The Crisis Trifecta – Responding to Challenges on Campus

Safety is a priority for administrators on college campuses around the country, but it’s impossible to predict when crises will arise with 100 percent certainty. Outbreaks of disease, cybersecurity issues, potentially violent protests, and other campus security concerns may arise with little-to-no warning whatsoever. Even if you have several days or weeks to prepare for the reaction to a controversial speaker or similar challenging event, how do you know that you’ll be prepared to handle it in the moment? How do you successfully address a crisis on campus?

Crisis Trifecta2

The solution may lie in utilizing the “Crisis Trifecta” – internal crisis response teams, an external public relations firm, and crisis management services. The situation on the ground during a crisis can be tense, and it’s easy for vital communication to fall through while administrators are still responding to the task at hand. Pairing external public relations with crisis response and management can help handle public response and, even more importantly, support crisis responders to communicate in clear, concise, and timely ways.

Each of the three parts of the “Crisis Trifecta” plays a major role in helping your campus deal with and recover from a potentially harmful event. When they work together, their strengths create a rock-solid foundation for effective crisis management.

To learn more, see our whitepaper or contact us at jremsik@blmpr.com

Raising Visibility Through Story and Strategy

Most organizations have an innate sense of how to raise their visibility in the market—Find great stories! Tell them! Showcase our differentiators! Reach our audiences! But executing on those concepts takes more than a basic understanding. Here’s how to go deeper to build lasting Story and Strategy for your brand.

Story

Prioritize expanding your toolbox as a writer for better storytelling.

  • Listen first. Engage with your frontline staff and customers. What are the moments that have stuck with them over the last month? The last year? For a story to have real power, it has to be relatable and personal. Traditional PR runs a risk of sounding a bit canned—talking with people helps you dig further.
  • Use narrative structure to your advantage. Good stories have a main character, a set up, a conflict, a climax, and a conclusion. Adding those elements to your organization’s story helps draw in audiences. I could technically tell you about a new piece of healthcare equipment in a news release, but it means more if I share the journey of a little girl whose life it helped to save.
  • Always be seeking new stories. Don’t just tie your story gathering to large initiatives or product launches. Stay in touch with people to mine stories on a regular basis. You’ll build a great internal library and organically create a culture that understands the value of telling your company’s story.

Strategy

  • Find your audience. The best stories in the world don’t mean much if you’re sharing them with an empty room. These days, it’s not enough to know who your audience is; you’ve also got to know where they get their information, which channels they use, and who their influencers are.
  • Think in layers. Crafting a great social campaign might be a good strategy, but it’s probably more honest to say it’s one branch of an even better strategy. Layer your information in a variety of channels and across a variety of times to generate the most awareness.
  • Evaluate and refine. Story-telling is a craft—that means you have to work at it. Assess what did or didn’t generate the results you wanted and be proactive in adjusting for the future.

With these tips in mind, your organization will soon become a pro at marrying Story and Strategy into lasting visibility.

 

Mission Critical – 5 Steps to Help Your Company Get Back on its Feet

So, your company’s experiencing a crisis. All eyes are turned to you. What are you going to do about it? Good communications and crisis management can help your company get back on its feet.

Assessment and Planning: The Value of a Matrix
One of the most helpful assessment tools is a crisis matrix, which organizes potential crises according to their 1) likelihood and 2) potential damage. No one can create a crisis plan to deal with every eventuality. The matrix helps you focus on the most-likely, most-damaging scenarios, and allocate resources accordingly.

Drills and Exercises: Don’t Get Rusty
Many companies put a plan on paper, but never actually practice it. Savvy PR practitioners develop “Crisis Toolkit” templates in advance, which might include a corporate statement or news release, internal and external talking points, Q&As and phone protocols for employees.

Crisis management experts, meanwhile, guide the company in drills and mock scenarios that help clarify roles and responsibilities. We often compare this to fire drills — you want to become familiar with what to do when there is no fire, so you can respond via muscle memory if a fire occurs.

Developing the Message
Most people want three things from communications professionals during a crisis: 1) Acknowledgement of what’s happened, 2) An explanation of what’s being done to address the situation, and 3) A means to provide feedback and ask questions.

Messaging is a great example of why PR and crisis management must work together. While PR is responsible for creating the messages, counselors and crisis responders also use that messaging on the phone or on the ground.

