websites.

But most businesses (and local school districts and governments, for that matter) affected by the storm were somewhere in the middle, or closer to the “sign on the door” approach. And even among those who communicated by way of social media, some were simply better at it than others.

What does it take to effectively use social media to communicate with followers, customers and clients during natural disasters? A few tips:

  • Start with a plan. If you’re anticipating a storm that has the potential to knock out power or cause other problems, discuss with your staff how you’re going to handle social media. What kinds of questions will your customers have? Who will be in charge of making the announcements and responding to questions from curious or even angry and inconvenienced clients?
  • There are no excuses. You may not have power, but someone, somewhere in your company does.  There is no reason to not use social media or communicate with customers and followers who are seeking information.
  • Use all your channels. Be sure that your message is incorporated across your social media channels, on your website and in your marketing emails. If there are clients and customers who have appointments with you, and those appointments cannot be kept due to the disaster, be proactive and call to cancel or reschedule.
  • Look for new opportunities that others may miss. If your business is not impacted even though many others are, be sure to communicate that too. Customers will be looking for places that are open for business. You may also consider monitoring social media to find people who are in need of service. For example, a quick search on the hashtag #poweroutage or #snowmageddon may lead you to customers who need goods and services.
  • Be responsive. Monitor your social media accounts and do your best to respond as much as possible. Engage and interact with people posting on your accounts and pages.
  • People turn to social media first. Marx Layne learned one summer during the popular Arts, Beats & Eats festival just how powerful social media can be when the weather turns suddenly nasty. There were thunderstorms and tornado warnings. We quickly took to social media. Because we are connected to so many news media professionals, we were able to share information instantly about where festival-goers could take shelter, and when the event would re-open. Despite the festival shutting down for a few hours in the afternoon, the headline musical act that night attracted a huge crowd because they learned through social media that the show would go on.
  • Be sympathetic. No matter how diligent you are, there will be people who feel inconvenienced and possibly angry. Don’t ignore them, and don’t delete their comments. Respond in a sympathetic and helpful manner. Let them know that you understand how frustrating it is to not be able to carry on as usual, and give the best and most accurate answers about when business will resume, and how to manage in the meantime.
  • Debrief. After the emergency has passed, and business has returned to normal, gather the team of people who handled social media and communication during the crisis. Honestly evaluate what was effective, and what was not effective, and what should be part of the plan during the next natural disaster or power outage. Be thorough and put the plan in writing.

One important thing to remember is that during a natural disaster, people are increasingly turning to social media to get the most up-to-the minute information. The better you are at using it, the more informed your customers and clients will be.

 

 

 

 

Social media – for good or evil

September 3rd, 2014

by Michael Layne

These are exceptional and, often, bewildering times, as social media encircle our virtual globe.

We have the leaders of ISIS, whose thievery and butchery masquerade as political causes, exploiting social media and video to shock and taunt the world, while recruiting followers among the world’s disenfranchised. ISIS is pursuing a  cruel agenda of hatred and destruction, the burning of mosques, the slaughter of those who share a territory — including women and children.

The group horrified the world when it released video of a masked ISIS member beheading 40-year-old American journalist James Foley, and two weeks later, 31-year-old freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. The only transgression of these two men was that they worked, tragically until their deaths, at exposing the truth. For that they were brutally murdered, and the video footage of their deaths was shared via social media with their grieving families, and with those of us in the world who feel nothing but deep sadness and sympathy for them.

There is clearly evil in this world, and it’s on display on social media.

But simultaneously, social media can be a force for good, spreading far and wide loving kindness and empathy for all of mankind, as we are witnessing with the wildly viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Spurred on by the example of others, participants have raised in excess of $100 million toward research to quell the ravages of this terribly disabling disease. The only motives for Ice Bucket Challenge participants are love, sympathy and hope for a better world.

The participants have agreed to share and give to not only people they know who have been stricken with ALS, but to complete strangers. Those who took the challenge didn’t care where those strangers might live. They don’t care how old they are, what their race is, what their religion is, or what their political leanings are. They just know that people are suffering and in need of support, comfort, and ultimately a cure.

What are we to make of this dichotomy in the use and power of today’s instant, participatory communications? Evil has always existed in this world—and always will. We can only hope that the cruel manipulation of media backfires on its evil progenitors as often as possible.

Regardless, I choose to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind and doing whatever we can, each in our own way, to leave the world a better place than when we were welcomed into it. In that pursuit, social media has much to offer.

Ice buckets: The hottest social media marketing campaign of the summer

August 29th, 2014

by Carol Lundberg

In public relations and marketing circles, summer 2014 will for years into the future be remembered as the Summer of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

That’s because it’s a social media marketing campaign that’s so good, so effective, and so downright fun that most of us wistfully sigh, “Well heck, I wish I would have thought of that one.”

That’s in part because the campaign in which people dump buckets of ice water on their heads to raise money and awareness for ALS research so quickly reached “viral” status.

But that’s only part of it. The most impressive thing is that not only was everyone talking about it; they were doing something about it.

The result has been astonishing. By Aug. 29 the challenge had helped to raise more than $100 million in donations for ALS research.

