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Saving Your Company’s Face When the Doors Blow Off-#kaizenblog recap

For any business owner or leader (and their PR person), a PR crisis is not something you want to deal with! With lots of crises in the newsBusiness PR Crisis lately, there are many examples of how these things can take on a life of their own. Certainly, BP got lots of black eyes during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. #kaizenblog’s co-host, Valeria Maltoni shared in her post, Live Crisis in Digital a few other situations that need some PR finesse.

But the spotlight really goes on Danny Brown, our guest host for #kaizenblog, this past Friday. His post, Saving Face When Your Company’s Doors Are Blown Off, began the conversation that was lively and full of resources and advice of what to do when things go haywire publicly for your business. You can find all of the tweets and links here in the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – SavingCoWhenDoorsBlowOffpdf

We jumped into the conversation with our first question…How does social media really change the playing field during a PR crisis?

Brown explained, “It helps immensely. Folks look at negatives, but SM offers huge scope to “correct” crisis.” Perhaps this answer was not what most people expected as one thinks how stories can go viral online. However, it can give you an opportunity to connect with people in real time. He also added, “It allows you to address negativity head-on, and on the “complainers” turf – great pacifier”

Other perspectives that were offered:

  • Same Day Repair (@samedayrepair) “It’s vitally important that solid relationships are built before a crisis happens.”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Q1 gives fast, responsive way to state position and fast track cos PR during crisis”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) “Social media gives a crisis a human face with immediacy. A 1 to 1 opp to have a dialog in the midst of the noise”
  • Heidi Cool (@hacool) “SM also lets biz speak directly to customers/public not just to (and through) media”
  • Mitchell Schecter (@MSchecter) “As a brand, I think it can help to tell your side of the story if you are already there and have a relationship.”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “SM offers immediacy of response, but it also requires one to stay on top of it; you must engage or others will take the floor”

These seemed to really resonate based on the number of retweets and comments that went back and forth. Amy Fowler (@amyfowler) added this caution, “Social media spreads crisis info like wildfire — but in “telephone game” way. What’s being spread isn’t necessarily true. But fortunately, you can monitor all those “telephone game” messages and respond, instead of just wondering.” Go Media Center (@goprotools) added “SM is having a conversation with the consumer not at the consumer…two way conversation! Listening is required”

With the frequency of messages focusing on relevancy of messages and listening to consumers, it seemed to make sense to ask the next discusssion question. What can you do while you evaluate the situation? Responding with too little information or from an angle that leaves people feeling unheard or disrespected tends to provide fuel for a difficult siuation to get magnified. So responding properly is important but frequently information is needed to make the best choices. Brown recommended that you “Be open as to what you’re doing (as far as you can legally) and show progress all the way through” Not being sure if he was referring to a specific area of legality, I asked him to elaborate. He reminded us that there may be “people’s privacy and livelihoods” as well as intellectual property issues.

This was echoed by others in the chat:

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “listen first. understand second. respond third”
  • Meg Fowler “Monitor key voices, gauge tone, check where messages spread fastest, and then start there.”
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) “A2 – don’t stop communicating. traditionally it’s looking down upon to be weak, to be wrong, but SM should be more open”
  • Heidi Cool “1st thing is to publicly state you are evaluating the situation. Keep folks updated step by step. “
  • Amber Cleveland “Let people know you are assessing, that you are trying to get to the bottom of a given situation (then figure it out FAST)
  • Deb Morello (@debmorello) “Ah, listen, listen, communicate internally – Respond, listen again, respond again. Repeat”

Danny Brown summed up this way, “I’d rather be dealing with a company that screws up but acknowledges and talks to me where I am (where poss) and collaborate with the key “complainers” and work with them, their audience, to work and resolve.”  

Some of the tweets were starting to trend towards what is happening internally within the company with the crisis. Kristin Judd (@kwjudd) noted, “Co’s seem to feel it’s not okay to say, ‘We don’t know but we’re committed to finding the answer.’ ” A sub-question of the second discussion question sought to illuminate what’s going on. What are the beliefs/thinking hazards when your company when your company experiences a crisis?

  • Amber Cleveland “1 limiting belief is that in an emergency everyone needs to be running around screaming. Focus and calm are key.”
  • Stephen Denny “Co’s need more than acknowledgement of crisis. Need to provide movement, accountability + commitment to fixing”
  • Heidi Cool “A2 – make sure to involve more than top execs in response strat. cust svc., sales and others may have better feel for audience
  • Cathy Larkin PR (@CathyWebSavvyPR) “Q2a - beliefs/hazards – If co gets to defensive, “lawyers up” too early = equals suspicion from other side”

It seems that it is important to not let emotions run your decision making and send out the wrong message. This goes for non-profits as much as for-profits. Cathy Larkin tweeted an interesting situation she was involved with when she worked for a non-profit. Also, keeping flexibility in the plan makes a difference as well. Crises don’t really lend themselves to cookie-cutter responses so listening to your market audience helps you engage them in a conversation that leads to solutions.

