5 Tips for Effective Crisis Communication

Tuesday, 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.

Outsourcing Your Social Media Efforts Can Be Beneficial

Monday, April 11th, 2011

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

If you’re running your own business, you’re living a busy life. 40-hour workweeks are a starting point, and more likely you’re pouring in 60+ hours. This doesn’t bother most entrepreneurs though, because their business is their passion.  They want to see a grand idea through to its end. No one knows the direction of a business better than its founder, but should that founder be doing everything?

Even in a small business, doing everything can be overwhelming.  The layers of strategy to successfully promote, manage and run a business are adding up every day. Reminded of the children’s movie “Shrek”, run a business successfully and you’ll have a pretty big onion.

“There’s a lot more to [businesses] than people think,” says Shrek. Of course, I substituted “businesses” there for “ogres” but the point remains the same. If you’re successfully running a business, there are going to be a number of areas that you need support on.

Mashable asked the question in an article this morning, “Should You Outsource Your Social Media Efforts?”  At Marx Layne, we manage a number of social media accounts successfully for businesses of varying size, so emphatically I’d answer yes.  There can be a great advantage to giving social media control over to a firm that understands your goals and has an appreciation of the layers of your business.  It’s a partnership.

The Mashable article references a survey of 8,500 small businesses across the U.S. that reports more than two-thirds of small merchants use social media.  In the same survey, more than one-third of those companies say “lack of time and resources is their top online marketing challenge.” Combining the two, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that Mashable does, small businesses need support for social media.

Outsourcing your social media efforts can be benefical, but each business is different and has different pros and cons to outsourcing the work.  Mashable has some great questions you should ask yourself if you’re looking to ease the burden on social media. The questions and some snippets are below, but make sure to check out the full answers in the article.

Can effective social media drive your business growth?

While investing in social media might make sense for an online merchant or local restaurant, a small tax preparation service or local plumber may have more difficulty justifying the time and effort. These businesses may get a better return on their time and money by ensuring that their business shows up in online searches, or by engaging with customers for positive reviews.

How well is your social media working today?

An experienced social media marketing consultant has the advantage of thinking about social media 24/7 — with multiple clients, they’re also sharing the cost of staying ahead of the curve. They not only know what works, but they also have the luxury of experimenting and trying new things with different clients.

Could outsourcing free up your time to focus on business operations?

Even if you’re pretty savvy when it comes to social media, you wear many hats as a business owner… and you probably want to have a life outside of work. For some businesses, the choice to outsource social media comes down to the relative value of their time.

How do you measure ROI?

Make sure you’ve established some measurable goals to ensure that your social media spending is moving the needle for your business.

Decentralizing Social Media Strategy – All For One and One For All

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

I wasn’t entirely surprised when I read the headline “Why The New York Times eliminated its social media editor position” on Poynter. In fact, when you look at how the New York Times has approached social media, it’s one of the best and that’s why the NYT’s social media editor Jennifer Preston is changing positions.

“Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job,” Poynteer quotes Preston as saying. “It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process. I’m convinced that’s the only way we’re going to crack the engagement nut.”

This is true for everyone who’s interested in social media strategy. You have to take the Three Musketeers approach of “All for one and one for all.”

Mallary Jean at Poynter writes, “The move is part of the Times’ efforts to more fully integrate its print and digital operations. It’s also an acknowledgment that social media needs to be — and is already — a shared responsibility.”

That last part is key. If you’re attempting to drive engagement with an audience, you have to be ready to do it all the time. The same key points Jean makes for helping journalists effectively use social media, can be translated to helping brands use social media.

“What did I hear at the very beginning?” Preston is quoted. “‘Twitter is all about what people are having for lunch.’ Now, no one says that anymore.”

For the uninitiated, social media interaction and engagement can be strange and off-putting. People may think it’s just for over-sharers, but they’d be missing the larger point. Jean writes, “Times staffers regularly use social media to publish real-time news and updates for breaking stories and live events. Some departments… have started using Facebook to help seed communities around areas of content.” The New York Times is acting like a brand in that regard, because it’s seeking to group like-minded people with things they enjoy.

“Hiring a social media editor is an important first step for newsrooms, Preston said. But she sees the social media editor as more of a temporary role than a permanent one. It becomes less necessary, she said, once more people in the newsroom start regularly using social media.” Preston makes another key point there, that as everyone becomes more involved in social media aspects, it’s less vital that you need someone exclusively dedicated to it. The goal is that eventually, people won’t need to be reminded about the importance or use of social media and that it becomes natural.

Within a PR agency, the public relations work we do now links and overlaps extensively with social media. Where one used to write a release and send it out, now the message can be shared and distributed in more ways and following up can be a more engaging process.