On the other side of the spectrum is a spontaneous fireworks show fueled by a tequila bender in Tijuana. It may sound like a good idea in the beginning but oftentimes turns into a dangerous endeavor with less than desirable results (perhaps even blowing off a limb).
The same is true for orchestrating a strategic communications plan. Lots of moving parts need to mesh smoothly and precisely for the plan to work. When done well, it’s a thing of seamless beauty.
An organization was getting ready for a very lucrative merger. If successful, the merger would create one of the biggest players in the game. It was all hands on deck for the months leading up to it.
Then someone noticed a tiny thread poking out of the proverbial seam. They tugged on it gently, asking, “Hey, what’s up with these accounts? I’ve never noticed them before.”
What started as trying to trim the protruding thread quickly created a large slit up the backside of the organization’s “dress”. If the unraveling wasn’t stopped soon, its unmentionables would be exposed for the world to see.
A team of attorneys was assembled to protect the organization from legal pitfalls. We were brought in to manage communications and control the optics.
Gathering facts — all of them — is the first order of business.
The first question is, What are we legally required to tell people? Followed quickly by, What can we legally not say?
When and how you announce depends on many factors. Is the issue (or issues) already out and you must respond immediately? Or do you have control over the timing? Will you make a formal, widespread announcement or respond only to specific questions, and only if asked?
Answers to these questions determine how we design communications and control the optics.
How did this happen? This is where people begin to wrap their heads around the issue and figure out where things when wrong.
Who’s responsible? There’s always a bad guy. A Lex Luthor to your Superman. A Bernie Madoff to your life’s savings.
What’s being done to fix it? You need to explain how you’re going to clean up this mess. Fast. Lay out a timeline but be realistic. You must manage expectations or face potentially digging yourself further into a hole.
How are you making sure it doesn’t happen again? You have to establish and maintain trust. Your audiences must feel assured that what you promise will, in fact, be done.
Get all of these moving parts down right and you’ve got yourself a pleased crowd going “Ooh!” and “Aah!” Get it wrong and you’ll be facing more than just a few disappointed faces in a crowd.
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“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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