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.

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.


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.


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.

Use Media Training to “Build Bench Strength”

We are finalizing a media training session for senior executives at one of our clients. It reminded me that training is one aspect, albeit very important. Equally important is picking the right trained spokesperson and that really depends upon the situation.

Many companies tend to have two extremes in selecting spokespeople. Some always send out the public relations person, while others insist that only the CEO speak. Neither of these rules works well all the time. Sometimes the top PR person is great. Sometimes the CEO is best. In many cases, neither is the best choice.

When I worked as a reporter, I generally wanted to talk to the person closest to the story I was covering. If a hospital announced a new procedure, I wanted to speak to a front-line doctor or a patient, much more so than the PR person or the CEO. If the news report is about a non-profit agency doing good work, I wanted to talk with a volunteer, not the executive director. If there is an explosion or fire, I wanted to talk to an eye witness or front-line supervisor. The closer I got as a reporter to the person closest to the story, the happier I was and the better story I could write.

This means that when it comes to media training, you need to use the same principle that a great sports team uses. You must train and build bench strength. This gives your organization a larger number of spokespersons to send forth. The key is identifying them and providing training that allows them to be confident and ready when the need arises.

Once you’ve got the bench trained and ready, ask these questions when choosing a spokesperson.

1. Is this person technically qualified? A lot of qualifications are tied to job titles, but titles are not always key. Don’t automatically assume your CEO or top executive should be your spokesperson, especially in times of crisis. Instead, you want someone who can step in as the face of your organization if necessary. Who the spokesperson is at any given time depends on that person, the message that needs to be communicated and the audience who needs to receive it.

2. Can this person provide factual information accurately and quickly? The person you choose needs to have knowledge of the information needed and access to that information.

3. Does this person have the communication ability/authority to speak without rehearsing? You want your spokesperson to be able to rehearse, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. There are times (during a crisis, for example) when your spokesperson will have to speak at press conferences or in media interviews with little time for preparation. Be sure your spokesperson can speak intelligently and directly on the fly, if necessary.

4. Will this person present information in a clear, concise and competent manner? You want a spokesperson who is articulate, who can communicate key points without adding a lot of extra information and jargon.

5. Will the public understand the situation by listening to this person? Your spokesperson should be able to communicate what happened that led to this point, what’s happening now and what’s next in a way that your key audiences can understand.

6. Does this person communicate concern for people in a clear, compassionate manner? Some people are more compassionate than others. Some people just have a difficult time communicating concern and compassion without coming across flat. If this is the type of information you need communicated, you want to make sure your spokesperson can handle it without sounding like a jerk.

7. Do people trust this person? Whether your target audiences will trust your spokesperson is directly related to vocal quality, confidence and appearance. Like it or not, people will decide immediately whether they think your spokesperson knows what he/she is talking about. Think about whether you would trust your spokesperson if he/she were a stranger delivering this news to you.

8. Does this person want to be a spokesperson? You really shouldn’t force someone into the spokesperson role. If an individual isn’t comfortable representing your organization, then they are not the right person for the job. Choose someone else.

9. Is this person good with the medium required? Your spokesperson represents your organization in a lot of different scenarios. It may be in front of a large crowd, a small group or in a face-to-face interview with a reporter. Understand which medium is required and which spokesperson is best at that medium.

Speaking with the news media represents an excellent opportunity to tell your company’s story, if you get it right. If you get it wrong, your company’s reputation and brand can be damaged permanently. With a strong bench of trained spokespeople, you’ll be prepared for most situations with the best spokesperson to tell your best stories. Call us if you want to learn more about building some spokesperson bench strength at your organization.