Steps to Prevent a Crisis

Most crises are not accidents, but rather foreseeable.

While good communications adds value to an organization by removing barriers, earning trust and creating an environment for sound growth, a crisis subtracts value, said Larry Kamer of Kamer Consulting, who spoke about crisis communications with the PRSA Richmond chapter last month.

Organizations that do well at crisis communications follow a prescribed but flexible plan of action.

Organizations that do well at crisis communications follow a prescribed but flexible plan of action.

To prevent that from happening good crisis communications management relies on strategists and critical thinkers, Kamer said. “Critical thinkers are willing to look at things differently,” he said.

Organizations that do well at crisis communications follow a prescribed but flexible plan of action and treat communications and operational responsiveness equally.  In addition, companies use all their resources, including trained staff and outside experts.

When it comes to being prepared, Kamer cited statistics from the Institute for Crisis Management in Kentucky that prove many companies are “still snoozing” when it comes to preparedness. For example, 55 percent of companies do not have backup at remote sites and another 40 percent do not conduct tight background checks.

To prevent a crisis, Kamer said a company needs to have several things in place, including:

  • Media policies and protocols.
  • Media training.
  • Social media policies. “People are still all over the place with this,” Kamer said. “And now the media is competing with Twitter.”
  • Existing crisis documents.
  • Tabletops and scenarios. These are important Kamer said, because simply looking at a crisis plan is not enough. Companies need to understand how it’s really going to go down, he said. “Tabletops and scenarios are the way to do this.”

Impact of Millennials

I often write about mentoring, and recently I learned a new term, reverse mentoring.

Chris Redgrave Slide

Chris Redgrave Slide

Chris Redgrave, senior vice president of Communications for Zions Bank in Utah, suggested it as an option for Boomers and Generation Xers workings with Millennials.

The idea is that instead of the older generation mentoring the next generation, the Millenials would provide the mentoring.

At work, I frequently ask Millennials about internet and technology-related issues. So, I thought I might try it with respect to NFPW members.

During an online contest discussion, several members had questions about creating PDF documents. I know the basics, but I certainly didn’t want to introduce more confusion.

I approached one of our first-timers, who also is a Millennial, and asked if she would be willing to help out. She agreed.

By the time I returned home, she already had sent me a document with everything members would need. I think I’m going to enjoy reverse mentoring!

During her presentation, Chris shared more than a dozen attributes of Millennials, some I knew, some I didn’t, and they all expanded my thinking.

Here are some of the attributes:

  • Millennials are confident, connected and adaptable.
  • They are concerned for the environment.
  • 95 percent own computers; 91 percent keep their phone than one meter away whether they are waking or sleeping.
  • 37 percent are unemployed and they do not understand the “pay your dues” concept.
  • They like direction in the workplace because they are used to being told what to do.
  • They do things as a team and they expect to be included.

Some of these attributes reinforce approaches I have at work, including providing clear project plans so all members of a project know who is responsible for specific tasks and holding meetings where we all share what we’re working on so we can identify connecting points.

Boomers: 1946-64. Suburban Experience

Generation X: 1965-76: Divorces, AIDs, personal computers

Millennials: 1980s-2000s: Internet, indulgence, 9/11

Online Contest Helps With Employee Success

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

None of us are perfect and that probably has much to do with the fact that most of us don’t like change, even when we adapt to it. In today’s world, change is the norm given how quickly technology advances and changes. Who would have ever thought we would be taking photos with our phones – phones that now fit into our pockets?

Embracing change is one of the must-have qualities of a modern employee, according to an article on

Good thing then that NFPW is taking its contest online so members can continue to embrace change. Based on two years of research, online demonstrations and comparisons of services and costs, NFPW will host an online contest for NFPW, the high school competition and any affiliates that would like to participate, beginning with the next contest.

NFPW is moving to an online contest to create a streamlined process for entering the contest and because of the ease of use for entrants, judges and contest administrators. An online contest also cuts down on entries lost in the mail and saves on postage costs.