Getting the Message Out
Your company has developed fantastic messages, but how do you get them out? And how do you handle the influx of questions that’s sure to follow?

It’s important to ask who’s going to be the best at delivering a message. Typically, PR people are in the best position to communicate with the media, industry regulators and other internal or external stakeholders, while crisis management teams are better suited to communicate directly with the employees and families involved. Crisis response counselors are trained in how to deliver bad news to families and how to deal with the reaction. That expertise takes the burden off the company.

Dealing with the Aftermath
Sometimes PR professionals make the mistake of thinking their job is done once the crisis has been communicated, but it’s a smart idea to sit down, re-evaluate how the plan worked—or didn’t—and identify the next shoe drops or communication opportunities. It’s also a good way to ensure that support for your customers and employees doesn’t disappear now that the crisis is over.

Making Employees Feel Appreciated

What do employees want from their employer? Sure, a decent paycheck, health insurance and vacation days are important. But the ABC Company provides these benefits, and so does the 123 Company. So what makes one company more appealing to employees than the other? It’s the little things that show employees they’re appreciated. When comparing one company to another, the company with a culture of appreciation usually wins.

There are many ways to show appreciation that don’t require much time, money or effort. Take for example a simple verbal acknowledgement for a job well done. As the CEO or manager, taking a moment to speak directly with your employee to acknowledge his or her work can make a huge impression on that employee. It shows him or her that you’ve taken notice of the employee’s work. Employees, especially millennials, want verbal acknowledgement and feedback, and this is one of the best ways to show appreciation.

A handwritten note or an email is also effective if you make it personal to the employee. “I really appreciate the work you did to clean up the database. It’s not a fun job, but our next mailing will be more efficient thanks to your efforts.”

Other ways to show your employees you appreciate them include:

  • Unexpected time off. Consider giving an employee or the whole office a few hours off once in a while. For example, the first nice warm weather day or an afternoon in December to do some holiday shopping.
  • Bringing in treats, coffee or lunch. Food is always a hit, especially in our own office.
  • Inviting employees to sit in on planning sessions.
  • Holding frequent state-of-the-company meetings to keep all employees appraised of what’s going on in the workplace.

For some employers, it’s a big deal if their employees simply show up each day, dressed appropriately and use the tools they have to connect with customers. Appreciating your employees for being part of the team is also worthy of an acknowledgement.

We recently helped a banking client develop and execute a brand recognition campaign. As the new brand was rolled out over a six-month period, so too were small, but impactful, ways to acknowledge and recognize employees. One month employees received pins to wear at work. The pin had the new slogan on it, and if a customer asked the employee what it meant, it gave the employee the opportunity to explain the new brand and interact with the customer. Another month, each employee received a branded pen. The next month each employee received recruiting cards he or she could personalize with their name and hand to prospective employees. Employees loved the cards and felt empowered to help find the next great job candidate. These cards were tied to a refreshed employee referral bonus. Employees were rewarded with candy bars in November with a message that said the company was “thankful” for them.

The immediate impact of this overall campaign resulted in a lower employee turnover rate. Employees felt like they had ownership in the company and knew they were appreciated. It was a win-win.

If you’re not already acknowledging your employees, consider putting together a small internal focus group to solicit input on ways to start recognizing employees. A little effort goes a long way to differentiate your company from the competitor, helping you recruit and retain the best employees. 

If you were CEO for the day, what would you do to show appreciation?

Say What? Tips for Speaking or Presenting at Conferences

I just returned from the annual SHSMD conference, which featured many excellent presentations from communications pros in the healthcare and health tech/data industries, and it got me thinking about the value of presenting well.

Speaking opportunities are a great way to spread awareness of and interest in your products, services or organization. Whether it’s an informal business roundtable through your local chamber, or a national conference attended by thousands, presentations offer you a chance for face-to-face engagement with your audience in a way most other marketing channels don’t.

