No publicity is bad publicity, right? If you’re in public relations (PR), you’ll beg to differ. PR crises are roadblocks that can appear from the most unexpected of places – a social media post, advertising campaign, customer complaint or even an innocent tweet. For brands, corporate apologies can sound insincere and a hasty way to vacuum the dust off a once-polished image. While companies may glide over a genuine mistake, actions that betray a brand’s values won’t go away unnoticed.
The good news is, scandals need not resort to resignations. While to err is human, how your company oversees the crisis draws the line between an uphill climb and downward spiral. Although the nature and severity of the situation are crucial facets that can decide a brand’s future, managing the firestorm as it happens is key to overcoming the obstacle ahead. Handled right, a crisis can also give your brand a profile boost.
With that in mind, we’ve identified some ways to help you navigate through a crisis (or crises)!
1. Communicate early, and to the right people
It’s a race against the clock, especially during an emergency. Responding prematurely signals the likelihood to backtrack on your words as new facts arise, while delayed answers lead to speculations that’ll spill over to tabloid news. It’s all about timing. Don’t address your stakeholders, employees, business partners and customers after the crisis has ridden out the storm, hoping the public treats it as yesterday’s news.
Be clear. Who needs to be notified when a problem strikes, and who is authorised to speak on behalf of the company? Relay proper protocol to all staff, stakeholders and partners to reinforce the line and responsibility of communication when faced with questions (from media and/or public) and avoid contradictory comments.
Prepare for backlash. By responding ‘no comment’ or providing no form of response only help others feed words into your mouth. Brushing aside curious questions may cause others to assume that a cover up is at play. Instead, be honest and provide reassurance that you’ll share the information as and when it becomes available.
2. Be proactive, not reactive
Name calling and finger pointing are emotions talking. Avoid fanning the flames with unwarranted external blame, or worse – arguing, posting or tweeting in public. Keeping your temperament in check during stressful circumstances can be tricky; knee-jerk responses only propagate the matter further. As a business leader, it’s crucial to assess the situation with a clear head, and focus on the public’s concerns to control the situation. Get the right message out through the best media channels, but more importantly, do consult with your PR team first before releasing any statement.
3. Take a stand
Is this the best position to take? Your decision will determine the company’s future responses and action plans. Rally your team together and ensure everyone’s on the same page.
In the case of Johnson & Johnson, the cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules became a case study for crisis management. With the number of fatalities and widespread panic over the extent of contamination, it looked impossible for the brand to regain its footing. Yet, quick thinking by the CEO, his transparency in dealing with the situation and the brand’s priority for consumer safety saved the pharmaceutical giant. The brand recalled pill orders across cities and implemented tamper-proof packaging for subsequent prescriptions.
Despite suffering significant monetary damage in the short run, the company took a firm stand, prioritising health and safety over profit loss. The consumer-first mindset and forthrightness in management ultimately renewed the trust in consumers.
4. Know how to apologise
Sorry seems to be the hardest word for some people. Even corporations at the top of the ladder don’t get it right the first time. Dove ran an advertorial depicting a woman of colour, miraculously transforming into a white lady after using its soap.
Criticised for racism, here was how their apology went:
Despite past efforts to promote inclusivity in its campaigns, the advertorial was seemingly a blatant jab at racism. And the apology caused a bigger uproar with its vague messaging and lack of sincerity – for instance, what did ‘missed the mark’ refer to? A genuine apology demonstrates ownership, an understanding of public sentiment and the will to improve current practices.
Compare this with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) representatives who handled the Academy Awards gaffe like pros after announcing the “accidental winner” for best picture during the live telecast.
The straightforward apology contained all the important nuggets – from acknowledging who the affected parties were, explaining how the glitch occurred, to actions taken to rectify the problem. Now, that’s the way to dish out an apology!
While loyalty to your brand is admirable, being defensive and over-selling your brand’s core assets will only land you in boiling water. Think of the apology as a dance – do it with heart and others will be moved.
5. Take the empathy route
While the crisis is like a wound to your brand’s image, great public relation skills is the antiseptic you need to treat the cut. Avoid technical jargons and curt responses, and instead adopt a customer-first mindset.
