Four lessons to incorporate into your communications approach this year.
By Heather Claycomb
If you follow this column you’ll know I’m all about sharing practical PR tips and advice you can use in your organisation. This month, I’m sharing four unrelated lessons my team’s client projects have reminded me about as we kicked off 2021.
Communicate to Staff First
We’ve had a few clients making significant changes to their businesses at the start of the year, including a CEO suddenly stepping down and an acquisition taking place. Remember, that these sorts of changes in your organisation will cause anxiety among the team when not handled well.
The golden rule is you don’t want staff finding out about big news from an external source. You want them to hear it from you first. Doing so shows you value them above all others.
So, when big news is coming up, take the time to plan when the announcement will happen to all your audiences, but ensure you build in the time to talk to all your teams as top priority.
Leading is Better than Following
Have you noticed how the media cycle works around major issues? There’s usually a trigger – maybe the release of a research report, for instance – that is the first news story on a topic. But then that subject can be covered from several different angles by several journalists and media outlets for days. Think about topics like the housing crisis, child poverty, property prices, Covid-19 community outbreak and so on.
As you see a topic emerge, you might find yourself with an opinion that you’d like to get a journalist to cover. It’s important to remember that media don’t want to cover ‘same, same.’ In these situations, you need a really unique angle to get picked up.
However, an even better strategy is to ‘lead’ the news – start the public conversation – rather than follow on the back of others. Doing so gives you the opportunity to show your leadership in the space.
Plan for the Worst
We helped a client last month prepare for a worst-case scenario. Something is happening in the business that could cause some reputational damage if and when it becomes public. Knock on wood – the situation hasn’t eventuated yet, but they are sleeping better because they’ve got a plan in place.
‘Issues’ can become crises really quickly when they break suddenly and you are caught on the back foot not knowing what to say or do. Think of potential issues and crisis like you would your risk register. What is orange or red in your business at the moment? You might have an operational plan if they end up happening. But what is your communications plan?
I guarantee if you think the situation through now and develop your messaging and response strategy you, too, will sleep better at night knowing you’ve got a plan ready to go.
Media Release = Interview
The main purpose of a media release is to get stories in front of your target audience about things that are happening in your business. However, distribution of that media release to journalists is just the beginning of the process. The whole point of a media release is to stimulate interviews. And that’s a great thing – you get the chance to expand on key points, put a different angle on the topic or bring out another part of the story you didn’t include in your main release.
This is why it’s important that the spokesperson quoted in your story is around to take phone calls and ready to answer the phone and call journalists back quickly. If you’re the spokesperson, it is also important you are comfortable answering tricky questions that might be thrown your way, so think about the potential Q&As that could arise and practise your answers before the media release goes out.
Hopefully these four lessons are things you can incorporate into your communications approach this year.