Archive for the ‘Crisis PR’ Category

Our UK Crisis Communications Partner, Alder

June 22, 2021

Fuzion Communications are part of a European crisis communications network with the core purpose of providing clients with a network of experts in crisis communications should a pan-European issue occur.

The Crisis Communications Network is an association of European owner-managed PR agencies with unrivalled expertise in Crisis Prevention and Communication. As independent agencies it is highly flexible and is able to react immediately to clients’ needs and where necessary co-ordinate across different jurisdictions in Europe.

At the time of writing there are experienced agencies in 11 countries as part of the CCNE.

To give you some insight into these international partners we have asked each of them to give us some information about their business, the local “hot topics” and their general approach.

In a previous post we provided an overview of the founding partner of the CCNE, our German partner agency, Engel & Zimmerman.

Today we focus on our UK, London based partner, Adler.

About Alder

Alder is a London-based crisis communications firm founded in 2010. Its team of consultants – known as Specialist Partners – have backgrounds in the worlds of journalism, regulation and public affairs and advise a diverse range of clients from individuals through to major companies. Schools, charities and healthcare organisations are also a key area of expertise. Given its focus on complex issues where litigation is frequently ongoing or imminent, Alder works closely with the UK’s leading law firms to deliver advice that is closely aligned with the client’s legal strategy. It is also trusted by many international insurance companies to advise their customers when an incident gives rise to a claim under their insurance cover. 

Crisis communications: Alder’s approach

Crises don’t just happen at a moment’s notice, they can also arise because of slow-burning issues that suddenly cut through to the public consciousness. In both cases, preparation is key in order to maintain discipline and control of messaging because the demands for information from stakeholders can be overwhelming, and any miscommunication can lead to reputational, legal or insurance difficulties.  

Time is the most valuable commodity in a crisis, and steps should be taken as soon as a problem appears on the horizon to plan for the most important elements of the communication strategy and to ensure the client’s lawyers are content with the approach.

The speed of people’s social media responses also means clients need to quickly get on the front foot in order not to be defined by a problem. Each situation is different, so regardless of whether a crisis plan is in place the response needs to be bespoke, and Alder’s consultants work round the clock to ensure communications are issued in a timely and calm way and do not create any hostages to fortune.

Dealing with a crisis can feel overwhelming for the individuals concerned. Alder advises clients to break the response down into three phases: before, during and after public scrutiny of the matter.

Briefly this breaks down as follows:

Before: planning and aligning draft communications and strategy with legal and insurance considerations.

During: roll out the plan, paying particular attention to stakeholder management; monitor coverage; intervene to correct any significant inaccuracies in ‘real time’.

After: embed organisational learning from what happened; take steps to clean up any negative online legacy; assess impact on reputation and take steps to address any residual problems.

The Irish Comparison

While the basics that we follow are identical; be prepared, identity potential risks, have a plan, have a great, experienced team that can handle a crisis and a client team that is trained to handle media with support – it is clear that there are special conditions in each country that you need to be aware of if you are dealing with a crisis and it is at these times that you need a local experienced, agile partner to help you navigate these challenges when they occur.

If you would like any information about our crisis communications service or the Crisis Communications Network Europe feel free to contact me at deirdre@fuzion.ie.

Deirdre

Deirdre Waldron, founder of Fuzion heads up the Crisis Communications team, which operates from offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland.

Our German Crisis Communications Partner, Engel & Zimmermann

May 17, 2021

Fuzion Communications are part of a European crisis communications network with the core purpose of providing clients with a network of experts in crisis communications should a pan-European issue occur.

The Crisis Communications Network is an association of European owner-managed PR agencies with unrivalled expertise in Crisis Prevention and Communication. As independent agencies it is highly flexible and is able to react immediately to clients’ needs and where necessary co-ordinate across different jurisdictions in Europe.

At the time of writing there are experienced agencies in 11 countries as part of the CCNE.

To give you some insight into these international partners we have asked each of them to give us some information about their business, the local “hot topics” and their general approach.

We start off with the founding partner of the CCNE.

Here is some information about our German partner agency, Engel & Zimmerman.