It’s a given that companies don’t always get it right when interacting publicly during a PR crisis. How do you recover from a botched reaction? Danny Brown advised, “First, allay fears that you are taking seriously and looking into it, and if it *is* your fault, own up”

There were a lot of tweets that suggested that a botched reaction could be salvaged:

  • Stephen Denny “The public has the attention of a fruit fly. If your 1st response is wrong, make your 2nd and 3rd right. Learn from it”
  • Meg Fowler “You admit your mistake to  the depth of your mistake. Don’t self flagellate on your customer’s behalf”
  • Patrick Prothe “RE: Q3 – apologize, admit the botch & move on-helpfully, authentically. But never w/ more spin. The cover up=what gets you”

At the end of the chat, Brown reminded us that we can ”…feel safe that in knowledge that you’re not first, you won’t be last. See how others dealt and act accordingly.” Taking the time to review the process after the crisis has passed seems like a practice that would make sense. If you’re interested in being in business for a long while, you’re bound to encounter a crisis. It could be small or large. The question is, how do you want to handle it?

How do you answer the discusssion questions?

What would you do if an A-lister blogger or media person talks about your situation?

 

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Perception, Procrastination, and Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Given all the triggers that cause procrastination, leaving your comfort zone has got to be at the top of the list! Danny Brown (@dannybrown) got me tProcrastination and your comfort zonehinking about this when he replied to my comment on his blog post, Leaving Your Comfort Zone. In his post, he used Alex Wong (a ballet dancer competing on the television show, So You Think You Can Dance) who absolutely rules when he does a hiphop routine. I’d say hiphop is about as far from ballet as you can go! Definitely beyond the comfort zone!

I’ll admit that I oversimplified things when I left my comment.

Sure Alex Wong is a ballet dancer but he is a dancer. He knows how to move his body so it’s a stretch that becomes possible. The thing with getting out of our comfort zone is we make it seem so foreign. Many of our stretches simply take our current skills and apply them in a different environment or with different methods. As Alex Wong knows he can use his body to move to music, we can trust that we already know how to do what seems risky.

As a trained musician, I’ve certainly seen how other performers support or limit transferring their skills to something different because of perception. If I only play classical piano, then do I limit myself and say I’ll never play ragtime or rock because I think I can only play classical music?

So, what does this have to do with procrastination?

It’s about how we perceive what is outside of our comfort zone. We do make it seem so foreign. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a different kind of dance, music, or business strategy. When we reach a plateau with our small businesses and we don’t want to stay at that level, we know we must do something that is new to us. Consider this-just today, I was talking with a prospective client who is adding staff. She is completely daunted by the necessity of managing them so she has put off developing her system. The supervision and organization that comes with managing employees seems foreign to her even though she has had people working for her for a while now. She is already doing some of what she needs to do with her whole staff. Yet, she perceives that it is totally different than anything she has done before and there is a risk is she will do it wrong.

Procrastination is often tied to a lack of trust in ourselves. We don’t trust our skill set. We don’t trust that we can cope with the task. Leaving our comfort zone implies that there is risk involved and we won’t be the same afterwards. Maybe this is true, maybe not. It remains that we have the necessary abilities already waiting to be applied in a different way.

What are you avoiding in your small business?

What skills do you already have that are a bridge to beyond your comfort zone?

Which is more important-doing something perfectly or making the attempt?

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Community Involvement Redux and 12 For 12K

In a previous post, Is Community Involvement Good For Your Business, I asked you to think strategically about how community involvement could be a part of your small business. I work with a lot of entrepreneurial business owners who believe deeply that their businesses should reflect their value system. I was just coaching one today who is about to launch a cool business that combines non-profit fundraising with music events.

Most of the time, I don’t write about my business or myself.  I like to keep this blog a place where we can talk about ideas, best practices, and not have it be an “All Elli, All the Time” kind of platform. This time, I’m making an exception. Community service has been an integral part of me since childhood. It seemed natural that this would be part of my business model because who you are is reflected in how you run your business.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’d like to invite you to join me in supporting The 12 For 12k Challenge on Tuesday, September 29, 2009. We’re going global! I’ve been following the folks at The 12 For 12k Challenge for a few months before I decided to join them. As someone who likes to check things out before I endorse, I tweeted with Danny Brown (@DannyBrown) who is the founder and got to know him and the organization. I jumped in when 12 For 12k partnered with Unicef. (This is not to say that the other organizations were not worthy. They are!) In a nutshell, the goal is to partner with one charity each month and raise $12,000 for each charity through social media.

