Utilizing a Threat Matrix to Plan for a Crisis

We recently presented at a meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals about crisis management and communications. It was the third session of a four-part series on “Essential Strategies for Effective Non-profit Communications.” The group really engaged with the topic, and we had good discussion.

 Many expressed concern about the time and costs involved in developing a crisis communications plan. We’ve certainly learned a number of lessons in our crisis work, most notably:

  • You can’t plan for every possible crisis situation
  • It is unlikely that every possible crisis will occur

The question then becomes: how do we know what to plan for? Using the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process, we showed how each organization can identify its own “Most-likely and Most-damaging” crisis scenarios. With this information in hand, it’s possible to focus your time and resources more effectively in the planning process.

Warning Signs Missed or Ignored

As our group discussed, sometimes warning signs are noticed, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes, they are ignored altogether.

Warning signs occur all the time in business. Manageable problems that exist today are tomorrow’s crisis if ignored or worked around.  The successful leader has a mindset to recognize the organization’s vulnerabilities as warning signs that have the potential to grow into costly crisis situations.  The key to a winning organization is identifying vulnerabilities and assessing whether they are small problems easily managed or potential combustibles ready to ignite at the smallest provocation. 

Crisis situations usually result from the simple day-to-day work performed in an organization.  They can occur through management mistakes that build up over a long period of time, or by only one slip-up that causes extreme damage to the organization.

Some crises are difficult to predict and foresee.  However, most crisis situations are preceded by an incident, a mistake, or a telltale sign that can tip you off to disaster before it occurs. The problem is we get too busy and preoccupied with the day-to-day tasks to take the time to put out the brush fire before it erupts into an inferno.  The warning signs either goes unheeded or are ignored in favor of something more pressing or easier with which to deal.

Essence of Crisis Management

Warning signs are recognized through discipline and perspective. This is the essence of crisis management. It includes being aware of potential problems and vulnerabilities that creep into organizations and can erupt into crisis situations.

This is not to suggest that all organizations adopt a more conservative, risk-averse management style. That could cripple innovation. Leaders and managers can be wonderfully innovative and creative when they know that warning signs will be noticed and handled effectively. Risks can be taken successfully in an organization only if the culture includes the discipline and ability to recognize unusual events and address them immediately and competently.

Threat Matrix Process 

One of the best and most thorough ways to prepare is to conduct a comprehensive vulnerabilities analysis. Using the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process, you can identify the vulnerable areas and the threats that are most likely to occur and would cause the most damage. Management can then develop specific plans to eliminate them, reduce the potential damage and manage the situation effectively by planning in advance.

The Threat Matrix Process includes six strategic steps. We shared our matrix process with attendees. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about how the Bottom Line Threat Matrix Process can help you identify potential risks and develop plans to manage or eliminate those risks. 

Disciplining Your Brand

Shiny new logos are exciting things. They draw attention, make a statement and encompass the core of your business’ essence. But flash forward a few years after their creation, and the logos (and therefore the brands) of most companies start to get…wobbly.

There are tagline variations, color changes and size alterations. The edges of the image in your company letterhead suddenly print a little jagged, and you really have no idea how a right-aligned version of your logo managed to make it onto your website.

You’re not alone!

Many, many companies experience brand or logo slippage over the years, especially medium-sized organizations where there are enough people to result in unapproved variations of a logo, but where the company’s not big enough to have a bona fide department or team dedicated to brand management.

Here are some tips to help your logo stay on track for the long run:

  • Find a trusted designer and continue to work closely with him or her

Remember that initial approved version of your logo you were so excited about? Chances are you worked with a designer or design team to develop it. When it comes to maintaining the integrity of that logo, these people are your friends! They can offer advice on managing tricky logo applications (on apparel or specialty items for example) while still adhering to brand standards and, if necessary, can house the main library of acceptable logo styles. It’s smart to stay in touch with them on a regular basis, rather than waving goodbye after the initial logo design is complete.

  • Create a style guide

Your designer or design team can help you put this together. It covers all the important basics of your logo and brand standards, from colors and typefaces, to spacing requirements, to how to position your logo with others. Finalize it, print out copies so people can have them at their desks for easy reference, and hold people accountable for following it.

  • Assign a person or team as the “Brand Warrior”

This person (or team) diligently guards the integrity of the brand and helps enforce use of the approved style guide. He or she should be an integral part of the approval process for any pieces involving the logo and should be the go-to person for internal questions. This often also means he or she is the day-to-day liaison with the designer or design team.

