10 Ways to Ruin Your Company’s Communications Efforts

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    A client contact passed this excellent article on to us, and author Lisa Lochridge, Director of Public Affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, was kind enough to allow us to reprint it for you.

    10 ways to ruin your company’s communications efforts

    Rather than propose some resolutions for communicating well in 2012, I thought I would take a different approach.

    Here’s a list of tips if you want to guarantee that your company’s communication efforts will fail.

    1. Don’t listen to the conversation. Gone are the days when companies simply pushed out information and went on their merry way. Now, you have to be willing to engage your customers and other groups who are vital to the success of your business. Listening is just as important—if not more so—than doing all the talking.

    2. Ignore negative comments on social media sites. That’s why it’s called “social” media; people speak their minds. If someone is unhappy with your company and being vocal about it, address their concerns when appropriate. If you don’t have the answer to a question, say so. And even though it may be painful, allow the conversation to occur and see what you can learn from it.

    3. When bad news happens, hunker down. That’s a gut reaction, but it’s the wrong thing to do. In today’s world of 24/7 news cycles, citizen journalists and digital media, you can’t go mum during a crisis. If you’re not out there telling your story, it won’t get told (and you can be sure others will be talking). Warren Buffet, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, told a reporter once that the best crisis communication philosophy is to “get it right; get it fast; get it out; and get it over.”

    4. Assume all reporters are out to get you. After all, bad news sells papers, right? If it bleeds, it leads? I worked at a daily metro newspaper for 21 years, and I can assure you those words were never spoken in the newsroom. My colleagues were journalists who were doing their jobs. That’s not to say there aren’t bad apples; there are in every profession. That leads me to No. 5…

    5. Don’t bother building relationships with reporters who cover our industry. When a crisis does occur, you’re in a better position if you have at least had some contact with the local media already. It takes time and isn’t easy, but making yourself available as a credible source goes a long way in establishing a good working relationship with reporters.

    6. Forget about developing a strategic plan for using social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms are just tools in our communication toolbox. They’re not strategies in and of themselves. Be sure to identify your objectives and make sure everything you post contributes to those objectives.

    7. Don’t have key messages. A media interview is a chance to communicate what’s most important. Speaking with the media without deliberately preparing talking points is a waste of a valuable opportunity to tell your story and say what you want to say.

    8. Neglect your employees when communicating about your company’s operations and products. Your workers are your ambassadors. It only makes sense to keep them informed when the news is good and when it’s bad. Doing so prevents rumors and misinformation from circulating, and it’s good for company morale.

    9. Don’t worry about having a crisis communication plan. The last thing you want to do when a situation blows up is to fly by the seat of your pants. Invest the time now to assess the risks of a crisis in your operation and develop a solid blueprint that will guide you when you’re in the thick of things.

    10. Keep doing things the way you’ve always done them. The media world and the communication tools we have are changing at warp speed. This is what I do for a living, and even I have a hard time keeping up sometimes. Recognize that change is good, conversation takes time but pays dividends, and don’t be like the proverbial old dog … be willing to learn new tricks.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at (321) 214-5206 or lisa.lochridge@ffva.com