Tag: Communications

Celebrating success before it all kicked off!

As a non-executive board director for the Theatre Royal in Wakefield, I was really privileged to support the organisation when they were shortlisted in the community category of the Yorkshire Business Excellence Awards.

The celebration took place in Leeds on 30 October with a range of companies large and small coming together to share their achievements and successes. What was most impressive – and I am biased – was that guests were serenaded by the Theatre’s Performance Academy as they entered the champagne reception.

It was a glitzy affair with initial pre-dinner address from Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith followed by a delicious four course meal. It was then time to announce the winners and you could feel the tension as heart rates hit new heights.

It was the fourth announcement of the evening and we were all sat wide eyed waiting for the final decision to be shared… and the winner is *insert drum roll*, ‘the Theatre Royal Wakefield’. Acknowledged in particular for striving to operate a best in class destination that gives access to the arts and entertainment despite significant cuts, it was unanimous.

I genuinely believe that the Theatre Royal has a great deal to offer the local community and that people should take the time to visit and to experience the amazing programme of performances that take place in this historic gem of a building.

The venue is celebrating an amazing 120 years and I often wonder what stories it would tell if only it were possible to do so but at least one thing is for sure, the Yorkshire Post Business Excellence Award would be one of them! Please click here for more details of the winners from the night and video coverage supplied by the Yorkshire Post.

Moving on to the next day (no rest for the wicked!), it was a crisp Friday morning and by contrast you couldn’t get much different. Wrapped up warm I headed up to Scotland with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for a weekend of football.

As previously shared, we have supported Game On, an initiative which brings young people together from some of the most disadvantaged coalfield communities throughout the country to play football. The programme goes beyond the simple principles of sport and engages young people to learn about interaction with third party organisations and peers, as well as teamwork and social skills.

Having cheered on all of the teams during the Inter-regional Finals in Derby as they fought hard for their places in the Home International Tournament, it was time for Wigan A and B to do their country proud.

Thankfully the weather was mild and there were even a few breaks in the clouds as the sun attempted to shine. The winning players from Scotland, Wales and England all took to the pitch and after an official opening to a marching band of pipers, it was kick off.

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There is no doubt that each team gave it their all, with some amazing tackles, defending and goals and then it was down to just two; England and Wales. The match was like-for-like and finished with a goalless draw so it was penalties and sudden death.

I’m not a huge fan of football but I have to admit that after watching the lads put their all into the games I was routing for them to win – it even got so bad that I did some cheering and even added my very own unique take on a team talk *cringe*.

Over the course of just 2 days we had got to know the team a little better and there were some real characters in the group who certainly helped to raise a few smiles with their quips and ‘humour’.

11.04.14 Game On National Home Final

No sooner had the whistle blown than it was over – Wales had won the Tournament on penalties. Needless to say there were some glum faces from the England lads but they did us proud and that’s all that anyone can ask for.

What was most impressive was their manners, general attitude to the game and most importantly their passion for the sport and the wider team. You would never guess that these young lads were from coalfield communities and I’m not absolutely sure that they would feel it necessary to tell you but what they probably don’t realise is that if nothing else their determination and sheer grit could be considered a lasting legacy from times gone by.

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And so I’m on to another week and although there won’t be any glitz and glamour or pitch side banter and penalty shoot outs this week, there are certainly proposals to be planned, news to be drafted, events to be arranged and announcements to be managed that will keep me busy – after all, there’s never a dull moment when you work in PR.

Why guidelines can be a lifeline

It never fails to amuse me when people say that they have all of their marketing under control and whip out a document with ‘BRAND GUIDELINES’ proudly displayed across the front. What people don’t seem to appreciate is that even though having brand guidelines is a good starting point, it does not always take into account the bigger picture.

As an example, if someone picks up your brand guidelines document it is likely to explain how your logo or strap line should be displayed. It is not however as likely to go into the detail about the tone of voice you should use when communicating about your brand or the factors you should take into account when using social media.

