Even though readers and some journalists are increasingly desperate to see positive news in their paper, you don’t have to turn many pages to see a crisis story. Whether it’s the 79% fall in net profits at Dell, Manchester City Football Club sacking Roberto Mancini as manager, or the Prime Minister ‘losing control of his party over Europe’ according to a former Tory minister. These are very different crises but they all amount to the same thing – negative headlines and stories which could do long-term damage to reputations.
Finding examples of companies who didn’t handle a crisis well, is easy, just search the web and you are faced with plenty of research and case studies on; BlackBerry, BP and Costa Cruises, to name a few. What is a little harder to find are case studies of those who’ve handled a negative situation well but they are out there and a lot can be learned from what they did or didn’t do.
The media trainers’ classic example (which although dated is still held up as an important one to learn from) is Johnson & Johnson and how they dealt with tampering of bottles of Tylenol. In 1982 seven people died after someone added cyanide to bottles of pills, the company acted very fast. All suspected bottles were withdrawn and destroyed (at the cost of around $100 million), the CEO appeared at news conferences and on TV adverts explaining what had happened and the business introduced safer packaging (the first one to do so in the industry). As a result, the company were able to maintain their reputation and their customer base.
Another positive example was Mattel, who in 2007, had to handle two product recalls in two weeks. The CEO took charge; quickly apologising and taking responsibility for the faulty toys. The company literally bombarded the media with alerts and news, to ensure the story got out to their customers and they communicated their responsible attitude to the wider public. The toy maker was widely praised for the way they handled the episode and their reputation was even given a valuable boost as a result.
These examples have a lot in common with others praised in similar case studies; they both show the executives within the company stepping forward as the face of the brand. They take responsibility for what happened and apologise to all their stakeholders. They make sure the news, although potentially damaging to their organisation, gets out to the public. Perhaps most importantly, they act fast, ensuring they control the news flow and agenda, rather than letting others speculate on their problems first.
Having a plan in place, and then having the confidence to follow these steps is vital in tackling a crisis – only the coming days will tell us whether Dell, Manchester City and the Tory party have followed this advice.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – May 2013
People are sometimes introduced to presenting at school or university, and the truth is that it helps if you start early, but so often people aren’t given any clues about how to go about speaking in front of an audience – this is why we’ve all had to sit through so many bad examples.
The essence of presentation training is to clarify messages and ensure people are confident in their delivery. It sounds easy but of course, like anything you want to get right, it takes a bit of time and some effort. It’s been said that Winston Churchill, who seemed calm, in control, and a natural presenter, would spend one hour of preparation for every one minute of a speech he was giving. Basically; if you don’t put in the time to prepare it shows quite clearly in your end result.
So what can you do to get your presentation right? Firstly; it’s about the aim; what are you really trying to achieve and communicate? You should be able to boil down your point to a single item e.g. you want to raise funds, you want to convince future customers to use you, you want to explain a vital finding on your area of work. This is the thing you want the audience to go away thinking and or acting upon. This can be difficult, particularly if you are ‘close’ to your subject, but taking a step back and seeing the wider picture will help you and your audience.
Secondly, you have to do your research; what do the audience want to hear from you? Are they experts on this topic or will you have to cut out the jargon and keep the story simple? What questions will they have – can you anticipate, and answer these in the presentation? This tailoring will really help the audience relate to you and your story, without this the danger is that they won’t follow what you are saying and the message won’t resonate.
Knowing your aim and researching your audience will also increase your confidence levels; as you will now have a more clearly defined goal to work towards. The bulk of the content should really just be supporting and pushing the key message and this also helps to give the presentation a rough structure. Your introduction should highlight your overarching thesis, then; examples, facts, figures, back this up, finally; a conclusion should repeat and emphasize your original proposition (including a call to action at this stage is another vital element).
Confidence will come from knowing you have an effective structure with solid content, if you are missing this, or worse, if you are presenting with other people’s content, your performance will suffer.
Finally; you have to do the practice – this allows you to adjust your approach to make it flow smoothly and ensure that it starts to sink-in, giving you less reliance on speakers notes (a full script is never recommended as it’s far too tempting to just read from it).