Make the most of that engagement with these quick tips:

  1. Keep it short. No one wants to listen to someone trying to cram 140 slides worth of information into a 30-minute talk. Be thoughtful about streamlining your material and highlighting only the most important information in a way that gets to your key takeaways faster.
  2. Keep it relevant. Make sure your content is meaningful to your audience. When possible, include real-world anecdotes and examples. Instead of citing loads of data in tiny-hard-to-read charts, boil it down to a few lessons from the before-and-after. Sharing tactical tips that are easy to apply and replicate is another great way to deliver audience value.
  3. Keep it fun. Humor helps a lot! A presentation on even the driest subject becomes more interesting with a little humor. I once saw someone discuss the dangers of honeybee decolonization by comparing it to the popular show Sex and the City. Use pop culture, use industry in-jokes if you’re with a familiar crowd, include funny stories or short activities to make your information—and your company!—memorable.
  4. Interact, engage, follow-up. You have your audience in the room with you—take advantage of it. Ask them for questions. Ask if they’ve encountered similar situations. This is your chance to learn from them just like they’re learning from you.  Also be savvy about including your contact information, website or social media follow-ups, or other specific calls-to-action that support your campaign. By directing them to additional information or connecting with them after the presentation, you build the beginning of a longer relationship.

Client Spotlight: ThedaCare

Every once in a while we like to give a shout out to one of our clients and showcase our good work together. This month, we’re featuring ThedaCare, a longtime client who’s partnered with us on everything from strategic communications to competitive intelligence to government relations to publications – and more. Here’s a peek into the scope of our work, and depth of our connections at this seven hospital, 35 clinic health system.

HUB

Strategic Communications

When change is afoot, as it often is in the world of health care, ThedaCare has relied on our strategic consultation, careful planning and expert writing skills to help develop communication plans, draft messages and roll out tactics from relationship marketing meetings, internal- and external-facing materials, events, media coordination and more. Using simple and clear language in our messages and creative visuals, we’ve crafted campaigns that share quality care data, the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, opportunities for new physicians, insights for government officials and significant organizational change.

Competitive Intelligence

In the world of health care, understanding your competition is essential. Sometimes that understanding yields a business partnership opportunity, and sometimes, it prompts a competitive business strategy. As part of the ThedaCare annual strategic planning process, we’ve compiled profiles of all kinds of organizations to help ThedaCare understand market changes and their implications in the 14 counties the organization serves – and beyond. Our research has included everything from national chain pharmacies and drug stores that are moving into care delivery to workplace wellness expansion to other healthcare systems and providers.

Government Relations

As part of the ThedaCare GR team, we support identification and strategic response around various government policies and regulations that present opportunities or risk to any and every part of the organization. We focus on state-level matters, and collaborate with our federal-level team members to develop strategies that influence policymakers on behalf of ThedaCare.

Publications

TC Magazine Portfolio Image

With years of experience in managing the ThedaCare employee newsletter and the ThedaCare community magazine, we’ve not only told the ThedaCare story in many vibrant ways, we’ve also learned the organization from the inside out. Relationships delight us and define how we work, so it’s no surprise we appreciate every person we interview, everyone who submits content and every soul who shares the heartfelt significance of participating in the ThedaCare mission of improving the health of the communities the organization serves.

Our Sweet Spot

We excel at behind-the-scenes consultation, research and marketing communications support that reaches the more than 240,000 patients ThedaCare serves annually, the organization’s many partners, public officials, stakeholders and community members.

As ThedaCare continues to lead in implementing the health care of the future, we’re excited to walk alongside their team of passionate experts. Strategically supporting this special client, and helping execute around key initiatives and projects is a centerpiece of our work in health care. That kind of support isn’t limited to ThedaCare, though. It’s simply one great example of how we do business, all day, every day.

Make Relationship Marketing Work for You

Rel_Mkt

© Atee83 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Relationship marketing is a strategic process to develop and grow relationships with people both inside and outside of your circle of influence–customers, prospects, community leaders, elected officials—anyone you value getting to know on a deeper level, and anyone who may become a friend and ally.

Our clients understand the value of relationship marketing, and they turn to us to support their effort. Some already have full plates and are unable to add this into their workload. Others are not comfortable or do not know where to begin to reach out to prospects without a specific ask in mind.

The Bottom Line approach

At Bottom Line, we use a proven process to make relationship marketing work on behalf of our clients. We start by leveraging our own contacts, and we look for and identify other contacts who might benefit from a mutual discussion.

The key to a successful connection is to identify a benefit to the person you want to meet with. What’s in it for them?  For most of our relationship marketing meetings, we let contacts know there is no agenda and no sales pitch. There is a desire to meet, learn from one another and possibly, depending on the client’s strategy, talk about a specific idea. We are clear, however, that the meeting is not a sales meeting. It’s about relationship development. 

