Pr and Crisis Communications are two really interesting topics and both of which my guest Sandra Coyle has a lot of experience in.
Public relations and crisis communications are two of the most important aspects of business resilience. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business landscape, it is more important than ever to have a strong and effective PR strategy. A company’s reputation can make or break its ability to weather a crisis, and an effective PR team can be the difference between weathering the storm and being sunk by it. Sandra Coyle has extensive experience in both PR and crisis communications. Sandra’s insights into the importance of PR and crisis communications are invaluable for any business looking to build a foundation of business resilience.
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PR and crisis communications are two of the most important aspects of business resilience. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business landscape, it is more important than ever to have a strong and effective PR strategy. A company’s reputation can make or break its ability to weather a crisis, and an effective PR team can be the difference between weathering the storm and being sunk by it. Sandra Coyle has extensive experience in both PR and crisis communications. She is a master at crafting messages that resonate with target audiences, and she has a keen understanding of how to navigate the often choppy waters of crisis communications. Her experience and expertise are invaluable assets for any company looking to build a strong reputation and withstand the challenges of today’s business environment. If you would like some help with pr and crisis communication please contact us for a no-obligation conversation.
The full transcript can be found below.
Nathaniel Schooler 0:36
I’d like to introduce today’s guest, who I really have enjoyed speaking with a lot over the years, she’s called Sandra Coyle. And she specialises in global communications, strategic planning, expanding market share, and brand influence for organisations.
We discuss PR and communications and this kind of stuff. So you’ll find it very informative. We also discuss crisis management, and how an organisation should manage that it’s lovely to speak to you again, Sandra.
Sandra Coyle 0:56
It’s lovely to speak with you as well, Nate, thank you for having me today.
Nathaniel Schooler 0:59
It’s it’s quite an interesting topic today, I’m very interested in PR and crisis communications. And I know you’ve got a wealth of experience in these areas. And I think that actually, you know, we were talking a little bit before the recording about how there’s a lot of confusion around what PR really is, what public relations really is. And, you know, all these social media companies think that social media is PR. And in fact, it’s an extension of PR. And I think also be nice if you could help clear up the confusion around marketing and PR as well, because I know that’s a topic you’re very interested in.
Sandra Coyle 1:42
Interesting. I see many organisations, particularly charities struggle with PR and understanding what the difference is between PR, social media and marketing. So I’m really looking forward to speaking with you and your audience today to really bring some clarification from my experience.
Nathaniel Schooler 1:58
Right. So how does it work in terms of a marketing strategy, and then a PR, strategy.
Sandra Coyle 2:06
Marketing, maybe I’ll start with, with PR, I think often times, with marketing, you’re often selling a service or a product. And it’s really around the methodology with messaging and timing and time to market.
PR is something that starts with the brands from the early days. And it’s really your reputation amongst the markets that you work in, and also the audience’s that you’re targeting. And it tends to take a backseat, or there’s just a lot of misunderstanding of what’s involved with public relations.
So it’s the actual effort of going out and telling the story of your brand, not just once, but many times. And through many channels, oftentimes, of course, the media is a tool for that.
Over the past, say, 10 years or so since social media really took off. There’s a lot of focus on personal branding and personal PR as well. So this applies to individuals also. So it’s that storytelling aspect that has to come out and really inserting your brand into larger conversations also.
But as you said, social media is a tool is not necessarily PR, but you’re a multi channels are a way to talk about your brand, where you’re defining. Why it exists, what your goals are, and in a way, really giving a positive shame to the work you’re doing. So this is for charities, but you know, if you look at it in a larger way, it’s really individuals as well.
Nathaniel Schooler 3:41
Right. I’ve been talking a lot about storytelling. In the past few days I actually interviewed interviewed someone who was head of storytelling for like Weber Shandwick and and you know the information that I’ve been understanding is exactly what you’re what you’re confirming to me. And I think it’s something that goes back to the core of that person and that individual and how that mission and purpose sit together. Right?
Sandra Coyle 4:14
Exactly, exactly. That’s it. And I think when I work with organisations I’ve worked with quite a few over the past 15 years on this, typically, it’s a forgotten element of their business, its core to their business overall. And this applies to charities as well. So when I mean business, I also mean a charities mission and purpose.
