Understanding Source of Stress Helps in Handling of Crisis

When you are in the midst of a crisis (the car breaks down, your child is sick and you need to pick him up from day care but you have a big presentation to give), how do you react?

Now think about a crisis at work that you have to manage as a PR practitioner. When the crisis strikes, what are the executives worrying about?

“The more we understand some of their stress, the better we are able to help them cope,” said Joan Gladstone, APR, president and CEO of Gladstone International.

The two key areas that executives think about in a crisis are financial impacts and reputation impacts, she shared during a PRSA webinar.

If the crisis is sudden, executives often display heightened reactions, which can lead to slow decisions, hasty decisions or emotional decisions.

As the PR person you play a critical role in a crisis. “You have an extraordinarily important role,” Gladstone said. The role is more than helping with the media, though.

“You must take a lead role in guiding the immediate crisis response strategies that could impact your organization’s reputation for many years to come,” Gladstone said.

Your role is to stay calm and listen. You don’t want to jump to solutions, and you should ask questions to understand the facts and evaluate ideas. It’s also important to introduce news and social media results into the discussion. This also is not the time to be timid – offer your recommendations.

When you ask the right questions, you will gain a better understanding of what is really important about the current situation. You should also be sure you are messaging to your key audiences.

Finally, recognize that the media won’t necessarily call for a comment. Gladstone said reporters will visit the website looking for a posted statement. If one isn’t there, the reporter is likely to note that. That means you need to get your statement ready and posted quickly.

Finally, Gladstone said it’s okay to offer an apology. “It shows you have a heart,” she said. “You are not admitting fault.”

6 Places to Look for Blog Fodder

I did great this summer with my blog in terms of topics. I had tons of ideas. But now it’s fall, and I’ve got nothing. I’m not panicked, though, because a topic always appears.

As a former newspaper reporter, I had to turn in a story every day. That meant having a few evergreen stories in reserve for the days when there was no breaking news. As a reporter, I always became adept at finding the unique hook or angle to a subject and turning it into a story.

When I’m really stumped for blog fodder, here’s what I do:

Review posts from prior years. Anniversaries, events and other activities have dates associated with them. Often I’ll write a post on an annual event, but from a different perspective.

Surf the web, read a magazine. I find ideas from stories I am reading on the web or in magazines. Sometimes, one sentence can trigger an entire blog post.

Talk to people. I sometimes ask my colleagues for ideas.

Peruse my idea folder. I frequently tear out articles that could be an idea and put them in an old-fashioned file folder. Sometimes, I put a sticky note with a random idea. When I’m stuck, I open the folder and am frequently surprised at the fodder within.

Attend a meeting or lecture. Most newspapers publish a list of business events. Sometimes I’ll see one that interests me, and I’ll attend. I particularly like breakfast meetings because I can go before heading to the office. Invariably, I end up with a blog post.

Examine my content calendar. I keep a calendar with all the days I’m going to post for the year along with ideas. Sometimes I have written posts in anticipation of traveling. However, if I’m really stuck for an idea, I’ll publish the blog sooner and hope that inspiration strikes again.

And it always does.


You Can Tweet

I confess: I have had my Twitter account for five years with only an occasional tweet. I recently become more active, in part because I now help manage a Twitter account through work and also because more of my friends and colleagues are using the platform. You can follow me @PriceCynthia.

I figured a steep learning curve would await me so I signed up for an online class to learn more and quickly. If you are thinking of using Twitter or have an account – and like me – haven’t done much with it, here are a few things I’ve learned.

Twitter birdThe first thing you need to do is claim your Twitter handle. You can use your name, your company name or create something clever. Keep in mind that your handle is part of how you will brand yourself. Once you have done that, you should fill out your profile and upload an image. You should also create a Twitter background, which, if appropriate, should resemble the colors, format and logo from your personal or corporate website.

Like any communications platform, you shouldn’t use Twitter as a one-way megaphone. Instead, retweet (when you share another person’s tweet) and tweet relevant information with your followers. My friends were pleased when I shared “@Starbucks made #PSL available early.”

For those who are just learning, that line might not make sense. The @sign tags or identifies the handle of a person on Twitter. In this case, @Starbucks references the company based in Seattle. A pound sign is used to aggregate messages of a similar nature, and is known as a hashtag. My tweet with #PSL was about pumpkin spice latte. I already knew that the drink had a hashtag associated with it.