About them:
Engel & Zimmermann was founded in 1985 in Munich. Nowadays the owner-run consultancy has a second office in Osnabrück (Lower Saxony) and works for more than 60 companies as regular consulting clients. 50 employees take care of mostly midsized companies.

For these clients they set up systematic crisis prevention, e.g. training for the staff with camera-based media training, workshops for the crisis management team or risk analyses. When a crisis occurs they develop effective communication strategies and talk as spokespeople on behalf of the client to the press.

Engel & Zimmermann specialise in working for food and beverage producers, which account for about half of their regular consulting clients. Furthermore, they deal with compliance and cyber breaches for companies from various industry sectors.

Crisis Communications in Germany:
Communications is very challenging in Germany these days. They observe that social media and corporate communication departments in many companies are not well prepared for sensitive communications with the general public. One of the big topics they identified is that companies are struggling with what they refer to as identity politics.

Many of them are completely overwhelmed and need help in developing an attitude or position concerning political and social issues (e.g. racism and gender diversity), which is accepted by all of their customers. It is more and more obvious that no company can be unpolitical any longer. The reason why Engel & Zimmermann has so many clients from F&B is that this sector has been highly criticised in Germany for many years now. The expectation is that this development continues in the future.

Broadcast media, NGOs and parts of the general public have a huge focus on product quality problems, the use of additives and artificial flavourings or general consumer deception. Against this background, many F&B companies are under permanent pressure and communication mistakes have to be carefully avoided.

Their Approach:
From their perspective, crisis communications is a strategic and long-term task. They are convinced that systematic crisis prevention should be practiced by all companies, which is their groundwork for every kind of effective communications in the case of a crisis. They are available for their clients 24/7 and also help them with current issues. Because of their strategic approach they also believe that and crisis should be precisely analysed in the aftermath. They consider their strategic approach to be a holistic one – from crisis prevention to ad-hoc crisis communications and to crisis evaluation.

The Irish Comparison

While the basics that we follow are identical; be prepared, identity potential risks, have a plan, have a great, experienced team that can handle a crisis and a client team that is trained to handle media with support – it is clear that there are special conditions in each country that you need to be aware of if you are dealing with a crisis and it is at these times that you need a local experienced, agile partner to help you navigate these challenges when they occur.

If you would like any information about our crisis communications service or the Crisis Communications Network Europe feel free to contact me at deirdre@fuzion.ie.

Deirdre

Deirdre Waldron, founder of Fuzion heads up the Crisis Communications team, which operates from offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland.

Crisis Communications & Lessons to be learned, The Ill Fated Announcement of a European Soccer Super League

April 23, 2021
European Super League

The announcement of a new Super League for the top European soccer clubs, was one of the key news stories breaking this week across Europe and here in Ireland, even overtaking pandemic media coverage – a very welcome distraction for most!

It was an emotional issue for soccer fans and pundits across Europe – and a textbook communications disaster unfolding on a global stage.

Here in Ireland, even though the issue didn’t relate directly to Irish soccer clubs, most UK clubs would have Irish supporters clubs and reactions from spokespeople from these organisations was in line with fans across Europe – and all Irish soccer pundits and journalists were also uniform in their condemnation of the concept.  

It was very difficult for Irish media to find anyone that was in support of the initiative.  Even our Taoiseach Michael Martin expressed solidarity. 

In a Tweet he posted “I will engage with other EU governments about possible common action against this Super League Proposal. “

The reaction came as no surprise as so many people in Ireland have a strong affiliation for soccer – Irish soccer fans may have their own home team they support, but most would also have a close affiliation to an English or Scottish team as well. 

The announcement of the Super League was doomed as there was no consideration for their internal audience and when managers and players were not in the loop, the concept came across as flimsy, arrogant and ill-considered.  

In Ireland we love to forgive the repentant sinner – which is why Liverpool FC’s owner, John Henry’s apology directly to the fans “I let you down”, has dampened some of the flames at Anfield – if not elsewhere.  

“I’m sorry” – are such powerful words in a crisis.

This episode has shown once again how effective people power can be and the power of communications. 

From now on every step the football club owners, directors and football authorities take and any communication they make, must be seen to be with the fans in mind. They must be seen to be listening to fans and acting on fans wishes.  Grass roots communications and activity will be so important going forward and will help heal the wounds.

