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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

7 Considerations To Choose the Right Corporate Spokesperson

The choice of corporate spokesperson should never be taken lightly.  Never.  Having the wrong person representing you can damage your brand in the best case scenario.  In the worse-case scenario, it could destroy your brand.

The person or persons chosen need to be creditable, knowledgeable, well-spoken, but above all empathetic and likable.  There have been a few tragic situations over the last few years when brands seem to have forgotten this fundamental rule.


In my 20+ years in Public Relations and Crisis Communications I have both been a corporate spokesperson and coached others in this role.  It is not an easy task.  You are often dealing with death.  There are just no words that can make anyone feel better at a time like this.  That is why it is so critical that you have someone who can give information and facts and most importantly have real and genuine empathy.  You can't fake empathy.  You can't fake the terrible feeling that you have knowing that a human-being has died.  At this point the spokesperson must do his or her best to share information that will help make some sense of the tragedy without inflaming victims and loves-ones who are experiencing complete and utter loss, disbelief and anger.

A few weeks ago I listened as one corporate spokesperson spoke on a very, very tragic situation here in Canada.  I did not envy him or anyone who had attempted to coach him.  This level of tragedy was unknown in our country and facing those left behind was not going to be easy.  Suffice it to say, the conversation did not go well.  The words chosen and even the tone used, were wrong.  I listened in disbelief.  Tonight I listened to a follow-up interview.  My only words to describe what I heard was:  why isn't someone saving him from himself?  Again the words chosen will only inflame the victims' families.  

Brands can mitigate this by having the right person in place.  I offer the following advice to brands to avoid having the wrong spokesperson:

1.  Know the abilities of your employees, including your executives.  Choose based on knowledge and the ability to be empathetic and likeable, not based on position.  While it is true that PR people will "typically" recommend that the most senior person speak out to "take responsibility" in very serious circumstances, avoid this if your most senior person does not come across as caring, patient, and likeable.  

2.  Have a regular cadence of training for your spokespersons.  Don't wait for a tragedy.  Have mock interviews with cameras, people playing probing and tough reporters. Be sure to watch and critique the interviews with the spokespersons.  

3.  Get 3rd party impressions of the spokespersons.  Play on-camera interviews with the audio turned off.  Ask what people felt about the spokesperson.  Did they feel that he or she was telling the truth or hiding something?  Did the person look angry, sincere, or arrogant?  You need to know this before an issue emerges.  

4.  If necessary, retrain after the the feedback.  If there is no improvement, replace the spokesperson.

5.  If the unthinkable happens and the spokesperson is called into duty, respond quickly.  The longer you wait, the more inflamed people will be.   Review and assess the person's experience.  Be honest and really critique the situation.  This is the time that you need everyone doing the right thing for the victims and their families.  

6.  Change spokespersons if necessary. Do it and do it swiftly.  

7.  This one is most important:  Be human.  You are dealing with a tragedy.  Remember that.  You are not the victim. 

Tragedies are never easy.  The role of the spokesperson is do the best job to provide the facts and not inflame people.   

Friday, July 26, 2013

How LinkedIn Inspired Me

This week, LinkedIn asked its Influencers to write about "what Influences" them.  This was a great idea.  Not only did we get to learn more about the individual influencers as people, but we got to learn more about how the actual person thinks and processes information.  It is one thing to write about what you do professionally and provide thought-leadership, but quite another to talk about what inspires you as a person.  Reading their posts were really quite revealing.

So, LinkedIn's great idea along with reading the various Influencer posts,  inspired me to write about my inspirations.  Well, here we go:

As I sat to write this, I realized that the people who have inspired me most in my life had something in common.  They all had a number of personality traits that were the same. I hadn't compartmentalized people like this before, but the truth is here in black and white.

So who are the people who have inspired me in my lifetime?  Here are just a few.

1.  My parents
2.  My maternal grandmother and great grandmother
3.  My first boss:  Elwood Maxwell
4.  Lori MacMullen
5.  Deb Arnold
6.  Nelson Mandela, whom I wish I knew.

My father after the Ribbon Cutting - New Seniors Complex in Home Town

What do these people all have in common?  Strength, perseverance, intelligence, but above all else, they have compassion and exhibit forgiveness and kindness on a daily basis.  I think that these traits separate much more than the wheat from the chaff.  No, these traits characterize people who are selfless and help others.  They want to genuinely help others be in a better place.  These are not people who are selfish or self-absorbed.   

Sadly, some of these people I list are no longer with us.  So I pay tribute to my father, my grandmother, great grandmother and Deb Arnold here!  They are all greatly missed. 

There are many other great people in this world.  Who would YOU add to this list?  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 Marketing Lessons Learned From A Closet Monarchist

O.k.!  I admit it.  I am a Monarchist.  I am not really even sure when that happened.  But I must come clean and admit it. Maybe it was growing up and drawing out Union Jacks, despite the obvious fact that I am of Scottish ancestry, but I won't go there,  Maybe it is because I grew up looking at the Queen on most of our money..or..or..who knows.  I just am.  So, now that it is out, I will even share some of my photos with you in this post.

I also have to admit that my title for this blog was going to be: "Confessions of a Monarchist", but because I actually working in social media and content marketing, I know that headlines with a number in them, do better...they really do!

So, what I have learned from being a Monarchist?  Apparently a few things:

1.  Pomp and Circumstance is a great marketing tactic! 

The Royals know how to do this better than anyone I know.  They make an announcement like an engagement, but don't announce the date.  They hold a media event to show the ring.  All the experts weigh in to demonstrate their knowledge of procedure and protocol.  The speculation begins on the "where will they get married and who will design the dress".  Excitement and anticipation is created.  The date gets announced, more experts weigh in and photos are shared.  Speculation on who will be invited starts.  The wedding is held and everyone waits with bated breath to see the dress and of course and  "the fascinators".  Then there is anticipation about when will there be a royal heir.  This isn't a campaign of days or even weeks!  No, this has been nearly a three-year campaign!  Brilliant.  Talk about keeping the conversation going! 