For example, one of our clients has an objective to meet with business and elected officials in the community they serve. We start by identifying the business leaders and elected officials at the local and state level. We invite those leaders to take a tour of our client’s headquarters and spend a little time with the leadership team. The benefit to the prospect is to meet with the company’s executives, gain deeper understanding of the company’s commitment to the community, as well as get an inside look at our client’s facility, something they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to do.

After the initial meeting, we encourage our clients to send a personalized thank you note and to do any follow up. We look for other opportunities for the client to get back in touch with someone they’ve previously met with. This could be something as simple as forwarding an article the prospect might be interested in. That is made even better if it relates to something that was discussed during the initial meeting.

Bottom Line uses a customer relationship marketing software program to track meetings and follow ups on behalf of our clients. We also generate status reports and contact lists to share with our clients.

Our relationship marketing approach has been successful in strengthening our clients’ reputations in their communities as experts in their fields, reliable partners, and good corporate citizens.

Tips for success

We touched on these tips in a previous blog post, but they’re worth repeating when building and maintaining a relationship:

  • Be persistent, but not pesky when scheduling a meeting. Most of us have few openings in our calendars and emails get lost in an inbox that is already full. Stay in touch. Chances are, the other person let it slip and appreciates the follow up.
  • Respect others’ time. If you set an appointment for a follow-up meeting, be specific on the start and end time, and adhere to it.
  • Know what you’re going to say. It’s best to listen and learn rather than have a specific ask in mind. Get to know the person before you jump in with a request.
  • Follow up. A handwritten thank you note is always appreciated.
  • Stay in touch periodically. Send an article of interest, a note of congratulations, the latest news release or newsletter about something happening in your company. Always include a personal note and the reason for sending. Periodically, extend an invitation to get together again.
  • Be patient. Solid relationships take time to grow.

Give us a call if you would like help expanding your circle of influence. We’d be delighted to help develop a customized plan for you personally or for your business.

Is Your Website Missing Out On Mobile?

According to Mediative, over 6.8 billion people use mobile phones – that’s roughly 87 percent of the world’s population! We are at the tipping point where people actually spend more time on their phones than on desktops. KPCB mobile technology trends indicate adults spend 51 percent of their time using mobile media compared to desktop at 42 percent. What’s more, Google Research found that 72 percent of consumers want mobile-friendly websites.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the implications are clear – if you don’t have a responsive (mobile-friendly) website, you are missing out.

Responsive websites not only allow consumers to easily view your site on their phones, they also improve your mobile search ranking, which is typically different than your desktop search ranking!

Not sure if your website is responsive? Enter your URL into Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Google’s test may tell you whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, but it doesn’t give you a rating on how good, or bad, your website performs on mobile devices. Here are a few tips to make the most of a responsive website and ensure your customers enjoy using your website on their phones:

  • Test your website’s usability on mobile devices. Ask users how easy it is to use the website, if everything is readable, how long it takes to load, and how easy it is to navigate (find what they are looking for/accomplish a task).
  • When writing copy for your website, keep mobile usage in mind. Short, summarized content and bulleted lists work best for those using their phones on-the-go.
  • Many still feel nervous when buying products directly on their phones, even on a website they have used on their desktops before. Be sure to use transparent language to explain your mobile site is secure.
  • On your mobile website, work to include the same content, images, features and functionality as your standard website. People expect full functionality when using their phones.

Looking to update your website? Contact us. Here are a few examples of the responsive websites we’ve recently helped create or update: Mosaic Family Health, Mallery & Zimmerman, and Physician Compass.

Making Employees Feel Appreciated

What do employees want from their employer? Sure, a decent paycheck, health insurance and vacation days are important. But the ABC Company provides these benefits, and so does the 123 Company.  So what makes one company more appealing to employees than the other? It’s the little things that show employees they’re appreciated. When comparing one company to another, the company with a culture of appreciation usually wins.

There are many ways to show appreciation that don’t require much time, money or effort. Take for example a simple verbal acknowledgement for a job well done. As the CEO or manager, taking a moment to speak directly with your employee to acknowledge his or her work can make a huge impression on that employee. It shows him or her that you’ve taken notice of the employee’s work. Employees, especially millennials, want verbal acknowledgement and feedback, and this is one of the best ways to show appreciation.