What lessons can other people in power take from all of this? 

Bring your internal audience on the journey with you. Test sentiment towards the change and adapt your messaging taking in these learnings. If making changes that will have a great impact, start with a grassroots approach and a very soft launch. Have relatable spokespeople using relatable language.

And, very importantly if you get something wrong, admit to it, communicate how lessons will be taken from the mistakes and move on.

Deirdre Waldron

Deirdre Waldron is the founder of Fuzion Communications, a full service PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Avoiding the Snowball Effect

February 11, 2021

The beauty of the flurry of snowflakes falling outside my office/spare bedroom window is magical. Yet experience, and probably age, inspire a level of concern and consideration as to the knock effects a heavy and prolonged snowfall can have.

This may be the start of the snow that we’ve been warned was coming over the past week. We’ve been braced for ‘Beast from the East 2.0’ conjuring memories of the Siberian snowstorm that shut much of the country in 2018.

Little did we know that being restricted in movement would be so passé by 2021, having spent the last 12 months in some level of lockdown and what seems like a constant degree of crisis management and “pivoting” as a result of a global pandemic and Brexit, among other things.

As head of Communications back then for Dairygold, the ‘Beast from the East‘ posed immense risks and consequences to the logistics and operations of the business.

How to reach farms to collect milk when the rural roads were impassable, what of the milk that couldn’t be collected? How to support suppliers when they needed their Co-Operative most? Not to mention, the day-to-day operations of the international business, the welfare of hundreds of staff, its processing and manufacturing sites, retail stores etc.

Business continuity kicked into action early, with planning for such scenarios already in place to as much of an extent as possible. I was proud to have been part of the business continuity task force regularly updating management, assessing risks and addressing the complex requirements of all stakeholders. Again, little did we know that orchestrating remotely with efficiency and in collaboration would become a modus operandi for so many of us two years later.

Communications, both internal and external, is critical to linking the elements together. I’m grateful to Dairygold’s management and in particular its CEO Jim Woulfe who astutely valued and recognised the role communications plays in continuity planning and situation management. They led by example on the value of communication across the business.

Underestimating the importance of communications in continuity planning and situation management is one of the biggest risks to a business that can have serious and long-term consequences to safety, operations, reputation, staff morale, you name it.

If you’re a corporate working with an agency or have communications support internally, it’s vital that you see them as your partner. If you don’t have day-to-day support, it’s important to recognise when you may need it and where to go if/when you need Crisis Communication, Litigation Support Services.

We may not always know, or need to know, the nitty gritty but it’s crucial to know enough to devise a strategy, trouble-shoot effectively and be as proactive as possible. From our perspective, business continuity planning, Crisis PR and situation management is a heady mix of proactive and reactive communications. Above all, for it to work, clear and effective channels of communication must be open.

At times we remind and reassure clients that we’ve got their back.

We’re there 24/7 to support, prevent and mitigate adverse outcomes for our clients but we can’t support if we’re in the dark. A quick call or line to your communications partner helps to identify and tease out the risks and the requirements, if there are any.

It gets the cogs turning and can be one of the most important calls that’s made. Communication is not the enemy, it’s the solution. If you have time on your side, media training is also a hugely worthwhile exercise for preparedness which you’ll hope you never need.

Whether it’s for reasons of a lack of time, clarity, silo mentality or containment, communications support can fall down the priority list and it can snowball from there...

Aoibhinn

Aoibhinn Twomey, former journalist, is an Account Director with Fuzion Communications and is part of the Crisis Communications team, offering Crisis Consultancy services from offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

My Fuzion highlights by Alison O’Brien

November 26, 2020

Irish War Crimes

Fresh out of college in October 2006, having just graduated with my Masters in Public Relations from Dublin Institute of Technology, I moved home to Cork with the ambition of bagging myself my dream job in PR. After doing my research and seeing who was who in Cork, I was delighted when Dee and Greg said they would meet me for a coffee.

I had my first “official interview”, which thankfully was more like having a chat with old friends, in The White Horse in Ballincollig, which incidentally became one of my very first clients!

I liked the sound of Fuzion, and they liked the sound of me, and so my PR career was borne!