I’m usually the one they’re talking to when that work has not been done, and others have defined with their mission and purposes, and they have not assertively gone out and told that story.
So it’s, it’s often when you look at a brand, and this is not everybody. But in the cases I’ve seen, they started along that path, and then they let it go, it seems an extra. But storytelling is very, very much a part of your everyday operations and your business and organisations, companies and nonprofits need to invest in this area on going to sustain the effort. So it’s the same ability factor that tends to get brands into trouble overall.
So it’s the hard work and I know you’re an expert in this area, but really doing the work around. :- “Who are you now as a brand, who are you in the future.”
So really working on your message, what are your key messages and making sure that that’s agreed upon, that is worked upon with everyone from your board of directors, and a governance through to any external stakeholders, and, most importantly, your staff, because they are your storytelling ambassadors.
So really honing the story internally, having some examples of that story in action ready at hand, and training everyone to tell that story. Because as we’ve seen, from certain cases, particularly in crisis, which I think will go into shortly, everyone who touches your brand is really your ambassador and can really sway thing so they can be at an event talking about their company, if they’re telling that story in a positive way, with examples, it can have a ripple effect and reach many more people.
So that core work needs to be done. And Mistake number two that I see happening is that’s done once, and everyone expects that story to stay static. Well, it’s not it changes all the time, it has to be revisited at least twice a year to see how is the organisation evolving. But also how is the outside world evolving as well, because that pressures on companies and charities, so the whole external scenario, and the organisation has to be looked at together.
Nathaniel Schooler 6:50
That’s a really, really concise explanation. Thank you very much. People will be really quite pleased to listen to this. But what interests me the most is that you you actually did some fantastic degrees when you were when you were studying and the one that you did at Tufts with diplomacy in the subject that you studied. I think it’s fascinating, really very useful for PR.
Sandra Coyle 7:13
Yes. Well, it’s interesting because I do want to give a shout out for the school systems or public schools. I was as we call them in the US, I know they’re, they’re different in the UK. But my education started at Rutgers University, which was a public institution in the US and I was double major in journalism and history. But journalism is really what got me into PR. And they taught me the writing skills, the interview skills, and the PR skills that I needed for later in life. And I had worked for many years, almost, let’s say 15/17 years before I went back for the government degree that you’re referring to, which is a Masters, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University just outside Boston and Tufts, The Fletcher School is the oldest international relations school diplomacy school in the US.
I went into an executive programs, I was still working and studying at the same time, so I could actually apply the skills I learned. But it was a very diverse curriculum, looking at everything from crisis communications, to leadership, to negotiation, to international politics, finance, trade, to really help executives understand the world today. So that really fitted nicely on top of the skills I had learned at a public institution and had practice for many years.
Little did I know, after graduation, just three weeks later, that I would find myself in a very big crisis situation. So it was nice to have the PR background, but also the crisis training from security professors as well to really hone out my skills.
Nathaniel Schooler 8:58
That’s great, I think the element of diplomacy within and also the knowledge of finance, and the knowledge of politics gives you a unique angle when you’re actually communicating with journalists. And also with with the government as well, and the charities and it almost it’s almost like, you could bridge the gap as a person within the charity, governmental space. And I just thought, I just find that so interesting, you’re quite unique, really in in that I must say.
Crisis management is actually an extension of, of PR, then is that what you would you would say?
Sandra Coyle 9:37
I think it is, it very much is something you need to be aware of all the PR practitioners out there with working with brands you it is and it’s of course, when they’re usually not all cases, but usually, reputational risk that results from either an action by the organisation, a staff member, but also by changing trends in the outside world. So you’re right, having that governmental and politics lens to look at exactly what is going on. Because again, I just want to stress this point, your organisation, your brand sits in the outer world that is constantly changing.
So the more you understand, and the more you keep your eyes on that, the better positions you are to do the PR work for your brand, but also to see what’s coming in terms of Is there a backlash against your mission? Is your mission causing troubles in certain countries? Why is that? Can you examine that with your leadership Do you need to reposition the way the storytelling that you have behind your brand to address that.