You see, brand guidelines are one thing but communications guidelines are quite another. The two do and should work hand-in-hand but very rarely are they proudly displayed together.

I recently hosted a strategy session with a local artistic contemporary photographer – Nigel Tooby – who is building his brand. In addition to understanding the importance and significance of how he projects his image, he was also more than aware of the need to develop his communications strategy.

I was pleased that as a creative, Nigel had taken the time to consider how he communicates effectively with his audiences. Many companies and even big businesses and corporations focus on their branding but not on their marketing communications.

A communications strategy should support the business objectives, making it a fundamental part of a company’s growth potential. Taking the time to consider the personality of your business, the tone of voice you use, a positioning statement and longer term aspirations and goals can be the difference between success and so, so.

I’m not sure whether this business has gone through a communications strategy session or if they have specific guidelines for their engagement but Yorkshire Tea do a great job of reinforcing their personality in all that they do. As well as being consistent across mediums, they are also friendly and funny (which is not easy!).

There are lots of other brands who get it right but many that seem to neglect their marketing communications in favour of ‘bigger things’ that command significantly higher budgets. I find it endlessly infuriating that the foundations of a company are discarded due to cost – we can all put our prices up but as specialists we also deliver a professional service and this should be recognised.

My advice would be to start with the basics. Get your positioning and messaging right and then everything else will follow – don’t skip to the branding because you think it’s more exciting; all that happens is that your audience will see a disconnect between the image your project and the personality you portray and that certainly won’t give you the return on investment you’re looking for.

COALFIELDS CALLS UPON OPEN FOR PR SUPPORT

07.09.14 Coalfields Regeneration Trust

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the organisation dedicated to providing support, guidance and funding for people living within former mining towns and villages, has appointed Open Communications as its preferred PR and marketing communications agency covering England.

Working closely with the team from England at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Open Communications is tasked with raising the profile of the organisation both within the communities and to a national audience, securing coverage in relevant regional, national and trade media and supporting with social media activity and marketing communications.

Following a trial period of three months, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust has already experienced the results that Open Communications can achieve when working as an extension of its team. Achieving an audience reach of more than 8 million with a recent story, the agency now looks forward to building on successes to date and its productive relationship with the charity.

Head of Social Investment at Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Andy Lock said: “We had been in need of effective PR support for some time and approached Open for an informal discussion as we had heard good things about them. It was clear from this meeting that their philosophy and no nonsense approach to PR matched our aspirations and objectives.

He adds: “Open has very quickly established itself as an extended part of the operation, getting to know us and what makes us tick and translating this into impactful PR which is delivering great results. Their insightful input has challenged our preconceptions about `what works’. We are always impressed with their hard working ethic and commitment to go the extra mile to get the job done.”

Director of Open Communications, Lindsey Davies said: “We always work with our clients as opposed to for them, this means that we can add extra value to the service we offer. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is a fantastic organisation and we are very much looking forward to developing our relationship further as we continue to support them with PR, social media and marketing communications.”

Open Communications, the straight talking PR and marketing communications agency, was launched by Lindsey Davies and Emma Lupton in 2008. The business, which is RAR approved and was named as one of the Top Agencies outside of London, has since grown and is commissioned by a range of brands from family run businesses to multi-national household names.

Based at Nostell Priory Estate Yard, the agency now manages the PR and social media activity for companies including POM-BEAR, the teddy shaped snack brand; Paragon, the print and document management service provider; Xamax, the branded clothing specialist and HARIBO, the UK’s leading gums and jellies brand.

Content is king – long live the king!

User generated content has become an increasingly appealing option for businesses, not least because they can share their ideas, thoughts and passions at the touch of a button. In addition user generated content is cost effective and accessible – after all it’s your time that you need to invest.

Whether you have a company blog, or prefer to use social media tools to share your thoughts, there is an international audience just waiting to hear what you have to say.

What to consider

The problem with user generated content is that often once the excitement of uploading your musings wear’s off, businesses are left with websites and social tools that are clearly out of date.