On January 7th, 2007, I joined Dee and Greg in Fuzion as their first employee, working from their home. Dee and I shared an office, and I learned the ropes from one of the best in the business. I was thrown straight into the midst of consumer PR working on Danish fashion brands b.young and ICHI

Days were filled with drafting press releases, coordinating advertising campaigns, and creating press packs, which at that time involved hours of burning product images onto CDs, and packing up lovely goodies to send to fashion journalists in Ireland’s top titles. The reward was when I would get big envelopes in the post in the weeks that followed, these envelopes contained press coverage!

Yes actual press clippings; there was no such thing as receiving a daily email with your clippings automatically uploaded onto a server for you – you had to scan each one carefully and save every column inch of coverage for the client – but I loved it. There was the work I was doing, featured in national titles!

Early in 2007, we had our first team planning meeting to discuss how we were going to put Fuzion on the map, and get ourselves noticed. This meeting also happened to be the first ever Fuzion Friday! Ideas flowed, and so did the wine.. and the rest is history!!

Fuzion Friday became a regular fixture on the Fuzion weekly calendar, and to this day is an opportunity for the Fuzion team to sit back, share time together and relax after putting in a hard week’s work. On the odd occasion Fuzion Friday lunches turned into Fuzion Friday after work drinks – but as the saying goes, “work hard, play hard”!

In my early years with Fuzion, I would say that my car could have driven on autopilot to Killarney, as I was up and down the road so often, working on a variety of clients in The Kingdom, from the Killarney Outlet Centre to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club to Christmas in Killarney. All these projects gave me great experience, and I worked with lots of people who were passionate about doing great work in their community. 

The summer of 2007 saw Fuzion work on Tour de Munster for the very first time, which today remains Fuzion’s longest standing client!

Tour de Munster

It has been an honour to work on this charity cycle, which has raised phenomenal funds for various beneficiaries over the years. Today the main beneficiaries are the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland; but the beneficiary in 2007 was the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland (CFAI), and our work with them through Tour de Munster led to us working with the association on an ongoing basis for a number of years.

Working on charity campaigns has been a highlight of my time with Fuzion, but none more so than when we worked with CFAI on what was, literally, a life changing campaign for so many in 2009.

After years of empty and broken promises, the CFAI had lost total and utter confidence in the Department of Health, the HSE and Minister Harney; and decided to take action into their own hands. They challenged the HSE/ Department of Health to honour the commitment given publicly in 2008 to fulfil the promise of having the dedicated CF Unit operational in St Vincent’s by 2010.

We worked with CFAI on a very high profile and evocative campaign, fronted by CF Campaigner Orla Tinsley, entitled  ‘Irish War Crimes’. I was at home one evening when I got a call from Dee to say that the government agreed to honour the commitment to deliver on the vital, dedicated CF unit – this was the proudest moment of my PR career to date and I cried with joy – what we were doing was making a real difference. Our work on this campaign was acknowledged with an Award For Excellence in PR in 2010 for “Best Public Affairs Campaign”.

Mid 2010 saw me take a sabbatical, when I worked with The Hope Foundation for one year as PR/ Media Coordinator, putting into practice everything I had learned on working on charity campaigns to that point. But I missed the variety of working with an agency on a broad range of clients; and so I was fortunate to be able to rejoin Fuzion in 2011 with a refreshed mindset!

Since then I’ve been lucky to work on great clients in an industry that’s changing constantly. There’s so much more to the job than pure PR nowadays, and managing successful campaigns includes everything from strategic planning and implementation to event conceptualisation and management; media relations to sponsorship negotiation; crisis management to social media management, implementing national advertising campaigns to graphic design liaison; so much more, and everything in between.

Over the last few years I’ve been particularly inspired by young entrepreneurs I’ve worked with through UCC’s IGNITE programme and the Local Enterprise Offices’ ‘Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur’ competition – these startups are Ireland’s future, and it’s been an honour to help them and advise them on their journeys.

One of the highlights of my time in Fuzion has to be the great colleagues I’ve worked with, many of whom have become what I know will be lifelong friends.