There have been other effective social media marketing campaigns:

  • In 2013 The Human Rights Campaign changed its logo to red to raise awareness and support of marriage equality as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments surrounding California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.
  • Back in 2010, Old Spice enjoyed a 16 percent bump in sales, which the company attributed to humorous YouTube videos going viral.
  • The 2014 #yesallwomen Twitter campaign grew quickly after a gunman killed six people in a shooting rampage near Santa Barbara in May. The gunman stated in a video he made before the shootings (including his own death by his own gun) that his intent was to punish women for not being attracted to him. The campaign was a statement about a society that the protesters said teaches men to feel entitled to attention by women.
  • And there was the highly effective awareness campaign, #bringbackourgirls, after 273 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria in April 2014.

But the Ice Bucket Challenge is different. The challenge works because it’s visual, it’s fun and noncontroversial, it’s shareable, and it requires publicly challenging others to take part, ensuring that it continues to grow bigger until it fizzles.

What it does better than other viral social media campaigns is that it has a clear call to an achievable action. Participants are called upon to make a donation to ALS research or douse themselves with a bucket of ice water. Or even better: Make the donation and dump water on themselves.

It wasn’t too long ago that this campaign never would have worked. That’s because it would have reached the tipping point of “too much work.” Not only do people have to get ice and a bucket, but they’d have to shoot video, edit it and post it to social media. So while people do have to go to the trouble of getting ice and a bucket, social media tools and the ease of making video have made the timing of this campaign just perfect.

No matter which option participants choose, it’s all doable. (Just ask our very own Michael Layne, who took the challenge and followed up with a donation.)

Other equally popular campaigns have been effective in raising awareness. But unfortunately, no matter how much we want to bring those Nigerian schoolgirls home, no single person is capable of doing so. And if you’re of the mind that all Americans should have equal rights to marry, solving that problem is bigger than a hashtag.

But everyone can spare a few bucks to send to a cause like helping to fight a terrible disease. So while the campaign grows, so have the donations.

8 Tips for Using Social Media for Business

April 9th, 2014

By Bree Glenn

Social media is an important part of every business’s marketing strategy. For business owners who have yet to jump into the ever-growing, ever-changing sea of social media, it can seem a bit daunting at times.

Eight key tips for using social media for business are…

  1. Planning is key. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This couldn’t be truer when it comes to social media. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and headaches by planning out your strategy and content and sticking to that plan.
  2. Post regularly, post often. The frequency of your posts depends to which social media channel you’re posting. On a fast-paced channel such as Twitter, you’re going to duplicate posts within greater frequency than on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. Be accurate, be transparent. You know what “they” say… the Internet is forever. So before you post, make sure you have all your facts straight. The last thing you want is to put something untruthful out there. In the event that you do, be transparent about it. Admit your mistake, apologize for it and correct it as soon as possible.
  4. Be creative. There are millions of companies using social media to market themselves – including your competitors. Using creative copy and artwork in your posts will make you stand out from the crowd.
  5. Know your audience. Knowing your target audience and which social media channels they use will aid you in prioritizing and managing your time. If your target audience isn’t on Facebook, don’t waste your time on Facebook just because it’s the “in” thing at the moment. Go where your audience spends time online, seek them out and start a conversation (or jump into a relevant one that’s already happening).
  6. It’s all about give ­and take. Social media is just that – social. It’s not about promoting your company’s products and services 24/7. You want to share useful information as well as sell your wares. It’s all about balancing marketing with conversation.
  7. Know you measurement tools and use them. Measurement is how you learn if your social media efforts are working. Are they converting into sales? Website visits? Which brings us to…
  8. Know your goal. You can’t measure your efforts, if you don’t know your goal. Do you want to amass a large following? Drive traffic to your website? Increase sales? Whatever your goal is, make sure it’s clear from the beginning. It will dictate your strategy, as well as content.

For more than 25 years, Marx Layne & Company has delivered results-focused communications counsel to a broad spectrum of clients. We have a thorough understanding of digital media and the two-way dialogue it demands, implementing interactive tactics for our clients by leveraging digital capabilities across marketing campaigns. Our social media, digital marketing and communications teams. The Marx Layne approach is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the products, services and brands we represent. We track, measure and optimize the “buzz” that is being generated as part of an effort to respond and engage audiences.

 

5 Tips for Effective Crisis Communication

March 25th, 2014

By Al Upchurch
Senior Vice President, Marx Layne & Co.

Nearly every company is going to face a crisis that attracts media attention. And the media scrutiny demands that you communicate effectively in these situations. If you don’t tell your story, others will tell it for you. That’s the last thing you want during a crisis.

The goal of crisis communications is to lessen damage to your company’s reputation during a crisis. As with anything in life, preparation is the key. Here are five steps you must take to prepare for a crisis:

  1. Identify a crisis team and two spokespersons: one main spokesperson and a backup. Make sure everyone in the company knows who the members of the team are, and that any interaction with the media will only come from the team and spokespersons.
  2. Create a crisis communications plan; keep it updated. The crisis team should meet on a regular basis, to make revisions as necessary.
  3. Compose a comprehensive media list; make sure the names of key reporters are highlighted. The director of communications and other spokespersons should meet with and get to know the reporters before any crisis occurs.
  4. Develop key messages in advance of a crisis. The team and spokespersons should understand the company brand and be prepared to talk about it.
  5. Consider professional media training to improve presence and confidence if you don’t have experience dealing with the media.

Al Upchurch is senior vice president of Marx Layne & Company. He has 24 years of experience as a television news producer and manager, and 10 years of experience working on media relations and crisis communication initiatives for a variety of organizations.

For more information on crisis communication and media relations, visit MarxLayne.com.