Take a page from Singapore Airlines on their high-quality customer service. The airline went above and beyond by presenting gifts from luxury tea store, TWG to passengers when an in-flight entertainment system on a short-haul flight turned faulty. While the damage done may only be a dent to the airline’s reputable record, the company accedes that genuine remorse and substantive efforts go a long mile.
In the case of consumer brands, consider how the trouble caused had resulted to poor experiences for users. How can you make amends after the blunder? Remember, you’re dealing with actual people with real concerns and feelings. After you identify the affected parties, decide on the medium to reach them. Will a quick tweet or a well-thought out press release perform the job best?
6. Monitor the situation
Disaster struck. You executed a plan. What’s next? Monitor the coverage of your messages and be ready to improvise on your action plan, if necessary. The crisis may snowball or involve new individuals, so be ready to abort mission and begin from scratch.
Poor use of public relations acts as a sword that will wedge deeper cracks in your company. Instead, use the mightier pen to construct genuine apologies, reflect on wrongdoings and plan. Take our word for it, brilliant public relation tactics are the right arm to every successful business!
Posted by Nur Farzana, CorpMedia
Advertising is an important facet of business. Businesses are in the game to earn profits and advertising helps with just that – bringing the products to a wider reach by capturing the interest of target audiences. Advertisements have a heavy responsibility – they affect the daily lives of people who watch or read them. However, businesses need to be ethical in their advertising. An ethical company is likely to be viewed more positively. That’s because they have to keep an ethical promise to their customers.
Missing The Mark?
Even though businesses know what it means to be ethical, there have been cases of renowned companies making blunders in their advertising efforts.
Deceptive Advertising and Misleading Claims
If any advertisement makes unsubstantiated claims, then the intention is to mislead the public, and it becomes unethical. Such an advertisement usually creates or takes advantage of, or substantially interferes with the ability of people to make rational consumer choices.
Of course there is a fine line between exaggeration and deception. When an advertisement claims that “You’ll be walking on heaven”, it obviously does not expect readers to take that literally because the rational individual is able to discern the truth.
However, if an advertisement pitches your pill as one with “No Cholesterol!” but the ingredients listed on the back leaf show high sodium content, then that is considered deceptive advertising.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
An example of deceptive advertising would be that of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. The brand came under fire in 2010 for misleading consumers about the product’s immunity-boosting properties. The Federal Trade Commission stepped in and ordered Kellogg’s to stop all advertisements carrying the immunity-boosting claims. As a result, Kellogg’s had to pay $2.5 million to affected consumers and donate another $2.5 million worth of Kellogg’s products to charities.
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats
Kellogg’s got into trouble again in 2013 when it falsely claimed that its Mini-Wheats “improve(d) kids’ attentiveness by nearly…20%.” As a result, the company had to settle a $4 million claim for false advertising.
It is the manipulation of feelings or interests of a target audience.
Advertisements push our buttons with celebrities, sex and success. They disable our rational mind and appeal to our feelings and emotions. They exploit deep-seated emotions the target audience might have: the need for security, acceptance and self-esteem.
McDonald’s Advertisement UK
McDonald’s seemingly harmless Filet-O-Fish advertisement caused massive backlash and debate online when it was launched. In the advertisement, a mother tells her son about his late father and to his disappointment, they shared little in common. It was only after his mother took him to McDonald’s and he ate a Filet-O-Fish burger that he found out he shared the same taste as his father (it was his father’s favourite burger). McDonald’s was taken to task for creating an advertisement that exploited child bereavement. The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK received about a hundred complaints and only then was the advertisement withdrawn.
Fear As a Motivator
Advertising agencies frequently use fear tactics. It becomes unethical when it is without proper justification. If fear is used for the good of the consumer and society at large, then the use of fear is justifiable.
In the case of anti-smoking campaigns, a label carrying the words “Smoking Kills” on the box uses fear as a tactic to motivate smokers to stop smoking, for their own benefit and health.
Also in the case of anti-drinking and driving campaigns, the use of fear is meant to stop or condemn drink driving, while highlighting the possible risks.
Many companies, however, employ fear tactics for the wrong reasons.