Working at your presenting skills is the only way to success -, watching those who do it well and then tweaking your approach will make sure you and the audience get the result you want, when you stand up to speak.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – April 2013
This week may have seen the beginning of a new future for the UK media, as the three main political parties finally came to some agreement about press regulation.
There will be a new self regulator with stronger powers to protect the public and deliver punishments to those news organisations that break the new standards code. Many people are already speaking out, on both sides, saying that the plans don’t go far enough or that they are over the top but it’s clear that if this goes through the media will have to evolve as a result.
The media, in the UK and abroad is now very different, most organisations have seen circulation numbers drop massively, some publications have disappeared completely or had to sacrifice their print versions, this has all led to a big drop in staff. At the same time, we now have many different platforms that have to be filled, mainly online and, again partly thanks to the web; there’s a vastly wider pool of news sources (recent research suggests that journalists now get a large number of stories from twitter and other social networks). This means that journalists are under more pressure than ever to write good, relevant stories, and the ones that can’t are soon shown the door. This pressure can however work to the media spokesperson’s advantage – if you can make life a little easier for the journalist then you can build a relationship and hugely increase the chances of getting your story into the press.
So how can you do this?
1. You have to make sure you really have something to say. Apply the “so what” test to your story – is it really new and interesting? Does it matter? Will it be something that the specific audience want to know? If it fails this test then the journalist or their editor will dismiss it immediately.
2. Is it clear? If the journalist, or the editor they sell it to, can’t really understand the story then it won’t make it through the media machine. Speak to your colleagues and work with the press office – cut out the jargon and boil down the story to its essence – this is the ‘headline’ you want the journalist to leave your interview remembering.
3. Examples and evidence are vital to back up your messages and stop your interview just sounding like a company brochure – if you want the media to print your marketing copy then you’ll have to call their advertising department.
4. Package it up. By giving all the elements to ‘stand your story up’ – providing some punchy quotes and making it clear and complete – you will keep control of the story, making it much less likely for other angles or your competitors’ spokespeople to hijack what you want to communicate.
5. Finally, get some media training to make sure you can do it right in the real interview – but then we’re bound to say that aren’t we!
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – March 2013
There’s been a lack of comment from a number of brands and organisations involved in the latest food scandal. The Prime Minister pointed the blame at the food suppliers, saying they have to answer for what happened but it’s turned out that much of the product testing was carried out by the industry themselves, rather than the Food Standard Authority, leaving many asking what they are here for. The supermarkets, with one exception, refused to do media interviews and instead resorted to emails or in-house video to update the public.
One brand, however, has been making matters even worse for themselves by saying virtually nothing at all – the rumour is that they sacked many of their communications staff to save costs and now have no idea how to react to the mauling they were getting in the press – we might be bias but if you are a multinational food brand, you should probably have a couple of press officers on your payroll.
In times of crisis; your customers, clients and wider stakeholders will expect you to provide answers, both in terms of what happened but also what you are doing to fix the situation.
So, it’s obviously vital to have a plan up your sleeve – with some potential messages – that can be put in place should a reputation-damaging event happen. But it’s not only in the bad times that you need a clear communications strategy, we work with brands preparing for positive and negative scenarios, who just want to make sure that they are able to explain who they are and what they stand for, to those most important to them.
There are far too many organisations and companies out there who rely on jargon and bland marketing blurb because they can’t clearly state what they do. Getting this right is only half the battle though, once you have a clear message you have to make sure that all your team (or at least all those externally facing ones) are pushing the same ideas. Smart businesses will have umbrella messages about the brand or the group-organisation, then each major function or department will have their own set of messages (hopefully also signed off by the communications team) which explains what they are doing and how it’s of benefit to their specific audience. These micro and macro messages are likely to overlap a little and it’s important that they complement each other. This is why it’s so important that the process has a number of different parties involved; ‘brand owners’, PRs, marketing, senior executives as well as any important shareholders, owners or other stakeholders. Using an external view can be very useful too and organisations bring the Bluewood Training team in for many reasons, for example to help them see the wood from the trees, and also to apply the ‘so what’ test, which helps ensure the message will stand up to scrutiny.