What usually happens is that someone takes responsibility for uploading content, even getting the support of the senior team, only to then find that managing the process is constantly on the bottom of their ever increasing ‘to do’ list.

All this then does is reinforce that marketing and communication is not a priority for the business – whereas user generated content should be used to promote and showcase success and the value that a consistent approach can deliver.

How to manage the process more effectively

Many organisations choose a single person to manage all user generated content, which includes the drafting and uploading of all articles, but a better and more effective approach would be to pick one person from each team to submit an article of their choice.

This will then share the workload and empower those who are asked to contribute to do so on a less frequent basis. So, rather than having one person contributing to a company blog each week, you can share the workload by requesting that each team submits a blog once a month.

What you are also likely to find if you share the management of a company blog is that the content becomes more engaging and it gives people who are genuinely passionate about their job the chance to share their thoughts and have them published.

This will still require one person to chase and ensure that people do submit their copy on time however it makes the process far simpler and less demanding.

How to make it engaging

Some businesses can struggle with finding topics that they feel their visitors, followers, connections or fans will be interested in reading however it’s worth remembering that they have already taken a step to engage with you and without updated user generated content all you are doing is metaphorically turning your back on them – now that’s not friendly when you think about it!

To make things easier all you need to do is add the website, blog and social media to your weekly or monthly meetings. Create a calendar of events, activities, dates, products, services and subjects that are relevant to your business – you can then choose any one of these to expand on and share.

As an example you could be a clothing company and in which case you could consider the following; fashion, materials, manufacture, design or retail. There are lots and lots of things that could be covered.

Top tips

In order to get best value from user generated content, we would recommend that you keep it simple. Consider how you can share updates with your audience that will add some value.

Blogs as an example are a great way to share the personality of those within your organisation. Choose people who you know will want to contribute and who will get a real buzz from seeing their copy online – it will make life much easier than trying to drag content from those who would rather not contribute.

Put together a list of words that can be associated with your business and also the topics that are covered in industry magazines. What’s great about user generated content is that it’s your opportunity to have your say – obviously you need to be mindful that anyone can access your thoughts and there is a fine line between opinion and ranting – but it’s a great way to share your thoughts.

If you draft a simple question and answer document that can be updated in no more than 20 minutes you can send this around to the teams within your organisation and simply use this as a team update or ‘five minutes with’ section to the blog. This is really simple and should provide you with interesting and engaging content to share.

Clients and suppliers are a great resource as well. If you are proud of the work that you do with them then ask that they feature as a guest blog, sharing their thoughts and views with your audience.

There is no doubt that time and resource needs to be invested in generating interesting and engaging user content but once you start to see the value, which can be measured by increased web hits or shares, likes and retweets across social tools, it becomes clear that it can add real value to your business, while also raising your profile and positioning you as an expert within your field.

How often to post

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post or update user generated content but as a guide we would recommend that you update your blog once a week to start with. This will give you a realistic target and will encourage visitors to come back to your site or to share your comments more often.

Taking little steps to implement a strategy that you can manage internally is a great way to build on your marketing activities and if you really don’t have the time – you could always ask an agency for support.

At Open Communications we work with businesses to develop a strategy that they can manage. We offer full day sessions with up to 6 people from any one organisation able to get involved.

Getting people excited by user generated content is often the first hurdle to cross and making them understand the value and benefit that can be achieved as a result isn’t always easy. Working with a third party can do this quickly and give you the hints and tips you need to build a strategy that will last and deliver a return on investment.

Better still, if you work with a reputable company they should have examples of other businesses they have worked with who have seen the value and are putting steps in place to create interesting, engaging and up to date content that they share.

An audience that is seen but not heard

It’s always surprising to find that when it comes to strategic communication businesses completely discard an audience that should be made up of its most loyal followers; it’s employees.

It is very rare that we receive a PR brief which makes specific reference to internal communications, unless it includes a newsletter or the updating of an intranet service. So, why is it that brands which invest thousands of pounds into managing their most precious asset – their reputation – don’t consider their biggest advocates as a key audience?