Nationwide Insurance Advertisement
The Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company released an advertisement in 2015 which features a boy reciting all the things he would not be able to accomplish in life and goes on to say “I couldn’t grow up, because I died from an accident.” The advertisement shows horrific images of accidental child death scenes like poisonous chemicals and shattered TV screens. It goes on to say, “At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most… your kids. Together, we can make safe happen. #makesafehappen”
This is an example of unjustifiable fear, wherein the advertisement induces people to buy the insurance by depicting how horrible the lives of their children would be if left uninsured.
Promoting Unethical Behaviour
Unethical advertisements are also those that promote unethical and immoral behavior. An advertisement by Reebok had a headline that read “Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout.” People were unhappy that the advertisement was unethical as it encouraged infidelity.
Ethical advertising is critical. Consumers are more socially aware and increasingly demand for businesses and products to be more ethical in production and advertising. When any company is perceived to lack in ethics in any aspect of their business, they lose credibility from consumers, resulting in a tarnished brand reputation.
As obvious as it sounds, to be ethical in advertising, one needs to be honest and promote a given product or service without lies or deception. Ethical advertising tells the truth and never hides any of the product specifications or its defects. Ethical advertising is also free from any deceptive or misleading claims, irrational persuasion and using fear as a motivator.
To be ethical in advertising is to avoid appealing to deep-seated emotions and unavoidable needs of the target audience. It is objective and unbiased, and does its best to live up to its social responsibility mission.
Ethical advertising also comes in the form of protection of the environment and preventing harm to the environment. Unethical advertisements do not show consideration for the environment and also promote environmentally destructive behavior.
Posted by Chloe Tan, CorpMedia
Every firm has that one client – the one who monopolizes your time, frustrates all the other staff or makes unreasonable demands. But are your clients always right and should you always accede to their request?
I had a recent encounter with a client who was head-on adamant on holding a press conference to announce the arrival of their top management. The only issue was that there was no big news to announce at the event. After all, journalists are looking for something newsworthy or ground-breaking to report on. Announcing a visit merely for the sake of it is neither. He just wanted to provide some publicity for the company to appease the higher ups. Only after several cycles of persuasion did our client finally surrender!
The key to thriving in this type of environment is keeping it cool and managing priorities well to manage your clients’ expectations. Here are a few tips that can help you when your workload is on the verge of overwhelming you. But first, let’s take a look at the 5 common personality types.
1. The Indecisive
These clients have a constant change of heart. They may say one thing now, but the moment you turn around, they decide on something else, on a whim and fancy.
Quick Fix: Keep an open line of communication and work out the reasoning behind the new direction. Sometimes, clients may need someone to set their thinking straight. But if the behind-the-scene action has already begun and the client refuses to meet you in the middle, it may be time to whip out the original contract and bill them for the extra work.
2. The Lagger
It’s not just about meeting deadlines but these clients continue to ignore your endless requests for information, simply because they can’t get their act together.
Quick Fix: Insist on an alternative point of contact. Riding on the agreed timeline, stay on top of them by sending reminders via email and following-up with phone calls. Help them to understand that the more cooperation you receive, the better the result. Mark your emails as high priority (if urgent). It is important to cover all bases so that you’re able to do your job effectively for your client.
3. The Know-It-All
These clients come to the table with an extremely specific approach with little room for ideas.
Quick Fix: Re-establish your respective roles. As much as you might want to take the “Serve You Right” action, approach the situation with a focus on solutions. The client’s ideas may not always make sense. It is incumbent upon you to be frank about what works and what doesn’t. Dig up relevant real-life examples, if you need to, to convince your client.
4. The Demander
Possessing the general lack of awareness on the space-time continuum, these clients demand the impossible. To them, this is your area of expertise so you have the power to move oceans.
Quick Fix: Provide the client with a schedule of tasks, deliverables and let them know when they can expect to see results. Clearly outline the project scope and carefully calibrate expectations at the beginning of each engagement. Keep them informed on the project’s progress and discuss complications as and when they arise.
5. The Adhesive
Thinking they are your only client, these people believe they deserve 100% of your time. They may send you emails at 3 am and schedule meetings after work hours.
