Crisis in PR: Bad Thoughts in Business

Don’t get in a full fledged crisis. Every business has its stressful situations and rainy days. This is something a business cannot avoid. What a business can avoid is turning a rainy day into a category 5 cyclone.

There are many toxic thoughts that you might have that you are completely unaware or that spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R  for your company, particularly if your business begins to grow or you have just experienced a lot of success. These toxic thoughts are the catalyst for any major preventable disaster a business experiences. Learning about these toxic thoughts will not only make you aware and alert of any problem in business, but you can become your own PR agency in your business.

Without further ado, here are some of the most toxic thoughts that can kill a business dead on its tracks

Thought #1 “That Crisis will never happen to me”

If you don’t take steps to prevent the disaster yes it will happen to you. In life when we see someone struggling through life, we sometimes can see the solution from afar, but when we are caught in the same situation, we may not know what to do. This is exactly the same in an business environment: It is easier said than done.

In the age of social media, there is very little wiggle room to hide and news travels faster. All it really takes is a whistle-blower in the form of an employee to type onto Facebook. Now, if their complaints are unwarranted and untrue you still must take some form of action because it still harms the image of a business. If what they are saying is true however, you have entered into full crisis mode and the thing you thought would not happen to you just happened.

Thought #2 “Let’s keep our stakeholders in the dark”

To me this thought is the equivalent of the child prank of “Why are you hitting yourself?” This is just asking for an issue in business to manifest into a crisis. When PR and lawyers get involved with your company, they biggest desire is to only have to resolve small issues that have not had any real impact in your business, they do not want to resolve the big issues that cause you and them so much time and stress. They will hate it even more if you did not tell them about the issue you were trying to prevent.

Thought #3 “ No Comment”

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter a disaster that has caught media attraction, the worst thing someone can say is “No Comment”. The reason for this is that stakeholder and the general public what to know how this disaster started and what the business is doing about it to remedy the disaster. If you don’t say anything, stakeholders and consumers will resent the company and think it’s hiding something even more sinister.

Think of this situation between business and stakeholders as a relationship between two spaces that has hit the rocks. The relationship can be saved and you may even grow stronger if you reveal what the trouble is between yourself and the situation. If not, except your relationship to worsen and have long term detrimental impacts.

Thought #4 “We are one of the biggest companies in the world, we are untouchable”

I can guarantee that that was the thought in the heads of Enron, Worldcom and Lehman Brothers.

As soon as a business develops this delusion and believes it, it spells the beginning of the end. Normally, this thought leads to fraudulent activity or some other unfair+ business practice. It can range from lending mortgage bonds to people who could not pay them (Lehman Brothers)  to simply making up figures in the accounting books (Enron). These types of scandals are no hidden forever and if unchecked, it will lead a company to bankruptcy at best and imprisonment for white collar crimes at worst.

Conclusion

So these are just some of the thoughts that managers have that can harm a business. There are more but what I always recommend is constant self-awareness. That way, your mind is always based in reality. You can become your own PR machine. If you don’t lie to yourself, whether you succeed or fail in business, you will always be able to at yourself in the mirror with a clear conscience

 

Perfect Speech for Perfect PR

In PR, the value of words is invaluable. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s true. A great speech can build positive relationships with stakeholders and potential consumers, which is at the heart of public relations.

To become better apt for your next presentation, here are a couple of tips to help you become a better speaker.

  1. The Rule of Threes
  2. Know the Purpose of the Speech
  3. Use Humour, anecdotes and analogies
  4. Slang, Jargon, Formality or Informality

The Rule of Threes

The rule of threes is an excellent way to structure your speech. Personally, I love it, it just works for me and it also works for the audience. It’s simple, highlight three areas of the speech you will be discussing and elaborate on that. This rule works especially well if the third point is either slightly longer or has a nice little twist to it. The audience will believe will pay more attention as you save the best until last.

Purpose of the Speech

Purpose of  the speech will determine the tone an mood of your speech. If you are promoting your business to existing consumers at a convention, you are more likely to apply everyday language and incorporate humour. However, if the company is in the middle of a crisis, you better not joke. Knowing the purpose of your speech will get the best result out of people as you are giving them the information they want presented in a way that they like to hear it.

Humour in your Speech

Humour anecdotes and analogies are ways to stimulate the audience or to simplify high minded ideas to them. Just make sure that the jokes are actually funny and your anecdotes and analogies are accurate and don’t go off on a tangent. Read a joke book or look up online for analogies that best fit for your speech. If you practice this long enough, soon you will be like a duck to water.

Slang and Jargon

Slang and jargon in your speech is entirely determined by how knowledgeable your audience is.

Say we were selling TVs. If you were pitching televisions to IT professionals, you might talk about the technological processes  on how the TV functions. For a bunch of consumers, you might only need to say that the TV lasts longer, has a bigger screen and has better picture quality.