Well, it’s simple really. Employees are, in some businesses at least, seen and not heard. In times where offices are busier, customers want more and time is ever of the essence, it is fair to suggest that the easiest audience to ‘ignore’ or push to one side would be those who are closest.

It’s like anything, when you have a task to do that is for your own brand or business you leave it until ‘later’ but later, like tomorrow, never seems to come.

We work with companies of all sizes to explain the importance of internal communications, and to explain why investing in this audience should become part of an organisations wider business strategy if they want to really succeed. Employees make a business, and they add to the personality of a brand, which is the one thing that competitors cannot replicate.

When you think about some brands and the experience that you have had, it won’t be the owner of that company that has given you that impression – good or bad – but the person that you deal with when you come into contact with that business. In most instances, when you think about leading global brands you will have no idea what the owner even looks like; what you are likely refer to is people you know who work for that company, or the attitude of the person who last called you from that particular business.

The simple truth is if you don’t invest in your team, whether they are customer facing or not, you can’t expect them to then share the positive values of your business with others.  What will they be saying when they are down the pub with their mates or updating their latest Facebook post? What are they tweeting about and if it references your business, is it likely to be positive? It’s certainly worth considering in an age of ‘sharing’ content and expressing opinion.

Employees are an essential asset to any business, not just bums on seats. Perhaps it’s time that we all took a step back, considered those who should matter most and enthused them to want to share the good things about the company that they have chosen to work for.

Putting together an internal communications campaign, which educates and engages your staff, could give you the best return on investment of any marketing activity you have planned for 2014.

Has social media made brands more honest?

This was one of the questions that was asked this morning at the Yorkshire Business Insider, Digital Economy Breakfast, which was hosted at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Using the hashtag #insideryorksdigital a collective of communication, brand, marketing and digital practitioners came together in a panel led discussion, which asked for questions from the audience that were then answered by four respective experts.

This question in particular really caught my attention as I don’t believe that it has made brands more honest, and in contrast to the feedback given by both panel and the audience, I feel that social media has forced business to be more responsive – not necessarily honest.

What we have to consider is whether factual means honest. I don’t believe that this is always the case and as such businesses are managing their communications better and being more considerate of what they say and where. Again, we need to note that considerate does not mean overtly sensitive, a better description may be controlled.

In a world that is full of people with opinions and comments that they are only too ready to share with the masses, particularly when something goes wrong, it is absolutely essential that brands are ready and willing to converse with their audience, providing feedback and assistance if the matter calls for it.

This sounds far simpler than it is. The nature of the beast means that the larger, and presumably more successful, a company becomes the more resource and budget it has to give to communicating with its ever growing audience.

In a world that has typically cut marketing and PR budgets during difficult times, as opposed to recognising the skills and asset that a communications team brings to a business, we can quickly identify where and why some brands have come a cropper over recent years.

With the good always comes the bad but in order to nurture brand ambassadors, while also assisting those with complaints, the landscape has changed and thankfully larger businesses have had to recognise the true value of PR and marketing communications.

Many of the errors that have been made when it comes to social media and the #epic #fails we all share are down to poor delegation. A junior member of the team is tasked with managing social media because no one else really understands it or has the time; after all they are too busy with the serious stuff.

The problem here is that the serious stuff is presumably the reputation of the company, which is directly driven by the way in which an organisation interacts, engages and communicates with its audiences.

Is it just me or are we stating to see a direct correlation here? Put simply, social = serious.

So, interestingly from this one question we can determine that perhaps social media hasn’t made brands more honest – after all, as organisations become more socially aware, they are also becoming more strategic with the way they engage – they are however more responsive and many of them now realise that you can’t ignore a medium that rightly or wrongly is used by an ever increasing number of consumers and businesses both as a platform for communication and search.

Is there any sensitivity when it comes to social media?

As a PR agency we build social media strategies for our clients, which, in the simplest sense, allow them to engage with an online audience. More importantly, using these tools, we are able to gleam some idea of the sentiment a collective audience has towards a brand and business.

