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Prepare Your Crisis Communications Plan Now Using These Nine Fundamental Steps

VW deceiving the government and its customers; Jared Fogle’s criminal charge jeopardizing Subway’s reputation; Amazon battling the New York Times about abusive employment practices; Blue Bell shutting down because of listeria concerns.

Those situations show any company can face a crisis that can seriously disrupt their business whether it be challenges like those above or a crisis like tainted product, accounting fraud, a disastrous fire, disgruntled employees, an executive scandal, and even an unanticipated work stoppage.

From a communications standpoint, in a crisis you can be challenged on many fronts to manage your news and reputation:

  • In this era of the customer, you have to deal with someone who many hear and see everything and can spread news like wildfire.
  • Reporters competing for bylines and airtime, who relish taking on companies in crisis.
  • Bloggers who can have deep industry expertise and contacts and be an advocate or most likely a critic when crisis hits. This is his time to establish his thought leadership.

There is no question that you will benefit by having a plan to help you manage a crisis communications effectively. That plan will help regain the trust of its customers and consumers and allow a company to quickly get back to business.

So it’s best to prepare now, and update and practice your plan annually. Crisis communications planning for an organization can be as fundamental as these nine steps:

  1. Philosophy & position – know and appreciate the value of being open, responsive, transparent, professional and proactive when a crisis hits.
  2. Anticipation – before it hits, identify the worst case scenarios and your team’s capabilities to address them (see list below) as crises can come in many ways known and unknown.
  3. Listening & hearing – have off and online listening mechanisms for hearing about your brand or organization’s problems on a timely basis; here are the best tools for social monitoring online during a crisis.
  4. Policies & procedures – know how to, who will and when to speak competently and confidently to build trust with media and all your constituencies. Use your CEO or, if he isn’t capable or available, find the next senior most executive who is competent at being the face of the company.
  5. Spokesperson designation & training – prepare and train that CEO or senior executive to establish that your spokesperson and his words matter and are trustworthy.
  6. Messages & materials – anticipate and prepare valuable and pertinent messaging and statements, releases and Q&A for both social and mainstream media. Your situation will demand customized, appropriate messaging pertinent to the type of crisis, but you can be prepared with templates to help organize your communications quickly.
  7. Allies network – identify and build alliances and create communication systems to help allies help you during a crisis.
  8. Followup & response process –– create systems and procedures on how to update the media, influencers and public in a timely, responsible manner.
  9. Collaboration mindset & systems – have a collaborative mindset to work within your organization as a crisis can find your faults and strengths in internal relationships and communications. If it’s a crisis, teams in management, legal. R&D, production, logistics and PR need to work seamlessly without silos to manage the crisis successfully. Practice and updates can assure this does so.

Do you have a crisis communications plan, and how is it helping you manage through crisis and keep your business going? If not, you are flirting with serious business interruptions disaster. So what are you waiting for?

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Leading With Funk, Simple Better and Being Littlestitious

Here is a story from the Chicago Tribune about the winning Cubs manager. He is a proven winner and leader, so I thought you would enjoy this.

Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon is a man of many words, and his press briefings are legendary for their length.

When Maddon talks, people listen, whether they understand what he’s talking about or not. While many managers frequently respond to questions with well-worn clichés, Maddon’s thoughts are deeper and sometimes contain double meanings.

Here are some of the most memorable Maddonisms from his first year with the Cubs:

“Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.” A standby from his Rays days, Maddon uses the double entendre to convince his players that having fun should supersede the pressure of performing.

“Do simple better.” The T-shirt-ready slogan is meant to keep the players from overcomplicating their jobs. It is a T-shirt Maddon wears regularly. Jon Lester’s “play stupid” mantra is a variation on this theme. Maddon said he wants his players to just play — “I don’t want extra work. I don’t want too much information.”

“In our world, for me, every day is Friday night.” Maddon called off batting practice at Wrigley Field on a Saturday in mid-May so his players could enjoy a Friday night in the city, then revealed his philosophy on enjoying life.

“They got us, but any time you ‘meat loaf’ the other team in a series, you’ll take it. Meat loaf tastes good all season long. By the end of the season, it might be your favorite meal of all time.” Maddon was referring to the 1977 hit “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” by the rocker Meat Loaf, meaning he’s OK with taking series. After the Cubs won the first two games against the Cardinals last weekend but watched the bullpen blow the finale, Maddon proclaimed the next day, “The meat loaf was not good yesterday.”

“I love funk. I’ve always been a funk guy. The funk is good. Whenever you get funk in the bullpen, I like that.” Maddon was referring to the funky sidearm delivery of reliever Ben Rowen, who was signed in July after being released by the Orioles. Maddon had another sidearmer with the Rays, Chad Bradford, who helped them get to the World Series in 2008. But Maddon didn’t like Rowen’s funk enough as it turned out. Rowen was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays a month later without making an appearance in a Cubs uniform.

“That’s outcome bias.” Maddon uses this term to answer critics who second-guess decisions that backfire or assume something based on information that can’t be verified. In Tampa, he said in 2013 that “outcome bias messes with a lot of people’s heads, like, ‘If I had not bunted, I probably would’ve gotten a hit.'” In spring training this year, he used the term to answer those who argued Kris Bryant didn’t need any more time with Triple-A Iowa to be ready for the majors, saying “it’s the outcome-bias situation — people want to conclude what they want to conclude because they haven’t had a chance to see the other thing occur.”

“You have to have a little bit of crazy to be successful. I want crazy in the clubhouse every day. You need to be crazy to be great. I love crazy. I tell my players that all the time.” Maddon admitted after his introductory news conference that he was indeed crazy, and “crazy” is a prerequisite for players who want to succeed.

“I never tell the fans to temper it. I don’t think I’ve actually told the players to temper it. I’m not into temperance, I guess.” Another double-meaning from a man who enjoys a glass of wine on occasion. Maddon was responding to a question on whether he asks his players to temper their enthusiasm during a hot streak so they don’t get too high.

“I’m not superstitious. I’m just a littlestitious.” Quoting one of his favorite TV shows, The Office, Maddon was responding to the suggestion by reporters he was superstitious for wearing the same pair of socks for “many days” during the Cubs’ nine-game winning streak. “They’re camouflage,” he said. “I know the stench is coming.” The Cubs lost to the White Sox the day he revealed his low degree of “stitiousness.”

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Get Into the Flow for More Creative Ideas and Innovation

When you are totally and almost single-mindedly absorbed in the creative process, you are in the flow, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, described Csikszentmihalyi as the world’s leading researcher on positive psychology.

Flow is concentrated immersion and complete focus in addressing a challenge or opportunity. Csikszentmihalyi suggested ways that business can prepare for flow including:

1. Establishing a sense of safety where “all may say what otherwise is only thought.”

2. Encouraging a bit of craziness.

3. Prototyping an idea to try it.

4. Seeing the differences among participants as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

Here is a great quote from Mihaly’s Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery,

“Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”

How are you getting in the flow to boost your and your organization’s creativity?

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