Change is necessary, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. That is why it is critical to bring individuals along and not simply force the change upon them. During the recent NFPW conference, a session was offered explaining how the contest works and included a demonstration. A test site has been sent to all members so they can begin to familiarize themselves with how it functions. NFPW also will provide a Q&A document to all affiliate contest directors and presidents. The monthly newsletter and website will feature articles to explain the new process and ease anxiety.

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change.” NFPW continues to make progress.

I’m looking forward to entering the online contest.

How Not to Write a Book

If you want to learn how not to write a book simply ask an author who has gone through the process.

Julie Campbell and bookJulie Campbell, who wrote The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History, shared what she learned as the result of her research and writing at the 2013 NFPW Conference in Salt Lake City. For her it comes down to three areas of focus – payment, procrastination and publicity.

Payment As a first-time author when Julie was offered a flat fee contract she simply signed the contract. “I realize now that I should have negotiated for more money,” she told an audience at the NFPW 2013 conference in Salt Lake City. “I didn’t make any money.”

Her contract did not include expenses, so Julie paid for gas, hotels, meals and photocopies incurred as she researched the book and later when she went to book signings. “I would negotiate my expenses if I had another project,” she said.

“Next time, I will get an agent,” she said.

Another thing Julie would pay closer attention to is how many advance copies of the book she would receive. Her contract only called for her to receive two copies of the book.

Procrastination Ten years past from the day Julie signed the contract until the book was published. “Life just gets in the way some times,” she noted. For her life included a job change, a move, a broken knee and sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the project.

“It was an enormous project and it really freaked me out,” she admitted. Julie quickly learned to break the research and writing into small segments. “If I just focused on one chapter, I felt fine.”

Until then, she spent time purchasing office supplies and organizing her work space.

Publicity Julie admitted that her image of being an author focused on the “good old days,” including visiting the publisher’s office in New York for lunch. Instead, she discovered “you are on your own to do your book publicity.”

She noted it’s important to ask how much PR the publisher will do and how much you as the author will have to do.  Julie suggested to her publisher where to send review copies.

Julie also credits NFPW seminars she attended with providing her with some good tips to generate her own PR. One suggestion she picked up was to take pocket folders and insert her business card and several pages from the book to send to bookstores to make them aware of her book.

Julie also created a Facebook page for the book.

Despite these frustration, Julie said, “I am thrilled to have the book to my credit.”

The Brand of You

How do you stand out in a crowd? More importantly, what sets you apart from others?

Please don’t say it’s your outstanding communications skills, your attention to detail or your ability to meet a deadline. At the NFPW conference, I asked communicators who had listed these skills on their resumes to stand. As you might suspect, lots of people were standing.

So how do you stand out? One way is to present the brand of you consistently. To do so, take a look at your resume, online platforms, personal business card, head shot, emails and network.

Resume Do you have an objective on your resume? If so, delete it. Instead include a summary statement, which is, essentially, your personal branding statement. It sums up what you do and how you do it. When you list your experience and places of employment be as specific as possible and demonstrate your success.

Online platforms Secure and establish your name domain. Do the same on social media networks. Even if you never use them you prevent others from doing so and potentially harming the brand of you. Be consistent in how you present yourself on each platform.

Personal business card Many of you have a professional business card but it’s helpful to have a personal card, too. You never know who you might meet who could benefit from your talent and expertise.  My personal business card contains my name, phone number and email address and a link to my blog. Presenting a person with a business card is much more professional than scribbling my name and email on a piece of paper.

A ghost image does not help define the brand of you.

A ghost image does not help define the brand of you.

Head shot A head shot is more than a photograph. It is often the first impression you make online. One study found that recruiters looked at a candidate’s head shot longer than they looked at any other portion of a profile so make it professional. If you are going to be on social media use a photo. Don’t use the ghost image and said the wrong message. 

Emails Think of your personal email signature as a personal calling card. Use it to share links to your social media profiles or to share about a recent honor or award. My email signature includes a link to this blog.