So it is part and parcel with PR, I don’t think of folks should be afraid of it. I know it’s very difficult to go through. But it also presents opportunities to increase your visibility as well. There’s a certain former superstar who said all publicity is good publicity. And I think I I still believe that
Nathaniel Schooler 11:05
I do if it’s managed in the right way. I mean, it depends on who it is. I mean, in general, I would agree. But there was, there was a lady I forget what her name was. But she, she worked, I believe in a very, very prestigious job. She sent a tweet before she left on the air-plane. And, and basically, as soon as she landed, she had lost her job. Literally, it was just, it was a absolutely people went absolutely crazy. And I think what’s so scary is that you could send a tweet and someone could screenshot it. And the moment that that tweet has gone out, it’s it’s, it’s forever in the internet’s arms, isn’t it?
Sandra Coyle 11:53
It really is, I had that happen to me. Very interesting story with a brand account. And I can talk about that a bit. But you’re right, exactly. It has to be managed. If you look at her, and the company she worked for the brand took action to protect it. So it they managed it.
But again, let’s go back to organisations have to work on PR, but so don’t individuals. And if you have a Twitter account, or social media account, that’s the impression you are giving about yourself to the outside world. And you’re right, it can there’s a screenshot and it will just go on and on and on. So I like to stress to folks remember yourself and remember, your your social print out there, the imprint that you’re making, and that every post you make is leading to assumptions and perceptions about your persona, your brand.
So be aware of that. I know some companies and organisations might limit to your activity, or you may have to put a disclaimer on your account profile. But always remember, that all adds up. So if you’re in a high profile position, I think most people know this, you have to be very careful with how you’re presenting yourself overall. But crisis comes has to be managed, I think, for her in particular, that was probably something that should never have been on Twitter. But also she was in a plane for, what, 20 hours, 18 hours and didn’t reply
Nathaniel Schooler 13:18
She was in the plane for three or four hours; her company had said, so she landed, said her account had been hacked, it was verified that it wasn’t hacked, and actually was her and then immediately she was fired immediately. And then they just turned around and said, I’m sorry, you’re fired. And they gave a statement saying, we’ve researched this and her account was not hacked, it was definitely her sending the message and she’s fired. That was basically what had happened, you know,
Sandra Coyle 13:45
They handled it well, you know, I think in that sense, their PR people did handle it. I mean, what can you do? Yeah, I think it should be question because remember, she was an employee of a brand and a brand working on PR. So they they want to make sure because the public like makes that connection between an employee’s actions and viewpoints and the brand’s actions and viewpoints so if they don’t match they need to take action.
Nathaniel Schooler 14:10
Yeah, very much. So I mean, there’s a big thing over here right now, this is sort of anti sematic thing going on, where there has been quite a long time what I was amazed by, I found, I found a video the other day from this from this beautiful blonde lady she does, she works on countdown, I think, or one of these TV shows. And she she stood up and said, You know what, this is unacceptable. And she recorded this video.
I really like the fact that she stood up and actually talked about that. And it’s, it’s not an easy thing to do to actually stand up and be in the public eye and sort of talk about these things. And I suppose it all depends on your company’s policy as well and how they react to that because a lot of companies would potentially fire her for her activities. But I think now it’s a little different because of the, you know, unethical behaviour of so called right wing individuals, it has, you know, put that almost a spotlight on these kind of racist scenarios, so that people can actually stand up and say, You know what, that’s not okay.
Sandra Coyle 15:23
That’s the power of social media, and also the power of media, right there, that they can stand up and say, it’s not okay, if you are an employee, and you’re going to stand up on any issue on any side, I think it behooves you to talk to your employer, before you do any type of any, any type of video or anything to inform them, it’s better than not to inform them overall.
But it’s challenging for organisations, right, because employees are the extension of their friends. And people have different viewpoints. And now, social media has empowered people. So the people now have the ability to define brands, but also define their brands and how they want to appear into the world or to the world where before organisations were having to deal with such situation. So it really is an interesting time. And I would be interesting to see how it evolves. Since you see on social media, there seems to be lots of extremes going on, and term viewpoints being shared.
And there’s a lot in common section and other areas on on news sites are getting quite challenging to say the least. So it’s a different landscape. It’s evolving all the time, how brands navigate that soon to be seen.