Doreen O’Mahony deserves a special mention as she was my first “Fuzion friend”. She started a few months after me, and was my partner in crime for the first few years. Together, we “held down the fort” when Dee and Greg took a well earned break for their honeymoon in December 2007. We still talk about how we were having nightly dreams about work, so concerned that we would do everything right so that Dee and Greg could return home knowing their baby was in safe hands! 

Today, as Fuzion celebrates 20 years in business, it still is in safe hands, with a passionate, dedicated, and much larger team behind Dee and Greg, helping to “drive the bus”!

Alison O'Brien, Fuzion CommunicationsAlison O’Brien

Alison O’Brien is an Account Director with Fuzion PR, Marketing & Design, who have offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

The Power of Communications in a Crisis – Updates from professionals across Europe

April 2, 2020

Fuzion Communications are members of a pan-European network, the Crisis Communications Network Europe, which is made up of independent Communications agencies who offer a significant Crisis PR service in each different country.

The rationale for this network is to have a strong group of like minded, connected agencies that can handle Crisis PR situations for clients when these crises extend beyond national borders.

When it comes to a crisis that extends beyond borders there is no better example than the COVID-19 crisis that has affected everyone.

On the Win Happy podcast, I invited a senior person from each agency in the network to discuss the crisis and in particular:

  • The status of the crisis in each country
  • How government have reacted
  • How good the communications have been
  • The media role in these communications
  • The reaction of the general public

It is clear listening to the really interesting discussion, that we can see the huge difference that strong communications can make in a crisis and and it can literally help to save lives.

Trusted, responsible government, leading by example, powerful gestures, quick action, honest briefings, strong and accurate media reporting and the public response are all key factors that determine the success of the communications and the fate of so many in each country.

The members that featured on the podcast were from Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, England, Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.

You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Enjoy the show..

Greg

Greg Canty is a Managing Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer a full Crisis PR service from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

Not all heroes wear capes, some wear a press badge.

March 27, 2020

Media

I am very proud of Ireland and how we are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doctors, pharmacists and nursing staff are heroes and showing up to fight this crisis day in, day out, Ireland Vs Covid. As our Taoiseach said, “not all heroes wear capes”. Corny, but also very true.

The less championed hero is the media.

The Irish media are doing a stellar job. Behaviour change is essential in Ireland’s response to this pandemic and the press are key to this. They are the ones that set the tone and keep the message relevant and fresh in the public’s mind. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, keep your distance.

The media are also front line workers and putting their health and in some cases, lives, at risk in order to save lives.

On top of all of this, they have been forced to learn new ways to do their job.

From Newstalk’s Ciara Kelly reporting from her hot press, Claire Byrne hosting her show from her garden shed while at home suffering from Covid 19, to Ryan Tubridy presenting the Late Late Show to an empty audience.

This is all a stark reminder of the new reality of our lives. News media has been forced to work remotely and adapt and innovate in ways they never have. Print newspaper teams are working from home and are still managing to deliver breaking news and put together a daily paper from multiple locations.

Who said print news is dead and can’t adapt?

These are unprecedented times, and we all need to become accustomed to a new way of living.

It has been said several times that this is the calm before the storm. It is possible that we may all forget the new behaviours that have become our new normal as we settle into new patterns and routines. We may stop singing happy birthday every time we wash our hands. We may forget that touching our face is not allowed, or get sick of staying inside in a few weeks.

But it is the media who will ensure this does not happen by reinforcing the message and continuing to remind us that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We must all play our part.

The next time you are washing your hands for 20 seconds, think of the heroes reporting from around the country who are making sure you don’t become complacent and are who are literally saving lives by helping a nation to change its behaviour. The media play a key role in our society, and this crisis demonstrates that.

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear a press badge.

#JournalismMatters

Ciara Jordan - Fuzion CommunicationsCiara

Ciara Jordan is an Account Director with Fuzion Communications and she leads the media training team, from our offices in Dublin and Cork.

Covid-19 Communications and Staying Safe

March 10, 2020

The recent news of Covid-19 or coronavirus coming to Ireland is of concern to us all. I am sure you are as glued to the quickly evolving story as we are. 

The HSE is advising the risk of catching Covid-19 in Ireland is still low to moderate, but this may change. However, most people continue to go to work, school and other public places, as usual.