Network How many people are in your professional network? What are you doing to grow it and to learn more about the members? When you attend a conference, make it a point to introduce yourself to at least five people. Then follow up with them during the conference. Schedule lunches with individuals with whom you want to network. If lunch is too demanding try breakfast or just coffee. Networking should be about assisting others and not simply focused on what the other person can do for you. After a networking opportunity, be sure to follow-up.

Does the brand of you need some tweaking? If so make the time to do so now.

Osmond Hears With His Heart

Justin Osmond was born with a 90 percent hearing loss.

Imagine that, especially if you were born the son of Merrill Osmond, the lead singer of the world-renowned Osmonds.

Justin, who spoke to the NFPW 2013 conference, said “Imagine life without sound.” As he continued to “speak” the audience could see his lips moving but could hear nothing but the sound of silence.

“That’s what my life was like without hearing aids,” he said as he raised his voice.

Today one in five teenagers has a documented hearing loss, in part, because of the prevalent use of ear buds and playing music on mp3 players too loudly, Justin said.

His hearing lost presented challenges for him, but he chose to challenge his limits. He recognizes his hearing loss and said, “It’s okay. It’s who I am.”

He added, “I have a hearing loss, but that hearing loss does not have me. “

Justin Osmond learned to keep the beat by watching his brother's bow.

Justin Osmond learned to keep the beat by watching his brother’s bow. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

As he smiled and joked with the audience, he shared other popular sayings that contribute to his positive outlook. For example, “If there are no ups and downs in life, it means you are dead.”

He spoke of becoming more assertive and also of service. “Whatever your profession, always make time to help others, to serve one another.” Because of his hearing loss, he established the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, in honor of his late grandmother.

A video he shared showed the many faces of the children the fund has helped. Dry eyes were few in the audience as it watched children receive the gift of being able to hear for the first time. Their faces beamed and they laughed as they came to hear sound.

Justin encouraged the audience to never give up. “You may have a challenge but don’t let those challenges have you.”

As a young boy, Justin learned to play the violin. He could feel the vibrations along his jaw line. However, when he performed with his brothers, he wasn’t sure if he was keeping the beat. Then he struck on the idea to watch his brother’s bow – and he kept the beat.

Justin recently wrote a book, Hearing with My Heart, in which he shares his story with the world in order to help everyone understand the struggles of living with a hearing loss and how to overcome it.

How to Give a Successful Presentation

Whew! The 2013 NFPW Conference has ended.

Normally, I would be quite sad about that and missing all my friends. This year, though, I agreed to give two presentations, and I was scrambling to be ready. Overall, I think they went well (although that’s up to the audience members to really say).

The most difficult part of a presentation – at least for me – isn’t actually giving the presentation, it’s getting it started. I give my fair share of presentations so I thought I’d share a few tips that I have learned along the way.

Define your purpose. What do you want your audience to get from the presentation? Once I’ve determined that, I write it down and keep it front and center as I am preparing. I also focus on how I can explain my points, and, if I’m able to, entertain them a bit. I’m not a comedian, but I find sharing personal anecdotes makes a presentation more human.

Prepare and then prepare some more. For both of my presentations at NFPW, I did hours of research. Not all of it went into the presentation but I wanted to be able to answer any audience questions. I took a day off from work to research and begin organizing my notes. It helped to have a day of uninterrupted time to pull my research and thoughts together.

Simplify. With my purpose clearly defined, I went out of my way to stay on point and to keep the presentation as direct and impactful as possible. I wasn’t trying to impress with fancy slideshows. I wanted to convey information.

Know your audience. With NFPW, I know the audience is going to ask lots of questions. Participants will range from novices to veterans. I always look forward to a veteran member sharing additional information with me – and my audience. Many times I prefer to speak without a PowerPoint presentation because I like to engage and interact with my audience. At NFPW, I chose to use PowerPoint, because I know members are attending lots of sessions and gaining lots of information. Having a few (not hundreds) of slides on which key points are listed, helps to focus an audience. And I never read from slides.

Practice. I do a few practice runs of a presentation to ensure that timing works. I also review the material again to confirm that I am staying true to my objective. If I have time, I ask someone to review it or let me run through it with them. Invariably, I find a few things to tweak.