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