I took this photo on June 18, 1983, - Royal Visit - Campbellton, NB

2.  Tradition Trumps A Flash-in-the-Pan Initiative 

Sure there are traditions that just don't make sense and really are stupid. However, there are some traditions that come and go, and when the Royals have something to celebrate, the fun and good ones come back.  In terms of fun, I can't help but think about the above mentioned fascinators that we saw at Kate and Will's wedding.  Sure, some were downright silly looking, but they were great fodder to chuckle and ask:  "why?".  Others were quite nice and many women adopted them, at least for a little while. A new revenue stream for some!  Then there are the wedding dresses.  I was till youngish when Diana and Charles married, but years later friends had replicas of Diana's dress made for their high school graduation dress.  Seriously!  I kid you not.  I am sure I have a pic somewhere of a friend, but I don't think she wants to be "in" my blog post.

3.  Use the Right Mix of Media

The new guard is definitely in town.  Prince William is on Facebook and updating his masses about the birth and then posting pics after the fact.  Even Queen Elizabeth has a page on Facebook.  And, then of course there is Twitter.  The British Monarchy has their own Twitter handle:  @britishmonarchy, and why shouldn't they.  Nearly 576,000 people want to hear from the Monarchy on their Twitter feed.

Digital media aside and reinforcing the tactic of tradition in your marketing and communications plans, the Monarchy didn't just go new school.  They mixed tradition right in the middle.  Imagine, taking an announcement and placing it on an easel outside Buckingham Palace. Really?  Despite rain, police officers had to form a makeshift guard of honour at the gates to control the crowds who came to see the easel!  The easel! 
Yes, I have Union Jack cushions (& MacLean Tartan in the back)

4.  Demonstrating Strength, Honour and Commitment Through Tradition

Love or hate the Monarchy, they get noticed.  They know how to get noticed and quite frankly, they know how to throw a bloody good party - think Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the latest Royal Wedding. (again great revenue streams for many)

Speaking of parties:  My invite to the Palace Holyroodhouse - My Second Dinner with Prince Andrew

There is something comforting in tradition; and despite a few hiccups, Queen Elizabeth has been an outstanding source of pride, strength and honour.  From the time she was a young girl and driving an ambulance during WWII to her unwavering commitment to duty and pretty much always being "on", the Queen is a an impressive lady.   

5.  A Baby Means Hope, Renewal and Promise

Every time a baby is born we feel this way.  Every little bundle is an amazing accomplishment - one to be protected and cherished.  A Royal Baby however, means that we have more pomp and circumstance to look forward to!  More of everything in fact.  More tradition, more merchandizing, more British tourism, more trips abroad.  Like it or not, the Royal family also generates revenue and creates jobs both at home in Jolly Ol England and abroad. I am sure that can still learn more from the marketing genious that just might be "by accident."

Looking for more social media, marketing and communications banter?  Be sure to follow my blog:

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cost of Ignoring Employee Engagement

There are countless studies on employee engagement and the value that engaged employees bring to your organization.  Despite this however, not enough employers are actually taking the steps to engage their employees and there is a direct correlation between the cost of ignoring employee engagement and embracing it.  The cost is high.  Blessingwhite said it best in their findings: 'engaged employees stay for what they can give.  Disengaged employees stay for what they can get. 

According to Gallup research, companies with low employee engagement have higher safety incidents, more sick days, higher turnover, more quality control issues, etc. all costing the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year. Health-related costs alone to the employer in a suffering company are $11,709 versus $4,395 for a company that is thriving and has engaged employees.  The research has also shown that companies shedding jobs are more likely to be the ones with disengaged employees, a signal that publicly traded companies don't necessarily want to give.

The research also shows that publicly traded companies with high engagement, enjoy higher earnings per share.  So, what are some tips to engage employees?  Here are 7 tips to implement immediately:

1.  Live up to promises - Managers can greatly contribute to the engagement cycle by living up to promises and commitments made to their direct reports. 

2.  Fully utilize your talent - All too often Managers pigeon hole their employees or quite frankly don't understand the employee's full experience and education. Taking the time to understand an employees full skill set and actually using it will go a long way to engaging that employee.

3.  Career Development - Be sure to include career planning and development for your employees.  Again taking the time to know and understand the employee's interests will help guide you and the employee toward a solid future.

4.  Regular Meetings - Have regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports.  Arrive on time and pay full attention to the employee.  Arriving late, leaving early, taking phone calls during the meeting, reading email or perpetually cancelling the meeting, without rescheduling sends a strong message that you don't care about that employee.

5.  Inclusion - Seek our input and ideas from your direct reports.  Show that their input matters and that they can contribute to the bigger picture. 

6.  Publicly recognize your Employees - Don't wait for a special occasion or the end of a project to recognize the contribution of your direct reports.  Use internal communications tools, social media and mass email to thank employees on a regular basis.  Ensure that the recognition is genuine and heartfelt.  Insincere thanks is worse than no thanks.

7. Give them Authority - Demonstrate that you believe in them by giving your senior team the opportunity to fill in for you when you are out.  Leaving no one in charge signals that you either can't trust your direct reports or that you are insecure about leaving someone else in charge.  If you have several people as direct reports that are at the same level, take turns leaving them in charge. 

These are just some things that you can do to engage your employees. There are many others.  What would you suggest a company do to ensure employee engagement?