At an event recently social media tools, including twitter, were referenced as the world’s largest and most quickly evolving search engine – an interesting suggestion and one that I am beginning to agree with more and more.

Opinion and online interaction has never been such an integral part of the communications process, which we are all starting to build into our daily lives. Something happens and the first thing that people will do is tweet about it or take an image and share it with their network of contacts online.

I was surprised recently to watch a programme, similar to Police Camera Action, which focused on a car chase and subsequent crash, which seriously injured the driver and passenger. As if this situation wasn’t disturbing enough, with two young people hurt and needing help, the team of police and paramedics weren’t able to dedicate all of their attention to the needs of those that really required it as they were faced with a ‘paparazzi’ of phone users – a crowd of people taking images and videos.

Now I’m all for sharing interesting and relevant information, but a car chase and those injured – come on! Does anyone really need to see that and does having an iPhone really make you a journalist?

When something in the world happens, the press often now request footage from the scene and I can see how life changing events would be of interest but I think we all need to take a step back and determine what is and is not ethically appropriate to share.

I hadn’t really considered the implications of people’s desire to share before but I have to admit that I am now thinking that people have lost all sensitivity when it comes to social media. I always say to clients and the team her at Open Comms that if you wouldn’t stand in a pub and make a comment then you shouldn’t tweet it. Just as importantly if you are going to share someone else’s comment or opinion by retweeting or liking their status make sure you have the facts first – do not regret your actions later.

In many businesses now there is a code of conduct specific to social media, and I think that this should be considered by individuals too. There should be six simple steps to social media:

  1. If you won’t share a comment or opinion with a stranger, then don’t share it socially with the world
  2. Think before you tweet / share, these seconds could make all the difference
  3. Consider what value your comment will add – is it likely to cause unnecessary offence or emotional hurt to another
  4. If you are going to like / retweet or share content from others,  take the time to read it properly first – be aware of what you are putting your name against
  5. With so many social platforms available make sure that you are using them correctly – privacy settings are there for a reason, so use them
  6. Be sensitive, consider why you are filming or photographing something. If your actions mean that a person will die or come to extreme harm because a paramedic is unable to do their job properly, is that content ever going to be worth your conscience.

These are just my thoughts but I’m sure that others will have their own to add. I don’t propose that social as a medium is regulated or ‘policed’, I would like to think that people were intelligent enough to make their own informed decisions but perhaps I’m wrong.

Grass isn’t always greener – in fact it could be Astroturf

What do you do when you want to improve your ranking across search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, encouraging your prospects and customers to find you when they search for the products and services you offer?

Some companies choose to work with professionals; PR agencies, digital companies and SEO (search engine optimisation) consultants.  Although this seems like a reasonable suggestion there is a definite need for businesses to choose who they work with wisely.

As social media tools become a viable source of information for those who want a review or recommendation, more companies are recognising the value of this for businesses and in particular those working in industries such as hospitality, leisure and of course food.

With the simple click of a button, an opinion can be formed based on the feedback given relating to the experience of a single individual. We all have bad days and sometimes things go wrong and this is where posts and comments can have a real impact on the success of a company.

As an invaluable platform for some people with sites such as Trip Advisor being considered the fountain of all knowledge when it comes to holidays, these are no longer sites that brands are able to avoid. If there is a bad comment then the first thing we suggest is that a response is given from the brand and if necessary a meeting is arranged or an explanation is given.

With social media the simple fact of the matter is that ignorance is certainly not bliss!

But it’s not all about the comments that people post, which provide a genuine insight into the experience that they have had.  Things are much, much worse than that. You see not all agencies or consultants are quite what they seem.  Although the grass can look very green when a company is securing permanently positive references and five star ratings, what you are actually looking at is Astroturf.

This isn’t the stuff that bloody knees are made of – oh no. Astroturf is another term for ‘fake reviews’. As many of these tools rely on ‘grass routes’ feedback, the term Astroturf is used for false recommendations or criticism. Basically those who claim to be ‘experts’ are actually paying freelancers or individuals that they know to post reviews without necessarily having ever experienced the brand or purchased products from the business.