So why now? The 12 For 12k Challenge is partnering with Doctors Without Borders (Some of you may know them as Medicins San Frontieres) for September. Doctors Without Borders provides healthcare to people injured or ill due to civil unrest/war, exclusion from healthcare based on their ethnicity, status, or religion, and natural disasters. They go everywhere and anywhere! Not only that, the work is done by volunteers.

What’s going on? On Tuesday, September 29, 2009, Go Global 24 is going to be a 24 hour tweet-a-thon led by Henie Reisinger (@HenieArtOnline) and there are fabulous opportunties for businesses to donate prizes, sponsorships, and participate in great conversations spanning a variety of topics. There are 7 ways you can add your support so please visit the site to see what fits you and your business best. Embedded in all of this is a sense of fun and a desire to play. If you’ve considered 12 For 12k before, this event is different. Instead of asking individuals for their money, the focus is on sponsorships by large and small businesses. Imagine being able to reach more than 159 countries and banding together as global citizens!  No borders, no limits!  

Come on! Join us in global community involvement that is fun, meaningful, and remarkable! You’ll meet wonderful people who share your passion for making this world a better place!  

Photo by WillSelarep, iStockphoto

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Is Community Involvement Good For Your Business?

Conventional wisdom says, “definitely, yes” because it will help build your business. But with any kind of conventional wisdom, it is important to stop and think about what community involvement means to you. Like any other activity your business engages in, some strategic thinking will help in the long run.

Just for a start, do you want to get involved? When running a small business, there are so many demands on our time, money, even on ourselves. It is easy to feel drained and overwhelmed. Getting involved as a business person is different than getting involved as an ordinary citizen. Your actions and opinions are under a different lens so there are times when you have to be conscious of your behavior.

So how do you want to get involved? With so many of us engaging in both social networking and in-person networking, our communities can be local, national, international, or virtual.  Most of the entrepreneurs I coach have a sense of mission and want to create a values-based business. They often speak of what they will do someday when they are “big enough.” The thing is what if you keep changing the definition of what “big enough” looks like? Participation can be small as in a one-off donation or it can be that you take on a integral role in the organization.

You could get involved at the group level.  At a recent chapter event for the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Big Sister Organization received a donation. Every year, the chapter president chooses a charity to benefit and the chapter raises money through raffle prizes at each event. Just by buying one raffle ticket, business owners were able to assist an organization that makes a difference in the community.

You could get involved at your individual level. Volunteer for an organization, become a board member, or even start an organization. For example, Danny Brown (@dannybrown) started 12 for 12k with the goal to raise $12,000 each month for 12 charities. Ellie Anbinder started  Art beCAUSE to fund research dedicated to eradicating the environmental causes of breast cancer. Each year, her organization is able to “Seed the Scientist” with money that furthers our understanding of how substances in our environment can affect women’s (and men’s) breast health. While you do not have to start your own foundation, getting involved in something you believe in is crucial. What changes do you want to make in your community? As a volunteer board member of NAWBO Boston, I want women business owners to build successful, powerful businesses. You define your community. Do you want to reduce hunger? Unemployment? Improve literacy? Keep kids out of trouble?

So, now we come to What’s In It For My Business? Determining the kind of impact your community involvement you desire for your business is a key piece. Many of us have seen signs at Little League games for local retailers and business owners. For them, their name becomes easy to remember and you are more likely to go to that local pizza shop, that lawyer, or that hardware store. Others are looking to demonstrate how socially responsible they are so you make a value-based decision to buy their product or service. Another benefit to community involvement is accessibility to other business owners and customers/clients who are more likely to naturally do business with you.

I asked Danny Brown to explain what impact 12 for 12k has had on his business.  He explained that, ”It’s had a wonderful two-fold effect. It’s put me in touch with other business owners of the same mindset that wish to collaborate on projects; and it’s made companies aware that social equity can also equal profits. I’ve had seven new clients take me onboard to help them with both cause marketing and general community building work. So I think social equity is definitely a great business tool, as long as it’s genuine in its use.”

What are your motivations? This last question completes your strategic thinking about why you would engage in community involvement. If the value of service is an important one to you, donating your time, talent, or treasure in some form becomes just part of who you are. But as you cannot give to everyone and there are problems in the world that you want to stop, it is necessary to consider why you want to get involved as a business owner/entrepreneur versus a private person. Expectations, desire for power, desire for a legacy, or even your spiritual practice play into your decisions. In the end, know why you want to get involved and know how deeply you want to get involved.

Some other sites that focus entirely on this topic are:

www.selfishgiving.com

www.businessgivingstrategies.com

There are some excellent discussions on philosophies of community involvement as well as information on what different roles are available.

So, what do you have to say about community involvement?

Do you know why it would be good/bad for your business What are your expectations?

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