While this advice is still in place, it is best practice to introduce some measures in your workplace such as hand sanitiser at entry points and clear advice about hand washing,  to keep your team and workplace visitors safe and to avoid any possible spread of the virus.  

It is also advisable at this stage to review contingencies around remote working, if this is feasible for all or some members of your team. Another practical approach would be considering remote business meetings, using tools such as Skype, Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, so that travel is kept to a minimum. 

Our design team in Fuzion have created an infographic based on the HSE advice that you can use in your office to encourage good hand hygiene. You can get a high resolution version of this poster here

Covid-19 infographic

As well as the potential health impact of Covid-19, we are already seeing economic implications of the virus and your business could be affected during this time of uncertainty. 

The Department of Business, Enterprise  Industry have developed a Business Continuity Checklist that is well worth checking out here.

The Role of Communications

If your business is at risk of being affected, you may have a possible communications crisis issue. In this scenario it is best to ensure you follow the below important steps that we have shared with all of our clients. 

When a crisis occurs, the need to communicate is immediate. Simple steps to ensure this happens can streamline this process:

1- Agreed Spokespeople

When a crisis occurs, it is best to choose spokespeople most suitable for the situation. Identify your key spokesperson and brief them on what’s happening as well as how your organisation is going to move forward. Then move quickly to respond internally with those messages to your employees. The point here is to quickly alleviate any internal fears or concerns in the workforce. 

2– Set up a group on email or Whatsapp only reserved for the crisis with key spokespeople

Crises tend to happen when you least expect them so Whatsapp is recommended so spokespeople can be contacted out of office hours. This group should only have the spokespeople and appropriate decision makers. 

3- Act as soon as possible

If it is not possible to give a comment immediately, ensure the journalist is asked for a deadline and the organisation will get back to them asap. 

If required, Fuzion can assist you with the response to a crisis, or act as a “gatekeeper” for you with the media.  The earlier Fuzion is contacted, the better in order to effectively respond to a crisis or a journalist query for a statement and minimise any damage a crisis can create. 

4- Agree a response/Statement as soon a crisis occurs

In the case of Covid-19, it is best to have a statement prepared so your business demonstrates it is ready and prepared for such a serious issue. This statement should outline how the business has prepared for the crisis and plans to move forward. 

5- Social Media

If appropriate, share your statement on social media and if a crisis happens on social media, it is advised where possible to take the conversation offline and discuss matters either on direct mail or email. 

6- Create a means for monitoring

Once you’ve determined the channel of distribution for your message, monitoring responses is equally critical. 

Careful planning and preparation should encourage readiness for any possible crisis.

However, situations will arise in organisations that may require expert advice and in this case, you can contact Fuzion’s Crisis Communication team here

 

Advice on Covid-19

Advice on Covid -19 from Public Health bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) is to minimise infection risk thorough hand-washing, isolating ourselves if we are ill, and avoiding touching our faces. More information on personal care can be found here.

While the period ahead is uncertain, if we can calmly prepare for the unexpected we will be in a much better position to face any possible escalation of the crisis. 

Stay safe and with best wishes

Ciara Jordan and Deirdre Waldron on behalf of The Fuzion Team

 

Crisis communication, coronavirus and the communication tidal wave

February 17, 2020

coronavirus crisis pr

Camera crews filming outside the company headquarters, a mass of media enquiries and employees with a pressing need for information – when new viruses like the coronavirus run rampant and pictures also appear in the main news stories of a deserted Chinese city home to millions of people, stress levels rise in internationally active businesses and crisis units.

Because epidemics like SARS or the coronavirus can completely disrupt operational processes (https://www.manager-magazin.de/politik/weltwirtschaft/newsblog-zum-corona-virus-a-1304435.html), they can lead to temporary site closures, as in the case of the Bavarian automotive supplier.

Against this backdrop, many questions arise within crisis management, including:

  • How does working alongside health authorities actually work? Who speaks to whom and when? And who has authority over whom?
  • What do we do when the virus is directly associated with the company?
  • Which course of action do I choose: Only implement what has been arranged in consultation with the authorities? Or do we go above and beyond, taking additional measures that will be advantageous to our public image?
  • How best to include affected employees?
  • And how do we handle what experience shows will be a tidal wave of media interest?
  • What do pandemics actually mean for customer relations?
  • And what if the crisis team is sent into quarantine?