The route to perfecting an organisation’s messages is not easy but it’s vital to ensure you are communicating what matters most about your work – after all, if you can’t do that, how can anyone really understand why they should be interested in you.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – February 2013
The increase of 24 hour rolling news channels as well as the appetite for rich media on websites means that many organisations now have to seriously look at broadcast media as part of their communications plan.
It’s a very different medium to get to grips with and of course it can have a serious impact if it’s not done right. Pictures tell a thousand words and so you need to make sure your footage is putting forward the right image to start with, but it’s also very easy for a gaffe to go viral these days, whether it started on the web or not. These issues mean it’s important to put in place a strict regime for those who use broadcast as part of a marketing strategy.
Broadcast news is often seen as ‘the thing to do now’ – so you have to get involved right? Wrong; this isn’t the right motivation to engage with a platform that could broadcast you to millions of viewers in an instant. The truth is that for many organisations, TV and radio won’t fit with your goals and aims, it may not be niche enough to reach your specific audience and you may prefer to stay a little further below the radar. But for many organisations broadcast is becoming an increasingly attractive option for reaching stakeholders, not least because business news is hitting the headlines, and as such a more generalist audience, nowadays.
So where should you start with this medium? Getting the right preparation under your belt, and hopefully formal broadcast media training, is essential. TV and radio shows can be daunting and when you’re in the spotlight; you want to look relaxed and in control – the rabbit in the headlights look is not good on live TV. You also need to make sure your messages are clear and succinct – you’re unlikely to have the time to go into lengthy explanations in a three minutes interview, and it’s not unusual for your time to get cut short if other news comes in – you must make sure you communicate a few pithy ideas which get remembered. Furthermore, you need to be able to bridge to your own agenda if the journalist tries to drag you away; having well defined messages in your mind will make it easier for you to find these ‘rocks’ when you need to get back on track.
Also, while still important for print media interviews, body language and how you use your voice are vital for broadcast; you have to make sure you are animated (TV is a ‘flattening’ medium) and confident, that you speak clearly and slow enough for the audience to follow you, making sure you use pauses, intonation and pitch to accentuate your message.
There’s no quick way to get really good broadcast coverage and with this much to remember it may sound tricky, but the appropriate preparation, lots of practice and the right media training will do wonders for your performance when the time comes.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – January 2013
Pitching isn’t a straightforward task; you need to make sure you have all the elements in place; message, content, structure and the skill to deliver it, as well as whatever props or slides you need to do so with impact.
Of course getting all these elements in place is where your planning and preparation comes in – and nothing can replace the benefits of rehearsal and critique before you go live.
We sometimes work with clients who have very specific needs; they just want help to polish their delivery or they want us to come in, to see how water-tight their messaging is. But more often than not, when new business and pitch teams look at the process they have in place, they know that picking at loose threads will usually just cause the rest of the presentation to unravel, so they ask our team to come in with an open mind, and help them with whichever parts, we feel, need focussing on.
One common problem is that while only those within a business can really ever know how it works, this detail can sometimes hold you back – potential clients for example need to know the key facts about you and your work – all the detail you have to share is likely to drown them in unnecessary facts and figures. Using a third party to help you see both what is important to share and what isn’t, is a great way to ensure you can see the wood from the trees. Providing too much detail can also be a disaster for PowerPoint and other slide decks; no one wants to read 75 pages of small print up on a screen, and if they’re just reading your script to themselves why do you need to even be there? The audience are there to see and hear you; they want you to guide them through your story, to explain why it’s important to listen to you and what the message means for them.
Rehearsing will also help anxious presenters work out any nerves as they become more comfortable with the content, but good trainers will also be able to give them the tips and tricks to overcome anxiety, as well as the umms and ahhhs.
Being able to playback and critique your performance is also a hugely valuable tool as you’ll hear whether the message gets across clearly but also be able to assess what changes you’ll need to make to your soft skills. Even the tiniest subconscious ticks or habits can be very distracting for your audience but can be cut out easily once you know you do them.
There is no easy way to perfect your pitches; it takes time to practice, an effort to rethink the process and perhaps most importantly; a willingness from all those involved, to make the changes to invigorate the current approach – the fact is that change is sometimes necessary to move yourself to the next level.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – November 2012
Political campaigns are known for being the birthplace of many a pioneering communication strategy. The campaign for the US presidential elections 2012 is a somewhat different affair from the past.