Not only does this give a distorted view of a particular company but it is very dangerous. An example of how this can go horribly wrong featured recently on the BBC website. The Local Attorney General’s Office created a completely fictitious yogurt shop.

They then asked a selection of companies offering SEO services to support the brand. As a result 19 companies have now been fined £218,470 after creating false profiles and posting inaccurate and libellous comments about the yogurt shop, which didn’t exist.

What’s even worse is that the individuals that were encouraged to post their reviews of the shop, in some instances, didn’t even live in the same country!

Like anything else, SEO companies should have credentials that they can share to prove that they know what they are doing. If you really want to pay someone to support you with SEO services then make sure you have done your checks and that the content that is being created is delivering a return on investment and adding value to your brand and business.

Unfortunately as the internet is so vast and collates information from so many different sources, SEO is absolutely essential for some businesses. All we would recommend as an agency is that if a brand is considering working with a consultant or team that offers SEO’s services, is that they ensure that all content is real, which in turn makes it credible. To do anything else won’t just be creating an inaccurate picture but it could just come back to give you a nasty shock that will hurt far more than a couple of bloody knees!

Are you giving your business the right tweetment?

When we are putting together a PR strategy for a client or discussing how a brand can communicate with its many different audiences, we always consider social media; after all it’s a platform and growing point of reference for consumers of all ages and demographics.

I have never really understood agencies that focus purely on social media, as although I feel it is a mistake to ignore online tools, in my opinion they should form part of a wider strategy. The internet has created new ways of communicating but the process is the same; you need to create a plan that supports a year round campaign and then a series of messaging that allows a company to share its stories, which in turn will raise its profile and understanding of the product and services it offers.

Needless to say PR always sounds far simpler than it actually is but essentially the fundamental purpose has never changed, our main objective is always to manage the reputation of the brands we work with. We want to share stories that lead others to talk about a company. In doing this we generate word of mouth, which is still the most valuable medium for creating credibility, recommendation and in turn sales.

I attended a networking session last night which focused specifically on twitter. In celebration of Leeds Business Week, Leeds Tweet Meet brought together a panel of communications professionals to discuss how to effectively use twitter for the purpose of business.

It was an interesting session but the main theme throughout was to have a plan and keep it simple. What was a very valuable suggestion was to recognise that twitter is now used as a real time resource by the consumer. No longer is twitter all about engagement or two way communication, there is a large audience using it to search for up-to-date news, views, comments and opinions.

For the first time twitter is actually competing with search engines, due to the speed in which information can be shared.

We always advise that clients take the time to review twitter and analyse what competitors are doing before they consider social media channels as a route to market. We believe that it is important to understand how people within a given industry are engaging with their audiences, as this can change significantly from one sector to another. It is also essential that legalities are considered, as there are some instances where information cannot be shared on an ‘open platform’.

What people sometimes forget is that twitter is a global and immediate channel to market. Once a tweet is out there it can be difficult to amend or delete. In order for any social media tool to work as well as it should, a client needs to be comfortable and confident before sharing their stories with the masses and that doesn’t just relate to using the tool but also to the content that a company proposes to share.

Some of the most spectacular #fails have come about as a result of brands jumping in or not taking the time to think before updating a status. Although it takes seconds to put up a post, it can take months to manage the damage that this could cause. We always ask if a person would shout their tweet in a street – if the answer is no, then it may be worth considering if the content is necessary and appropriate.

Although content is more important than ever before, it is worth asking what value your updates will give the recipient. If the content that you share is of no use to those that follow you, then consider how you can change it so that people can join in a conversation with you or use your content to their benefit.

As an example rather than telling people you are taking your dog for a walk, make recommendations on how consumers can get best value from your product or how your service differs from competitors. Twitter is also a great tool for sharing recommendations and testimonials, you can re-tweet positive comments and thank those that make them, which only strengthens those relationships, while sharing your success with a mass audience.