Finally you need to practice your speech. There is a massive disconnect if you constantly look at your notes. You can condense your speech into bullet points and make it whatever you say come naturally. Even though it may be harder for inexperienced people to publically speak without palm cards, maintain eye contact is the key for audiences to understand and enjoy you and what you wrote. You speak to the audience, not to the ground.

All of these tips will hopefully help you in both writing and constructing a speech from start to finish

Nelson Cumming is an enthusiastic business blogger with AdrienneMcLean.com with a keen interest in Marketing and PR.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at

The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact for sales presentations, pitching to Investors, promotional presentations etc.

Adrienne has been training presenting to camera programs since 2012 and has been coached by Lou Bortone – US Video Marketing Expert.

You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

When communication skills are vital !

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.26.05 PMRecently, I watched a documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and I realised how much a PR intervention may have saved thousands of investors out or pocket and billions of dollars in unassailable debt. In a perfect world, a crisis communication plan early on could have turned Enron into a small company, but into it’s eyeballs in corruption and debt.

Except in real life, for Enron, making money by any means necessary was the name of the game.

Every company that has been caught by the media for corruption has gone through the stages of the issues life cycle. The four stages are

  1. The potential stage: The moment in a business in which something bad might occur.
  2. Emerging stage: The moments in which a triggering event causes a major issue and begins to fester
  3. Current Stage: When the issue develops into something a company cannot control
  4. Crisis stage: When the media gains a lot of traction on the company’s major issues and a made aware to the public, negatively impacting upon a company
  5. Dormant Stage: When the crisis loses traction with the media, depending on how well the crisis is handled determines how long this issue lingers on in the company.

The entire story of Enron is quite complex, here’s a short overview:

Enron was a major energy company founded by Ken Ley and hired Jeffery Skilling and Andrew Fastow to manage the books and the organisation

Enron managed to influence various state governments to deregulate the energy industry. During the time of deregulation, Enron hid all of it’s debt through mark-to-market accounting (failed ventures were seen as assets in Enron’s books), market manipulation and making companies solely to purchase Enron’s debt. The corporate culture at Enron was to make money for the company by any means necessary. They bribed auditors Arthur Anderson to stay quiet on the issue and it was speculated they bribed banks and lawyers. Enron also encouraged citizens to put their retirement funds into the company knowing that the company was a sinking ship.

In 2000, Enron’s stock was selling at more than $90 per share, By the December 2001, Enron’s stock was 26 cents per share, went from 84 billion dollars to bankruptcy in 21 days and citizens lost their retirement money. Arthur Anderson also failed due to corruption and major Enron employees were sent to jail for fraud and other white collar crimes.

Using case studies like this can help anyone working in crisis communication if a similar situation like this arises. Now as a crisis communicator, the easiest and best way to resolve an issue is at it’s earliest possible stage.

The Potential Stage

The Potential stage happened when states were deregulating the industry. This freed Enron to be more flexible with their business practices and increase the likelihood of corruption. Having a trusted professional would have helped by informing Enron of the potential long term consequences of corruption that can come from market deregulation. That way they are aware of the potential situation and may have been more vigilant against potential corruption.

The Emerging Stage

The triggering event was, when Jeffery Skilling became CEO and began implementing mark-to-market accounting. This was what started the cascade of imaginary numbers, artificially inflated stock prices and market manipulations to cover their losses.

The emerging stage is more difficult to pinpoint. The emerging stages would have occoured when Enron hit insurmountable debt. The emerging stage is when an issue starts to spin out of control and it takes a lot of PR in an attempt to stop it. At this stage, there is no chance of Enron (or any company) escaping the damage.

A crisis communicator could have mitigated it by advising Enron to declare bankruptcy and have a PR campaign detailing how and why the bankruptcy occurred and methods of repayment from investors. This may have gotten Enron staff members indicted for white collar crimes, but they whould have been able to reduce the level of bankruptcy and saved workers their retirement money. People may have looked back on Enron far less negatively than people do today.

The Crisis Stage

The crisis stage started when skilling retired from Enron two months before the financial collapse and the crisis peaked when Enron became officially bankrupt. It was at this stage when Enron decided to handle it by constantly denying any wrongdoing and avoiding the situation they set themselves up for instead of admitting outright that what they did was business malpractice.

It is for this reason that people still talk about Enron today. It is also the reason why the dormant stage of the company lingered on for many years. Had a crisis communicator come across and intervened, they could have easily mitigated the damage. The saddest thing is that it could have happened at any time over the ten years the company were active in the deregulated energy market

So, as a crisis communicator, think about these 5 stages of crisis management from the communication viewpoint. It’s an  interesting consideration. 

Nelson Cumming is an enthusiastic business blogger with AdrienneMcLean.com with a keen interest in Marketing and PR.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact for sales presentations, pitching to Investors, promotional presentations etc.

Adrienne has been training presenting to camera programs since 2012 and has been coached by Lou Bortone – US Video Marketing Expert.

 You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.