But I’ve always been at the position that, okay, we we are working on PR, we need to engage with our audiences and all the time and any comment or viewpoint that we encounter we have to engage with I think there’s some in the early days of social media brands would automatically to protect the reputation just delete comments, or really manage the comment section.
But I think they’re realising now that you have to engage, I think it’s the only way to go. And I’ve known many CEOs who just did not want to engage on social media for their brands or for the organisation as brands are over manage it, which results in opposite problems, because the external audience will see that attend to manage the message and, and it will cause a backlash to the brand.
Nathaniel Schooler 17:33
Yeah, I think it’s, it’s certainly a difficult time right now. I mean, I agree with that approach, 100%. And also, what’s very interesting is how you can actually misconstrue comments, and even emojis can be misconstrued, I mean, I, I was talking with talking with someone yesterday about emojis. And, and I actually typed into Google and did a search on, you know, emoji and what they mean and stuff. And people have done studies and, and in fact, an emoji from one phone versus another phone. So for example, the smiley face on an Apple phone is less less happy than the smiley face from an Android phone, apparently. So comments and emojis and even pictures and videos can be misconstrued entirely. So I think from where I’m sitting actually asking a clarifying question is is really important in the first instance and then bringing light to what they’re actually saying because you could you could completely misconstrue it couldn’t you?
Sandra Coyle 18:38
You can, and there’s another elements involved in that because we’re all very global. There’s cultural differences. And right now I’m sitting talking to you from Nairobi, Kenya, originally from the US but I’ve had the opportunity to work and many different regions.
So what might be okay, if I’m sitting in Bristol posting something and is read by someone in Nigeria, it may not go over so well, there may be that cultural misunderstanding, which is challenging because really from country to country, it’s very different social medias is is bringing us all together, but that maybe that smiley face isn’t appropriate outside of the culture as well. But it’s accessible outside of the culture.
So it can be a little bit of a tightrope walk when handling the situation. So like you said, asking a clarifying question or just engaging the don’t remove any comments or any retweets or anything like that. That’s happening. Just watch it, engage with them, send them a DM saying, you know, thank you for letting us know what’s been going on your experience with our brand. Can you tell me more? Are you willing to talk to us because we’re concerned, we’re concerned about our delivery.
So there’s ways to do it. You let that happen. Because that’s open trust, this creating opening and trust in your brand that a you care that’s a big, big thing and any relationship really, and then be that you’re trying to remediate the situation as well. So you care and you’re trying to take action with their collaboration and that they matter as either a stakeholder or a customer.
Nathaniel Schooler 20:20
Yeah. And also not being afraid to actually tell them that what they’ve said is unacceptable. I mean, I posted a posted a podcast in a group that I’m in and I had someone I had someone swear at me he didn’t he didn’t actually swear directly at me. But he commented on my post so should I read you what I said to him and I see what you think.
Sandra Coyle 20:43
Nathaniel Schooler 20:44
So he basically commented on on on my post and he was basically swearing he was so angry that he didn’t even put he didn’t even spell the words properly but he called me a prat and something else which I’d rather not I’d rather not name but I just spent he said I addressed him by name so I put his name in there so he knew I was talking to him and respond directly to his comment and I said a while back I started working on my anger management responding to people when they’re having a bad day and the wrong way or posting the wrong sentence may lead them into a meltdown or an anger fuelled response which I get dot dot dot but there was no need to bring profanities into this conversation sensible discussion? Yes, full stop profanities. No back a few years ago, I would have called you an internet troll and blocked you. But today, I’m having a good day, don’t call people names on the internet, especially when you don’t know anything about them or their story. And I just carried on and on. And I just said, and I ended it with, you know, basically just saying, whatever your opinion is, I would appreciate it if you didn’t call me names.
And my point, my point in reading that out is to basically just say that there are ways to get your message across, which shows up that person for in essence, the troll that they are, because they are trolling you, they are, they are using swear words, they are being, you know, perhaps not us calling you directly a name, but they are trolling you.
So you need to take action and do something about it. Don’t you really? Or are you’re going to sit there and you’re going to ignore it. And then you’re going to look like, like, you don’t want to defend yourself, right?
Sandra Coyle 22:29
Well, we have to look at it again, it’s the culture situation, you know, that’s personal, that’s your brand that’s you out there in the world. And it is it puts you on the defensive when you get something like that on the way you open dialogue, as opposed to one upping or competition. In a way, you’re welcoming an opportunity to engage at a more calmer level while adding some humour to it.
We’ve had that happen on our brand channel. So we go to DM, we contact them and say, let’s, let’s have a conversation for organisation brands. We try to take it off the main off public and do it privately as they have an issue they don’t want to share. It could go very deep as to what’s happening within individually, you just don’t know. And maybe thinking is they may share more if we do this privately.
But I see your point because you have a brand that you’re protecting, it’s very personal. But if you take away that competition element, and look, and almost that diplomacy elements in your mouth, as you’re approaching this, how can I work with this person, because truth be told; some of these people who come after you or you see as critics, might end up being one of your biggest supporters, it’s all how you handle it. And if you engage with it, not everyone I admit, not everyone.
But if you can work and dialogue; it is the old way in the traditional way of handling crisis communications. From a PR perspective, back in 2006, one of a very large international brand I was working for was facing a tremendous crisis that was on the BBC, CNN worldwide and hurting operations. And it was a concerted effort over many years, by a group of individuals, who had issues with a perceived ideology that the organisation was presenting to the world, which wasn’t factual.
So one of the things we did is actually you do it. And this is a diplomacy method, as well as you either go through a third party to do an introduction and to do private meetings in different locations, to dialogue with an individual from that group, or several individuals and to dialogue.
What is the issue? Is this the real issue? What can we change? How do we work together? How do we evolve?
So you do that over time, a lot of the diplomacy you see is done that way behind the scenes. And you may still have that contentious battle happening in the media or elsewhere. But behind the scenes is actually discussions going on than a more calm, and over time, you need to open a channel. So it’s bad to that dialogue, that engagement, if you can find a way to open a third party channel or directly with them to dialogue, without the fear them taking that dialogue public, most people who are engaging in this behaviour want something from you to remember that they want something from you, they either want change, they want more involvement.
You need to dialogue with them. So as we face that situation, and that was a daily situation, with press calls coming from everywhere, over a nine month period, we didn’t actually start to move in that direction, because it is a cost to an organisation.
It does take morale internally, damages, morale with external stakeholders, and any partners. So over time, you can re message in a crisis like them, we worked very hard to be message and be very truthful and open. But at the end of the day, that that channel is very appropriate.
So in a way for you, Nate would be actually going and having that private conversation if the local and if you feel like it, and if they want to do it, you can meet with them or have someone else they’re meeting with them. So you never know, because your biggest critic could become your biggest supporter.
Nathaniel Schooler 26:37
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I actually made a friend out of that, out of that whole conversation. That thread I actually made, made a new Facebook friend who’s got a lot in common with me, and we had a really, really good conversation. And on my feed, now, I have really, really nice people having great conversations. So it’s almost like that critic or troll brought awareness to the conversation for the other person, because of the algorithm favours conversation, doesn’t it?
I mean, I’m not against conversation, I think conversation is important. I think if we keep it public, and we and we don’t censor conversations, then actually, those conversations can can can monitor themselves. Generally, you you know, I mean, when you when you were managing this crisis that you’re that you’re talking about, you must have had people who were pro your organisation pro, it was a charity, or can you not talk about it?
Sandra Coyle 27:37
It was imperative, it’s actually there was a big office in the UK as well, it was the charity, and there was a big pro, but often times, and I am going to look at charities with this, and I apologise for that. But charities tend to be on the mission of good, they’re perceived to be on the mission of good inside, there’s a lot of passion.
They don’t, they can be slow to react when this happens, and not be sure and how to mobilise. It took us a while to mobilise and realise, you know, we have a lot more people who are pro our brand and mission than those, that small group that’s very vocal and getting the airtime on TV and radio and elsewhere.
So we did manage to mobilise them over time. But I think charities naturally don’t see it as, okay, eventually, we have to mobilise not against but mobilise our message. So that’s an important element of, of coming back against any criticism as well mobilising, and in politics, you may know this, it’s called mobilising the base and the country I come from. So that’s the first thing you do when you’re in politics, and running, you mobilise your base. And you can see that playing out in the us right now, back in the day, I did work on a presidential campaign in the US back in 2003, 2004.
And we work very hard to mobilise and the base, the base is those that are, are loyal to your viewpoint, your platform, your ideology, so you start out by actually ensuring that they are mobilised behind your message. And that can be hard because sometimes in politics that mobilised against the other party, but you can use that or the other candidate, but you can use that as a way to get their passion behind your actual candidate. So you start you start with your campaigns by targeting your base, those who are aligned with you. Now, if you look at the US and at the time, I was campaigning for a Democratic candidate, the democrats are doing that.
But I think the party itself is feeling a bit uncertain, because they’ve been very centre not left, not too far left, they’ve been more centrist democrats. But you’ll see now that the base is is really skewing a bit new, younger, towards millennial and maybe emit a bit more, I can say a lot more to the left than the party had been for about 25/30 years. So they’re realising it, to mobilise. They have to mobilise now more to a younger demographic, and meet their demands, and their needs as a party for the party to survive. So very much every party is an organisation with a new to do PR. And it’s also a brand.
So everyone should remember that when they’re getting behind candidates, that there’s a party behind the scenes. So every campaign starts with mobilising their base.
And that’s true for organisations Who’s your base, who’s your most loyal customers know who they are, have that database of contacts that you can if need be, have them interviewed in the press to talk about the value and the impact of your brand and your service, showcase them all the time you have them out there, take those video testimonials, tell their stories, because that’s part of building up your PR is a huge part of it.
I think today people are tired of brands saying we’re great ra ra ra. You know, listen to us, we are fabulous. And let us tell you the five ways we are it’s better now just to have those who truly benefit from your service as a charity or from your product to tell my story for you.
I think most brands get that now. But that was a valuable lesson we weren’t learned in 2006. And that whole organisation today really lives and breathes that approach. They tell the stories of those who they positively impact what is the lifelong impact of their work on these individuals. So they actually follow them over time. Back in 2006, it was all about the brand itself, if anything, because I think many charities particularly in your region are a little shy when it comes to really going out there with their brand. So that’s something to think about along the board along the lines of making sure you have your experts, folks, people beyond your organisation who others are going to trust probably more and they can tell. So remember, always tell the truth because or position people who can tell the truth, no, actually benefiting actual stakeholders, good people, audiences are very smart in terms of communications. So they’ll see right through it, but always make sure you have that qadry that that spokesperson benching and those stories that you can tell.
Nathaniel Schooler 32:29
That’s that’s really great. Really great advice. I think. I think it’s, it’s so much more important now, like telling that story. And it’s like, what does it mean to them kind of thing instead of this is all about us. And it’s not just charities, it’s all businesses are moving in that direction.
Some are faster than others clearly. But I think asking people questions of like, you know, why do you buy this? Why do you support this? What? Why do you? Why do you love this brand? Just it brings more and more people towards that brand doesn’t it? And it just more and more like minded people? Right? would you would you say?
Sandra Coyle 33:09
Yes, it brings authenticity to a brand as well, I think it’s a key part. And you have to always remember, and I’ll admit, when I first started was working and PR, I didn’t see it. And now I clearly see it, your staff can make or break you and this so you, you must start there and you have to ensure your organisation policy. And your way of working is to involve your staff, with your stakeholders, I think corporate’s that’s necessary part of the work and the pressure they’re under with revenue,
I think it’s it’s charities should make that effort that everybody from the person who handles the mail on is constantly going to whatever it is that you deliver. So if it’s events, it’s live streaming anywhere, they can interact with stakeholders, and hear from them directly understand the impact of their work. And then also with stakeholders, you’re constantly engaging with them, they’re going to show the passion a bit more, because they’re directly benefiting from what you’re doing and can demonstrate that impact.
So those are two two key components are groups that you as a PR person should always be looking at every day, I’ve seen situations where, where staff who have not been included or felt belonging to the mission of an organisation or felt left behind during times of change, have cause some serious crisis issues. So don’t leave anyone behind. Make sure they’re informed to speak with to them. With all the authenticity you can bring. Tell them the truth.
I’m looking at corporates and charities tell them the truth, if there’s change coming, if there’s change that people will not like, you must tell them the truth. And the real reasons behind that change. You’ll win more in the long run. If you do that. You’ll pick up more supporters as you go forward. And you’ll be respected more as a brand.
Nathaniel Schooler 35:04
In addition to that you you would put together a crisis comms plan when you which would which would be you know, who’s responsible for the communications? Who’s going to be the first person who finds out about this? Who are they going to speak to? Who’s going to create the responses? What responses are they going to use? Who’s going to manage the comms, you know, like, all those elements have to be thought out, right? Like before you even before you even get to the crisis you would hope anyway. Otherwise, you’re in big trouble, right?
Sandra Coyle 35:37
Well, you better be prepared to rip that plan out. Yeah, happens. And I’m smiling saying this, because that is old school and you should have it and you should be planning. So you’re, you know how the reactions going to happen. But I faced quite a big prices from a hacking group that was threatening to take down our company. It was in the process of actually doing it from the external perspective. And we had a lovely written, beautifully executed crisis plan we drilled we thought we had everything down pat.
And then the rule book was thrown out. And we had a totally different experience. And we had to immediately former crisis team that would last 48 hours and was worldwide and had five people on it. And we had to rethink what we would do in this type of situation.
So do have that do prepare for it don’t I implore you become nonchalant witness and say, Oh, we have no enemies, we have no competitors. We don’t need to worry about this. Everyone needs to be prepared, like the boy scouts is be prepared. So make sure you haven’t bring it up with your leadership. All your PR people, if they don’t think they need to spend time on it, really push for it, at least drilling.
But be prepared. Because it will not be what you think it is. When you think it will happen. I can promise you that I always joked back in the day, that it’s always probably going to be 1700 on a Friday night or Friday afternoon, or 5pm for all those in North America. It’s going to be at an inconvenient time, it’s going to be on something you didn’t expect from maybe a group we didn’t expect even thought of you as a challenge.
So I agree have that. But be flexible, you’re going to need to be flexible and address the crisis that is before you not the one that happened two years ago, throw that rule book out and deal with what is happening right in front of you look at how other organisations who may have faced something similar recently handled it, but a lot of it is going to be like breadbox, you’re going to be blindfolded and walking for it.
And you need to get to the goal. But it’s better if you have a if you in that plan, I’d say number one is heavier crisis team identified with a chair appointed to it, who is not the CEO who is fully able and authorised to make instant decisions, including expenditures you may need to make to help you through this crisis. So that’s the key part, you definitely that’s the core. So if you have that, you have to walk through your crisis differently each time.
Nathaniel Schooler 38:14
That’s great. That’s, that’s, that’s very logical. Makes a lot of sense. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of having that team who get to fix the problem, who are who are different to the people who are the crisis communications, right. So the people fix it need to communicate with the crisis team to give them an update. So then you can move forward really,
Sandra Coyle 38:35
Ideally, though, your, your head of PR, your head of comms is on that team, so that they’re your working live together. And, and people, you know, tempers can flare and this you know, these crisis teams are formed and government the forms in times of troubles for country, you know, emotions can run high.
So, having five is really five or six is the ideal size, but you need to have honest and live discussions with a chair making decisions very quickly. So having that expertise from PR and comms is needed, they’re often the voice for the outside world on how this action action will be perceived.
Oftentimes, you’ll see comms or PR tried to be pushed out of the room, they need to be in the room they need to be one element I was in the room in that role with a crisis team we formed but I would strongly encourage CEOs out there and make sure your comms and PR people are there there are vital to the operation.
I think oftentimes it’s changing that side of the house isn’t seen as return on investment new can’t actually see it you can now with the measurement and sophisticated tools we have but they should have a voice in the room despite that because if your reputation sinks there by goes your business potentially. So there are very crucial elements and discussions around a crisis.
Nathaniel Schooler 40:00
Well, thank you. That’s been it’s been it’s been very very interesting talking with you again.
So yeah, I will, I will drop drop a link to your LinkedIn or your website if you’d like to the to the bottom of the broadcast.
Sandra Coyle 40:14
That would be wonderful. And I want to thank you for this opportunity. And thank you for everyone listening and hope that this is provided some insight and help to you as you do this great work.
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