While there is a dictionary with some hashtags. You can make up your own, too. At a recent conference I attended we used the hashtag #NFPW14SC. Anyone attending the 2014 NFPW conference in South Carolina used this tag and anyone who wanted to know what was being said about the conference could search for this hashtag.

One word of caution about hashtags: Don’t overuse them as they can fragment the conversation.

Another tool to use on Twitter are lists, which are a great way to organize others into groups. You can make your lists private or public, and you can follow lists that others have already created. For example, I created a list for several publications whose content I fine useful. However, when I was following them, they were filling my Twitter feed and it was challenging to find content from others. I stopped following them and created a list. Now when I want to peruse the latest from these magazines, I check my magazine list and can find all the relevant stories.

Because tweets disappear quickly from a screen and because I don’t scroll through my feed frequently, lists are helpful for finding those who only tweet occasionally. I created a list that includes members of one of the professional groups with which I belong. This way, I don’t miss relevant posts.

I hope to see you on Twitter! If you are, feel free to post a comment with your Twitter handle.

Pie Champion Has All the Ingredients for Success

Who would have thought biscuits would have anything to do with a career, but they do.

Just ask Francine Bryson, a national pie champion, mom, homemaker and self-proclaimed redneck. Her award-winning desserts have won the hearts of bakers everywhere when she appeared on CBS’s “The American Baking Competition.”

Francine Bryson remains true to herself and excels on the baking circuit. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Francine Bryson remains true to herself and excels on the baking circuit. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I recently heard her speak, and she demonstrated to the audience how to make biscuits. Many of the step involved in making biscuits also relate to creating a successful career.

The first lesson is to follow your passion. For Francine that’s baking. As a 4-year-old she made a lemon meringue pie. “I’m not sayin’ you could eat it,” she told the audience. Over time, though, she developed her skills and now knows that if it “comes out of an oven,” she can make it.

When it comes to ingredients, Francine said she uses self-rising flour.  “This lets you skip baking powder and baking soda,” she said. “Who has time for all the extra ingredients?”

Another way to look at that is to make sure you have the right ingredients. In the case of work, do you have all of the information that you need to create a PR plan or the elements to write a great story?

Once she had the right ingredients, she put a whisk in the flour to lighten it up. “Sometimes you just need to give it attention,” she said.

That’s good advice, especially, if I apply it to a project. For a project to succeed, I need to give it the appropriate attention.

20140905_091907As Francine mixed the ingredients for biscuits, she emphasized, “Don’t overwork the batter,” adding, “Let the ingredients become friends.”

I realized that sometimes when I’m working on a project, I make it too complex. Listening to Francine I realized I should not overwork or overthink a problem.

As she gently mixed the batter, I thought about challenges I have had at work, and how sometimes I overthink them and fret about them instead of simply quickly addressing them. The advice also holds for making friends with colleagues, even those with whom you don’t directly interact on a daily basis. You never know when you might need to mix in additional knowledge.

Her final advice was to take time to play in the kitchen because “it’s cheaper than therapy.” I admit that I enjoy whipping up a storm in the kitchen to unwind. But even if you don’t like to cook, the point is to make sure you have fun in life.

Now that’s a recipe for success.

Former POW Shares Life Lessons

I recently had the privilege of being in an audience listening to Col. Leo Thorsness, U.S. Air Force (retired), who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism.

Woven throughout his life story were several valuable life lessons.

Learn to focus. When he was flying his aircraft and attempting to avoid the surface-to-air missiles, he said, “I really learned to focus. I only had two things I needed to do.” The first, he said, was to not let his plane hit the ground. The second was to not hit the surface-to-air missile.

Teamwork matters. Col. Thorsness said that while he was the one flying the plane, it was the guys on the ground who made it like new each day so that he could fly his next mission. His wingman and others in the air with him also were invaluable.

“If each level of the team did their job that day, we were successful,” he said. “If they didn’t we were dead or POWs.”

Communications means survival. When Col. Thorsness was confined to prison, the only way to communicate with other prisoners was through a tap code they had developed. That tap code allowed them to share valuable information. “My ability to survive tomorrow,” he said “was all because of communications.”

Know what matters. To keep his mind sharp, Col. Thorsness, who like the other prisoners had no paper or pencils, kept track in his mind of the topics discussed among the prisoners. Work, he said, was at the bottom of the list. At the top were family, friends, faith and fun. “Those things are what make life,” he said. “You put those in your life and near the end, you can say that was a good life.”

Don’t take freedom for granted. Col. Thorsness said, “If the doorknob is on the inside, it’s a good day.”

 “If the doorknob is on the inside, it’s a good day.”

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