Quick Fix: Establish clear timetables and communicate, through progress reports, emails, and meetings. Don’t be afraid to say no if they encroach on your time or that of your team’s.
Working in the communications industry, can be a bit stressful at times. Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, you can oftentimes be pulled in multiple directions at the same time for items that all have the same priority levels. It’s the nature of the beast.
Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia
I had just finished a talk at a leading technology company when an engineer approached me. “I liked your ideas about personal branding, and I can see how they’d work,” he told me. “But most of them aren’t for me — I’m an introvert. Is there anything I can do?” What he didn’t realize is that (like an estimated one-third to one-half of the population) I’m one, too.
Despite the common misperception that all introverts are shy, and vice versa, they’re two very different phenomena. (Author and introversion expert Susan Cain defines shyness as “the fear of negative judgment,” while introversion is “a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”) I actually like giving talks to large groups (that day, there were 180 people in the room and another 325 watching online). I’m happy to mingle and answer questions afterward. But at a certain point, I’ve learned through experience, I have to get away and go somewhere by myself.
Conference organizers and attendees will often ask you to join them for dinner the evening before, or cocktails afterward. Rationally, it’s a win-win: they perceive more value because they get to interact with you personally, and you can make interesting business connections and learn tidbits about attendees that allow you to personalize your talk. For those good reasons, I’ll often say yes, but I’ve had to learn my limits: if I’ve been traveling too much, or had a frenzied schedule that day, or my social chops are hampered by lack of sleep, it’s far better to refuse. Like a car that requires periodic oil changes, I have to recharge with quiet, alone time.
It’s true that many of the best ways to establish your brand in the professional world are still weighted toward extroverts: taking leadership positions in professional associations, starting your own conference or networking group, or — indeed — embracing public speaking (all of which frequently entail extended social contact).
Over time, I’ve learned “when to say when” and graciously call it an evening. But for many introverts, it’s a tough balance. One executive at a large consulting firm once asked me how she could be truly authentic in her dealings with others, given how uncomfortable she was when it came to networking; she worried she’d have to put on a smiley, hypersocial façade. Yet I’m convinced it’s possible to be real about building connections and developing our personal brands, while still respecting our natural tendencies.
First, social media may actually be an area where introverts, who thrive on quiet contemplation, have an advantage. With a blog — one of the best techniques for demonstrating thought leadership — you can take your time, formulate your thoughts, and engage in real dialogue with others. Indeed, while extroverts desperate for their next fix are trading business cards at cocktail parties, you can build a global brand on the strength of your ideas.
Next, with a little strategy and effort, you can become a connector one person at a time. A friend of mine used to work at a large research hospital; it was a sprawling institution with countless divisions and initiatives. She made a simple commitment: each week, she’d ask a person from a different office or department to lunch. Often, she’d meet them initially at company meetings or through project work; if the suggestion to have lunch together didn’t arise naturally, she’d tell them about her project, and they were almost always intrigued enough to join her.
Within a few months, she had begun to build a robust network inside her organization — on her own, quiet terms (Susan Cain herself told HBR that we ought to “be figuring out ways where people can kind of pick and choose their environments, and then be at their best.”) My friend’s “lunch initiative” exemplifies the research of Ronald Burt at the University of Chicago, who urges workers to “bridge structural gaps” in their organizations. In other words, you can make yourself professionally indispensable if you develop connections that enable you to break through silos, and identify and surmount knowledge gaps.
Introverts can also use subtle cues to establish their personal brand. As well-known psychologist Robert Cialdini told me during an interview for my book Reinventing You, simply placing diplomas or awards on your office walls can help reinforce your expertise to others. (Cialdini saw this powerful effect in action at an Arizona hospital he advised; exercise compliance increased 32% almost immediately after the physical therapy unit started displaying their staff’s credentials.)
Finally, use your downtime strategically. You’re likely to need more “thinking time,” as introvert and former Campbell Soup Company CEO Doug Conant advised in an HBR post. So while the extroverts may be schmoozing with colleagues after work, you can ensure you’re being productive while you recharge by reading industry journals or thinking creatively about your company and your career. (Introverts often do their best thinking on their own, as Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino suggests, rather than amidst the scrum of an office brainstorming session.)