A handwritten note or an email is also effective if you make it personal to the employee. “I really appreciate the work you did to clean up the database. It’s not a fun job, but our next mailing will be more efficient thanks to your efforts.”

Other ways to show your employees you appreciate them include:

  • Unexpected time off. Consider giving an employee or the whole office a few hours off once in a while. For example, the first nice warm weather day or an afternoon in December to do some holiday shopping.
  • Bringing in treats, coffee or lunch. Food is always a hit, especially in our own office.
  • Inviting employees to sit in on planning sessions.
  • Holding frequent state-of-the-company meetings to keep all employees appraised of what’s going on in the workplace.

For some employers, it’s a big deal if their employees simply show up each day, dressed appropriately and use the tools they have to connect with customers. Appreciating your employees for being part of the team is also worthy of an acknowledgement.

We recently helped a banking client develop and execute a brand recognition campaign. As the new brand was rolled out over a six-month period, so too were small, but impactful, ways to acknowledge and recognize employees. One month employees received pins to wear at work. The pin had the new slogan on it, and if a customer asked the employee what it meant, it gave the employee the opportunity to explain the new brand and interact with the customer. Another month, each employee received a branded pen. The next month each employee received recruiting cards he or she could personalize with their name and hand to prospective employees. Employees loved the cards and felt empowered to help find the next great job candidate. These cards were tied to a refreshed employee referral bonus. Employees were rewarded with candy bars in November with a message that said the company was “thankful” for them.

The immediate impact of this overall campaign resulted in a lower employee turnover rate. Employees felt like they had ownership in the company and knew they were appreciated. It was a win-win. 

Check out our case study!

If you’re not already acknowledging your employees, consider putting together a small internal focus group to solicit input on ways to start recognizing employees. A little effort goes a long way to differentiate your company from the competitor, helping you recruit and retain the best employees.

If you were CEO for the day, what would you do to show appreciation?

“Here’s to Looking at You” through Your Customers’ Eyes

Understanding your customers today is becoming harder, not easier, especially given the high noise-to-data ratio driven by our good friend the Internet.

Why is this true?

  • Consumers have more power than ever before, thanks to social media, easy on-line comparison-shopping, and a digital proliferation of choices.
  • Customer diversity continues to increase, putting a premium on pinpoint audience segmentation, and deeper customer insights.
  • Data overload confuses customers, making them less interested in products than in flexible, customized solutions.

Beyond the economic uncertainty of the past few years, it’s not hard to see why customers are less loyal and far less trusting than before. This is especially true in industries whose reputations suffered during the financial crisis—banking, pharmaceuticals, energy, airlines and media. But even if you’re in an unrelated industry, you’re likely feeling some of the same effects.

To get closer to and better understand today’s more discerning customers, you really need to get inside their heads. Beyond a “Vulcan mind meld,” here are five ways to get those perspectives: 

  • Stand in your customers’ shoes. Look beyond your core business. Understand your customers’ full range of choices, as well as their web of suppliers, partners, influencers, etc. Understanding the ecosystem your customers live in helps you learn, adapt, and prosper. This exercise also can deepen your understanding of competitors, helping you better anticipate their moves.
  • Staple yourself to a customer’s order.  Track key customers’ experiences as they travel along your company’s pathways. Take note where the experience breaks down or they hit pot holes.  Experience the check-in process at your hospital, clinic or hotel. Ask managers to listen in on the company’s call center.
  • Field diverse customer teams.  Add members of the back-office support group to your customer teams, switching up the usual customer-facing roles. Send senior teams from different disciplines into the field to meet customers and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and wants.
  • Learn together with customers. Invite top customers, along with your executives and account managers, to a seminar on leadership and innovation. Doing so may help your executives better understand the mindset of their counterparts; it also may help to influence that mindset.
  • Lean forward and anticipate.  Focus on what customers will want tomorrow, aka Steve Jobs. Try to envision different futures with tools like scenario planning and explore how these possible market shifts may affect your customers. Consider involving your top customers in these explorations.

Sometimes, you just need to get out of your own way to really understand your customers. Psychologists know that you’re likely to listen for problems that fit your own offerings, while discounting others. That means you might miss important opportunities, or to get blindsided later. Try to listen with a “third ear” to what your customers are saying to you and others.  If you can truly listen, they’ll tell you all you need to know.

Call us if you’re looking for some third-party expertise to help you get a better understanding of your customers.