Both candidates also make full use of social media and are aware of the power it can hold – although Obama has 19 million Twitter followers whereas Romney is yet to hit a million. However, it can be argued that it’s about quality and not quantity as Zac Moffett digital director at Mitt Romney for President says “It doesn’t matter how many people you have following you if you don’t have people engaging with you”. Live debates are streamed online and Twitter erupted with 6.4 million tweets talking about one presidential debate. A lot of time and money has gone into training up these future leaders to prepare them for the most challenging of questions. If you need a help handling media – even if the spotlight isn’t quite as intense as the media glare on Obama, then get in touch with Bluewood media training.
There are a lot more tools available for them to get in touch with voters, for example Obama has embraced new technology and hosted his own Google plus hangout at the beginning of the year which provided a much a more personal touch. Five members of the public were selected out of 130,000 questions and it was also streamed live. It proved to be a great success and he answered the questions personally but with the skill of a well trained speaker “It was the kind of unscripted social media moment that warms the hearts of campaign managers everywhere. And you won’t get that in a presidential press conference”.
This year’s campaign has seen a whole host of celeb endorsements for Obama as Tinsel town has rushed to back him, and it appears he is using it to his advantage. Katy Perry encouraged young voters as she performed at a Barack Obama campaign rally in Vegas wearing a ballot paper dress. Obama thanked her for her “unbelievable performance” and then went on to deliver his speech hoping to win more votes. Bill Clinton has been visible throughout the campaign in support for Barack, even after his wife was previously defeated by him. And it’s not just the official support that’s full of celeb backing.
Samuel L Jackson was the face of a pro Obama advertising campaign funded by the Jewish Council for Research and Education and became the most viewed video on youtube that week.
Everyone is voicing their opinion and some in unusual ways – politics has got fashionable. Sharon Stone was pictured wearing an Obama bag, Beyoncé donned Obama earrings and Sarah Jessica Parker pinned on a pink “Viva Obama” badge. Republican Romney also has his share of celebrity supporters with Clint Eastwood and Donald Trump publicly backing him. Even Nicki Minaj has rapped about the elections.
Obama appears to be winning the celebrity popularity contest hands down – but will the American public take political advice from celebs? Are his policies as popular as his pals and is his manifesto any good? It’s a close call in the opinion polls at the moment and only time will tell.
If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to call on famous friends to help get you support and need help polishing your skills, public speaking and winning over votes why not think about taking a presentation training course with us? We can train you up to sweet talk anybody and beat the most difficult of opposition.
As Warren Buffet said; “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Reputations can certainly be broken in the media, Andrew Mitchell, who abused the Downing Street police, is only too aware of this fact after The Sun newspaper reported his bad behaviour last week.
Of course the flipside is that with the right media relations approach a reputation can also be made in the media. This very rarely happens overnight and isn’t often thanks to primetime TV news or even front page stories on the Financial Times. Instead organisations have to work at building their media reputation, and the foundations that get put in place first are usually with the trade and regional press.
While there are still potential dangers in dealing with these media (particularly for those who don’t take a considered approach), it is often the case that these journalists will be more sympathetic – particularly those covering your sector, who will be far more reluctant to ‘burn bridges’ with organisations on their ‘patch’.
We still strongly advise any new spokespeople undergo formal media training (we will take a very different approach in your course, depending on the types of media and interview, that you are going to face) before they speak to the media and we know that the trade press are often where most of an organisation’s public relations focus will be. Trades in your sector will be more understanding about the work you do, and being specialists, they’ll likely also be more knowledgeable about your operation.
Deciding what trades you should target comes down to two main principles; knowing which publications cover your industry and which titles your clients or other relevant stakeholders read. Producing a list with your colleagues (or even asking your audience what they read) and then making sure you contact (and add them to your press release distribution list) these media is a great place to start.
There are often also opportunities with freelance journalists, who may not be tied to any single publication and who probably write for a few titles. These can be hugely useful media contacts as not only will they provide access to different media, but they will often be hungry for stories, and be used to selling-in to editors.