In popular imagination, personal branding is often equated with high-octane, flesh-pressing showmanship. But there are other, sometimes better, ways you can define yourself and your reputation. Taking the time to reflect and be thoughtful about how you’d like to be seen and then living that out through your writing and your interpersonal relationships (and even your décor) is a powerful way to ensure you’re seen as the leader you are.
Guest Post by Dorie Clark for Harvard Business Review
Vocal training can help you succeed in getting more publicity but don’t forget the role body language plays in your delivery. Body language is the oldest and most trusted language in the world. Research indicates that it accounts for 55% of what we communicate, while the voice accounts for 38% and the words for only 7%.
Before you even open your mouth, people are already making assumptions about you based on your non-verbal cues. Are you to be taken seriously or dismissed? Are you warm and friendly or stiff and distant? Do you walk with assurance and confidence when you enter a room, or do you slip in, hoping no one will take notice?
Whether intentional movements and expressions or natural reactions and projections, we are constantly communicating with our bodies and physical movements. These behaviours are picked up by the person we are interacting with and likewise.
Being able to monitor your own body language and read the body language of others, not only offers you great advantages as a communicator but more importantly, it helps you get your message across effectively.
Some tips to prevent you from tripping!
Eye to eye contact
When we speak, we maintain eye contact just 40-60 percent of the time. That’s because we’re busy trying to access information from our brains. Often times, depending on the type of information we’re trying to retrieve, we look up to the left, up to the right, or down. But in the context of a media interview or speech, that lack of eye contact can signal nervousness or evasiveness. You can help maintain better eye contact if you pause briefly before answering a question, which will allow you to access the information you need before you begin speaking.
The right posture
Getting your posture right will automatically make you feel more confident. And when you feel good, other people pick up on that. If you’re feeling a bit down, take a look at how you’re standing or sitting. Chances are you’ll be slouched over with your shoulders drooping down and inward. This collapses the chest and inhibits good breathing, which in turn can help make you feel nervous or uncomfortable.
Straight or tilted
When you want to feel confident and self-assured keep your head level both horizontally and vertically. You can also use this straight head position when you want to be authoritative and want what you’re saying to be taken seriously. Conversely, when you want to be friendly and in the listening, receptive mode, tilt your head just a little to one side or the other. You can shift the tilt from left to right at different points in the conversation.
Natural, clear gestures
As PR specialists, whenever we encourage spokespersons to incorporate gestures into their deliveries, we consistently find that their words get better. The physical act of gesturing helps to form clearer thoughts and speak in tighter sentences with more declarative language. So the next time you give a speech or interview, gesture as naturally as you typically would in everyday life. Your words will come to you more easily, and the words you use will be stronger and you will feel a lot more confident.
Armed and aware
Crossing your arms across your chest can be viewed as defensive, expressing opposition or being insecure. If sitting at a table, folding your hands in your lap or having them under the table can be viewed as untrustworthy; wringing your hands can be seen as a sign of nervousness; and when presenting an idea or talking be wary about being too wild in your gestures. When delivering a speech, if you see your audience exhibiting defensive body language, change tactics, and don’t try to persuade them to your point-of-view until their body language opens up.
Watch those feet
Your feet subconsciously tell you where you want to go. If you find yourself in the middle of a conversation you wish you could exit, just look at your feet. You may be surprised to find that they’re not both pointing directly at the person with whom you’re speaking. The same is true for the other person. If you’re not sure whether the person you’re speaking with is truly interested in your conversation, just look at his feet.
Flash that smile
We subconsciously imitate the things we see. When I look at someone and smile, they tend to smile. When I look at someone and nod, they tend to nod. Some neuroscientists say that type of mirroring behavior is due to “mirror neurons.” That’s important information, because audiences that are smiling and nodding are more receptive to your ideas. So smile and nod at appropriate moments, and you’ll be that much closer to accomplishing your goals.