  • Pull from the original logo files

This is one of simplest and most overlooked tips for logo discipline. Whenever you create a new collateral piece, insert the original version of the logo. That means you most likely will be using a jpg or eps file. Do NOT merely copy and paste from a different pre-existing piece. Every time that happens, the logo quality is reduced and there’s more chance for unapproved variation.

  • Less is more

Companies create a lot of stuff over the course of a few years. That’s a large part of why it’s so easy for logos to slip—there are dozens of different uses and applications to manage. Whenever possible, don’t reinvent the wheel. If you update a design, move old versions to an archive folder or, better yet, to a separate CD or hard drive where people won’t be tempted to use them or pull the logo from them. You also don’t need endless variations of your logo. Keep it simple and opt for a few styles that will cover most of your basic needs. Your designer can help you figure out solutions for the 5% of tricky situations a basic logo won’t cover.

So, there you go. Follow these tips and your shiny new logo has a pretty good shot of surviving to its fifth birthday party unscathed.

Helping Nonprofits Think Beyond Donors

Recently, we presented to the Association of Fundraising Professionals about relationship marketing. It was the second-session of a three-part series on Essential Strategies for Effective Non-profit Communications. The group engaged with the topic, and we had good discussion about the differences between cultivating donor relationships and relationship marketing.

Clearly, identifying donors and nurturing them is critical to a nonprofit’s mission. Relationships with major donors, in particular, require consistent, authentic, mission-driven engagement. Our focus on relationship marketing planted seeds for a different kind of relationship-building – one focused on building allies, listening to key stakeholders, learning about the marketplace, and aligning relational networks to support organizational strategies. Each of these must work hand-in-glove with donor relationship management, but they are separate efforts.

Relationship marketing is an intentional, systematic process for connecting with targeted stakeholders to achieve a specific organizational or business goal. Sometimes the focus is educating potential partners. Sometimes the focus is building allies among public officials. Sometimes it’s generating engagement or understanding with business leaders. Whatever the strategic objective, relationship marketing is an effective method of communicating with a specific audience for a defined period of time that could make a difference for your organization.

The discussion helped point out that perhaps fundraisers themselves are not the folks who might actually execute a relationship marketing campaign, but they may be the conduit to prompt and train someone else in their organizations. Typically, relationship marketing is conducted by the CEO or executive director in a one-on-one setting with a peer. Once the internal systems are in place and the team members understand their roles, the fundraiser-catalyst needs to stay engaged only to coordinate any overlapping relationships with donors.

The session generated insightful questions and new ideas – and we learned more about what non-profits are thinking about when it comes to relationships, too.

Take a look at the abbreviated version of our presentation below, and stay tuned—Session #3 on crisis communication rolls out this week!

PowerPoint PDF from presentation: Relationship Marketing for AFP FINAL BLMPR Blog Version

Introducing Yourself to a New Reporter

Let’s say a new reporter moves to your market or takes over your industry’s beat. Your company’s got a story to tell, and he or she is looking for a story. It’s a perfect match, right? But how do you introduce yourself and launch the conversation?

  • Suggest coffee – Coffee is great for introductions. It’s simple, doable within a busy schedule,  and limited to about a half hour, yet offers the benefits of a bona fide face to face. Send the reporter an email with a few potential dates to get started.
  • Come with background on your company – This information should be neatly packaged – think media kit or overview folder. Also, channel your inner Goldilocks. Don’t show up with too much or too little.
  • Have a short list of possible story topics at the ready – Be prepared to share details on a few of your company’s upcoming events or news items, and answer questions if you hook the reporter’s interest.
  • Share insights on the local area and/or industry to help new reporters get the lay of the land – You will become their new favorite resource.
  • Ask reporters what stories they’ve enjoyed recently, what they’d like to know more about, what interests them as a person and as a professional – Then look for ways your company can tie into those interests or topics.
  • Do your homework beforehand – Know what types of articles the reporter has written in the past and be ready to mention them if appropriate.
  • Thank the reporter – He or she did not have to take the time to meet with you.
  • Follow up – Next time a news item hits from your company, include the reporter on the announcement. Perhaps even offer them a heads up or an exclusive. Also, regularly share white papers or brief articles on topics related to your company that you know they’re already interested in. (We’re talking every month or so, not five times a day!)
  • Try to meet in person for updates at least twice a year.

Now that you’ve started the reporter relationship, you’ll want to maintain it. Read our advice on that topic and how to move from a push to a pull media relations strategy here: