Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Archive for October 5th, 2009

Calculating for Crises

Posted by thecastlegroup on October 5, 2009

We asked Adam Friedman, of Adam Friedman Associates LLC, our PRGN Investor Relations partner, to share  his expertise on IR-related crises. Please read below for this sage advice.
 
Planning for a crisis seems oxymoronic, but, in fact, it’s only the rarest of crises that is totally unforeseen. These might include death, acts of violence or of God, so to speak, like fires, explosions, etc. These are in the minority and even they can be addressed.
 
In the financial arena in which we in investor relations operate, crises tend to fall into categories: litigation, surprise takeovers, earnings shortfalls, regulatory violations and so on. In our experience, many of these can be predicted because there are usually early indications of a problem that could eventually bubble up to the surface. Over the years, many of our clients have experienced earnings shortfalls, which is one of the more common corporate crises. It is rare that within the company there aren’t early indications; the IRO may not have known to what degree, but the fact is usually known with enough time to plan for it. Similarly, every corporation will be sued for something sooner or later, so it is not a question of if, but when. When you anticipate it, you can plan for it.
 
So how does one plan for the unexpected? By developing, much like the military, a doomsday scenario. The IRO and the IR firm should be working together to develop procedures for the many categories of potential crises that can befall a public corporation. Even the most unlikely scenarios can be anticipated and managed if there are procedures in place that provide best practices and direction.
 
Recently, one of our clients was the victim of a surprise hostile takeover attempt. While we scrambled to address the particulars of the event, we used the crisis manual we had prepared some time previously as a roadmap. There was no confusion about who the spokesperson was, or who the key members of the crisis committee were. We had everyone’s contact information, and within hours of the announcement, the IRO and our agency were mobilized and functioning. Nobody panicked and while the situation was fluid, it was under control.

This can be true for all but the most unforeseen events. So, the key is not to say we can’t plan for a crisis; what is needed is a crisis response plan that incorporates as many variables as possible. And the best time to do that is when there is no crisis at all.

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Why everything your company does is marketing

Posted by thecastlegroup on October 5, 2009

This Saturday I visited a financial institution and a chain restaurant. Both seemingly simple transactions were fraught with frustration.

While a bank and a restaurant are different businesses, at the retail level, they are essentially the same. They offer customers products, services and the promise of consistency – you should have the same experience at any location, whether you’re in Boston or Chicago.  

As organizations grow, consistency becomes harder to achieve. That’s why training is so important and why, ultimately, execution at the retail level has the ability to make or break your brand promise.

Marketing platforms can be developed in any number of ways. You can identify your key strengths and play to them. You can listen to customer feedback and respond accordingly.

Or you can create an aspirational platform – what do we really want to be? How can we fulfill a customer need? The problem with this approach is that when what you want to be doesn’t align with who you are – and what you can really execute – it’s a false promise, one which is ultimately set up for failure.

In this day and age of transparency – and social media, where consumers can instantaneously weigh in on their experiences – it’s more important than ever to take a grounded look at your business from the bottom up before developing a marketing platform. And the need to continue that examination does not stop.  

Everything needs to work in alignment in order to fulfill the brand promise and deliver the right customer experience. Better to put the time into the effort and training up front – and delay the launch of an expensive ad campaign – rather than risk failure on something that isn’t supported at the store level.

What are your experiences with feeling the brand of the companies that you interact with?

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