When many people think about media relations they assume it’s all about getting on Sky News or the front page of the Sunday Times, but the reality is that many spokespeople don’t need to look outside their own industry’s publications because that’s what gets them coverage, and that’s what gets them in front of the specific audiences who are most important to them. If you’re starting out in media relations your best bet is likely to look to those trade magazines that come through your own letterbox each week.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – September 2012
Investors look for confidence. They want to see a business plan that has a future, good ideas and products and undoubtedly a management team who can weather storms and maximise opportunities.
One company who has seemingly had constant problems since floating in May is Facebook; their shares were initially priced at $38 but just a few months later they are trading at less than $19. Last week, founder, Mark Zuckerberg admitted to employees that it had been painful to see the company’s shares tumble so far (his personal fortune has fallen to $10bn from a high of $20bn). While we’ll never know if they were just trying to cash in some equity, or were worried about the future of the business, shares were further hit last week when employees and backers, at the first opportunity to do, rushed to dump their stock. This lack of confidence, from those closest to the business, worried those looking at the social network as a possible investment and will likely further discourage them from buying the shares.
On the other hand, one company seems to be going from strength to strength financially as their soaring market cap made them the world’s most valuable business this month. While losing Steve Jobs, and occasional market disappointment, has knocked confidence in the shares in the past, it seems to only now take the slightest rumour of a new phone’s release to give Apple’s stock a bump up in value. Behind this high share price is confidence, both in the innovative, desirable products the business creates, but also in the team who run the company and the direction they are driving towards.
So how can other companies build confidence and positivity with their investors? Obviously it helps to have a strong business model with a huge range of great products, but when it comes to investors the focus is often going to be on those individuals running the company. If you can show you are passionate and confident about your organisation, this will rub off on an audience, furthermore, if you’ve thought about the difficult questions you could be asked on your market, or recent performance, and can supply considered answers to them – you will go a lot further to convincing investors that you are worth a commitment.
At a time when investment is fairly scarce, businesses have to do everything in their power to make a compelling case to the market – if you can’t do that then it’s likely that you will be overlooked in favour of someone who can.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – August 2012
These days everyone has a blog, Twitter account or Facebook Profile. Whether you use them in a personal or professional capacity chances are you’ll have come across some form of social media. In the last few weeks there have been several examples in the press of how to and how not to use social media for the power of good or to your own advantage. So we thought rather than focus on the faux pas of celebs ranting on Twitter (not mentioning any names Tulisa) we would show you how social media can be used for positive purposes.
Take schoolgirl Martha Payne, from Argyll for example. She hit the headlines after publishing a blog that documented her school dinners. It included pictures of her food, a rating out of ten and how healthy she felt they were: “I’m a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can’t do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?” The nine year old was then banned from continuing after newspapers got wind of the blog and published headlines calling the dinner ladies to be sacked. Martha won support from celebs with Jamie Oliver asking his followers on Twitter to join the protest to get her blog back online. The ban was lifted, and in addition to winning celebratory fans, Martha managed to raise a staggering £100,000 for Mary’s Meals charity which she had previously been trying to raise money for via the blog.
Ok so our Bluewood blog albeit enlightening isn’t going to really change the world, but clever use of the technology available to you can. Failing that it can get you world wide publicity and even fame. Hate to say it but just look at Justin Beiber and his use of YouTube to rise to stardom.
Jimmy Carr has also been making headlines after questions were raised about his tax and he was criticised by David Cameron who called him “morally wrong”. Carr took to Twitter to issue simple apology for making “a terrible error of judgement” which seemed to do for all his fans rather than make a big deal out of a public apology and risk making matters worse for himself. Outside Organisation CEO Alan Edwards said: ‘From what I can see his response was quick, straight to the point and appropriate – about all he could have done under the circumstances from a PR point of view.” Ian Johnson Publicity MD Ian Johnson said: “Jimmy Carr has handled this brilliantly. Caught red handed, he ‘fesses up, makes a joke and moves on. His career won’t be damaged in the slightest, even if his bank balance is.”
So whether you want to become the next Martha and raise thousands for charity or simply apologise for messing up it is important to get your voice heard. Social media can help your message to reach millions of people in an instant. It is worth investing the time to get acquainted with the latest technology on offer. If you need a hand to get your head around it give us a call or take one of our social media training courses.
Written by Megan – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – June 2012