A suggestion from Leeds Tweet Meet was for businesses to develop a social media code of conduct, which in many organisations would provide guidelines for employees about what can and cannot be shared on business specific social media channels.

As a starting point for any business our top ten tips for twitter are as follows:

  1. Decide what your objective is – what do you aim to achieve through twitter
  2. Identify key individuals in the business who will manage the account
  3. Research what others within the market are doing (in particular competitors)
  4. Ask your customers if they would like to engage with you on twitter
  5. Create a code of conduct for employees to follow
  6. Do some scenario planning – what’s the worst that could happen
  7. Put together a simple schedule of tweets; build up a bank of topics / themes to consider
  8. Register an account with a relevant design
  9. Search for people that you would like to follow
  10. Build social media into your communications strategy

Twitter is certainly a good tool for business and has a growing number of followers. For those who ‘have better things to do with their time’ I would question what your customers and more importantly prospects would think.

As an immediate medium twitter can be invaluable to business and gives a brand a voice and personality. As a measure of success all you need to do is search for your favourite brands – the majority of which will now have an active twitter feed.

For those who are still in two minds then speak to a PR agency, they should be able to give you the guidance that you need to build twitter and other social tools into your wider communications strategy.

Your customers should always come first in a crisis

There was a collective intake of breath throughout the PR industry this week when news reports declared that a Thai Airways plane had skidded off a Bangkok runway on Sunday injuring 14 passengers on board.

It wasn’t the incident that had caused a stir with PR agencies however it was the fact that in their misguided wisdom, Thai Airways had taken the unusual approach of ‘blacking out’ their logo so that any media reports would  not display the company’s branding.

There are many, many reasons why this was a very misguided act on behalf of the airline, not least based on the fact that all reports would still reference the brand within their stories, name checking the company as they did so, and also that blacking out the logo simply created a reason for the business to continue to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons!

The first rule of any crisis, for any brand, of any size is to stand up and take responsibility. If there has been a problem that you are aware of and you are responsible then hold your hands up. It is far better to say sorry than it is to offer a no comment or attempt to portion blame elsewhere.

Crisis can be difficult, particularly when the press are involved but the simple truth of the matter is that in order to maintain a level of dignity and credibility throughout these situations, companies have to address the matter professionally.

Thai Airlines should have been making a statement in response to an incident, which lets remember had left 14 passengers injured, as opposed to putting their brand first. A simple two minute comment which started with: We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our passengers… and then ended with: We are in the process of carrying out a full investigation into this matter…

The un-written statement from the brand based on their actions reads more like: We have better things to do than consider our customers at this difficult time. Instead we are going to take poor advice and cover up our logo. We will be back shortly – does anyone have any black paint?

As a result of their actions the business haven’t so much blacked their logo as their name.

Having managed crisis for some of the UK’s leading businesses, here at Open Communications we are no stranger to difficult situations. Our advice to clients is always to be honest. In any event we work from our clients offices to ensure that we are on hand to offer the advice and guidance that they need.

It would be silly to suggest that crisis are simple, they are particularly uncomfortable and potentially damaging. Irrelevant of how disastrous a situation appears it can be handled correctly and professionally, ensuring that whatever the outcome the directors of a business can maintain their integrity and where possible the reputation of the brand.

Here are five top tips for managing the communications in any crisis situation:

  1. If required issue an internal announcement to all employees giving brief details of the situation and also guidance on who to direct any media enquiries through to
  2. Arrange a meeting with all board directors and senior managers within the business
  3. Discuss in detail what has happened and most importantly why
  4. Draft a statement to all media
  5. Manage all media enquiries and DO NOT under any circumstances issue a no comment

As you would expect, we would always advise that in these instances the first thing that you is contact your PR agency. If you don’t have a PR agency then we would strongly advise that you find one with the experience and credentials needed to support you during what could be one of the most difficult times of your career.

In the same way that people rely on legal practices when things go wrong, organisations should trust and rely on communications experts when it matters most.

And remember, no business ever has a crisis, until it has a crisis!