Crisis prevention is half the battle

In crisis communication, it is common knowledge that crisis prevention is half the battle. But are companies actually prepared for crisis situations associated with epidemics?

Probably not, because events like the coronavirus are rare. Crisis management generally has more experience with crises such as classic product recalls, serious industrial accidents, or economic issues involving site closures or job losses.

Nonetheless, simple rules also apply to pandemics and can be mapped with clever crisis prevention:

  1. Categorise: what does an identified virus mean for operations? In other words: who is affected by and who is involved in the crisis situation?
  2. Responsibility: who is responsible for communication with which target group? In other words: who communicates with employees, authorities, the media, customers, suppliers and third parties, in which way and how often?
  3. Monitoring: how do we immediately know who will comment on the crisis and how, and above all, which tone they will take? How do we catch false alarms?

Whenever the health authorities are involved in a crisis situation triggered by a virus, a company doesn’t necessarily maintain control of its communications. For this reason, companies should run through these kinds of cases with the authorities in good time.

The current coverage of the coronavirus has brought the fact that health risks for employees present their very own crisis topic to the attention of those responsible for communications.

In the actual crisis situation, adjusting to this crisis scenario means having more time available for crisis communication. In the age of global goods flows and an increasingly networked economy, crises like the coronavirus or SARS will recur. For this reason, clever crisis prevention  is useful in limiting potential reputational damage, giving the crisis unit the assurance it needs to be well prepared and avoiding any blunders in the actual crisis situation.

Frank Schroedter

Frank Schroedter is a Crisis Communications specialist with Engel & Zimmermann AG who are part of the CCNE (Crisis Communications Network for Europe), of which Fuzion are a member

 

How Innocent was the ‘Conker’ publicity stunt?

November 11, 2019

Innocent Conkers

The Coca-Cola owned brand Innocent, famous for its smoothies and juices, is a great recent example of how a communication’s team careful management of a publicity stunt gone wrong can save the reputation of the brand.

Running a very satirical social media narrative, Innocent have a habit of coming up with some “fake news” or stunt products such as ‘100% bits orange juice’ and ‘Marmite Smoothies’, however their autumn themed drink didn’t have the same success.

Innocent came up with the idea to poke fun at dairy free products by creating ‘Conker Milk’. They quickly received backlash as horse chestnuts are poisonous and could seriously harm those who consume them. Although they disclaimed they used edible chestnuts rather than horse chestnuts, people still didn’t really get the stunt.

They responded quickly announcing on Twitter their intentions for a clever advertisement and how it didn’t go to plan, tweeting ‘‘Hello everyone. Yesterday we made a mistake. Now we’re trying to put things right. Long story short: PLEASE DO NOT EAT OR MILK CONKERS

People forgave the brand rather quickly, responding lightly to their blunder, asking whether they should take the conkers out of the oven or if they should use acorns instead.

Innocent turned it into a campaign, urging people not to consume Conkers!

‘CONKERS. Don’t eat or milk them. In fact, avoid them at all costs, creating videos on how Conker Milk isn’t real and posting a fake campaign poster by the ‘Conkervatives’.

They made their message very clear. Innocent’s witty responses to their mistake and reiteration to not eat conkers, resulted in greater publicity than they previously imagined. This gave the brand the opportunity to shed light onto their very real and edible nut-based milk products.

Publicity stunts can be great to get people talking, to draw attention and create news but when they go wrong it’s crucial to handle it effectively. The results of a publicity stunt can be unpredictable so it’s important to take calculated risks every step of the way.

At Fuzion we love to push boundaries and be brave, and have done some stunts to create awareness of taboo subjects such as this Maxi Zoo stunt from their #ScoopThePoop campaign. However we always do a risk assessment (promise!!) before a stunt and we plan for the unexpected.

Innocent’s transparency and ability to make light of a situation, overshadowed their lack of thought and research behind the faux product. While their slip could have been detrimental, the bursting personality of their social media team saved the brands blushes and reputation.

Niamh 

Niamh Lawlor is a PR intern with Fuzion Communications, a full service PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork.

 


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