Remember, body language can portray up to half of what you are communicating. This is a high amount, so it is important to make sure you use your body to show what you are trying to get across. Your body can be used as a tool. So use it wisely and make it work in your favour.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media
As humans, we are generally pretty good at creating communication tools. The reality is that we are actually not great communicators. There are two main reasons for this: not sufficiently exercising the will or ability to understand things from the perspective of the person we’re talking to; and making assumptions – assuming we are being understood, or that we understand the other person.
Communication is key in any relationship. But in the workplace, miscommunication can be deadly to a professional relationship — and more so, to an organization overall. Some of these common communication mistakes can lead to bigger issues if not addressed. All it takes is a few techniques and a little practice. Here are some common communication pitfalls and tips on how to navigate around them in the workplace.
Dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s
Being poorly prepared is a recipe for a career disaster as much as it is for anything in life. Good communication can only be achieved when the material is worthy of communication in the first place. Poorly prepared materials only frustrate and allow greater opportunity for miscommunication. Crafting presentations, reports, arguments or even meetings effectively is the only way to avoid this trap. There are many online tools that offer assistance in crafting the impactful and efficient, for example the Rhetorical Triangle and Monroe’s Motivating Sequence.
Check and check again
Despite being well prepared, mistakes can happen to the best of us. Most definitely, prevention is better than cure. About one-third of all miscommunication that occurs in a corporate setting can be attributed to typos, spelling errors and improper presentation; all of which can be easily avoided with a simple scan through. Such mistakes often give the impression of being sloppy and careless. It is often difficult for the person completing the task to completely track all his mistakes. Having a friend or colleague proof read your work can help to spot and correct common mistakes and errors.
Take nothing for granted
Considered one of the most common reasons for miscommunication, assuming the audience has understood a message backs 43% of miscommunication at work. It is necessary to follow-up and take the time to ensure that people have understood your message, Simple things like following-up with an email or phone call or a short question and answer session after a meeting goes a long way in avoiding a stressful and frustrating situation.
Short and sweet
Keep messages succinct and coherent weakens the power and impacts the points made. Seventy percent of emails that are more than 250 words long are misinterpreted and that is a startling number! Similarly, meetings that go on for more than half an hour lose 63% of the audience’s attention.
These tips focus on the ‘hard’ skills such as content and delivery. Yet a significant component of any type of communication involves ‘soft’ skills which contrary to popular belief, can be learnt too. These ‘soft’ skills are extremely important in today’s globalized corporate setting.
Don’t shy away
As the world increasingly gets more connected, we seem to have, ironically, lost the ability to have difficult conversations face to face. Sixty-seven percent of respondents in a recent survey said they would prefer to face a sticky conversation via text or email versus in person, and over video or voice call. At some point, you will need to give negative feedback. It is tempting to try to avoid these conversations, but this can cause further problems – in particular, you may let small problems grow into big ones. Role-play is a great way to familiarize yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Again, preparation is key, alongside sensitivity and maturity.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Today’s workplace is a melting pot of ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, and viewpoints. These differences create a rich and meaningful tapestry of experiences and opinions while being extremely difficult to balance. It can be tempting to stereotype new colleagues or clients, or to make assumptions about them based on little information you have. This is especially true if you have not had much time to get to know them well. Assumptions inhibit open communication, because you don’t consider the other person’s own unique background, personality, and experience. Over time, this can jeopardize your relationship with them.
Humor me right
Many individuals deal with awkward situations by peppering them with humor. Humor done right is brilliant; humor done wrong leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Of executives surveyed, 72% said racially biased comments are a major blunder for men and 70% said the same for women. These remarks easily offend or insult, reflect poor judgment and reveal low emotional intelligence, according to the researchers. This second worst communication mistake is similar to the first. Telling inappropriate jokes makes people uncomfortable, revealing an inability to gauge the environment. On the flip side, 61% of executives believe that being able to sense the mood of others and effectively adjust your language, tone and content is one of the top skills required to advance.
These are not unknown skills and nor are they particularly difficult. Yet, they are often neglected in the hustle and bustle of corporate life. Good communication requires a very attainable combination of ‘hard’ skills and ‘soft’ skills; it is as important to be effective and impactful as it is to be sensitive and appropriate. All this combination requires, is a conscious effort to be aware of what the situation calls for.
Posted by Tara Kishin, PR Executive, Corporate Media