June 2013

We just posted a new video on the front page of our website, and I have to say, we’re pretty excited about it. It is a graphic recording that we produced in collaboration with Tanya Gadsby of Drawing Out Ideas. Graphic recording is a creative way to communicate and it is a tool that can be incredibly useful in helping you to connect with your audience or community. The AHA video is only one example of how a graphic recording can be used; there are several other options, depending on your needs and objectives.

Tanya is exceptional at her craft. Not only was she an absolute delight to work with, she also brought a level of creativity to the project that was of huge value. She has a rare talent and is able to blend creativity with a strategic approach – it’s really impressive. She understood who we are (as AHA and as individuals) and she was able to help us to create a visual story that captured our uniqueness in a way that is engaging, compelling and useful. This graphic recording helps to showcase who we are and what we do, and it does it in an interesting and imaginative way.

The world of communication has changed. It is important that as PR professionals, we evolve with new tools and technologies. I believe that graphic recordings are a great example of a new way to tell your story or to explain a complex topic to your stakeholders. It’s different, it’s fun and yet it provides the opportunity to give details in a way that holds a viewer’s attention.

At AHA, we’ve always been interested in the visual components of storytelling – our Fast Take Friday video blogs are highly popular and we are looking at bringing those back soon. The graphic recording is another way to help connect with potential clients to explain what we do and showcase our ability to use new tools to tell stories.

For our blog posts, Paul has become an expert at finding the right images to help explain the information. Visuals are becoming more and more important as the world continues to search for information online. I love words, and I have made my living by stringing them together to tell stories for longer than I care to admit. However, words and imagery go together. As communicators, it’s up to us to identify and embrace new ways to tell our clients’ stories. Graphic recording is one of those new ways that we are incredibly excited about.

Do you have a medium that has worked well for you?

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Brand Journalism

How can your organization’s stories be told?

Media relations is an important component of what we do here at our Vancouver PR agency. We love developing newsworthy media pitches and connecting with journalists. It’s exciting, interesting and fun. And it’s more challenging than ever to grab the media’s attention – even with a great story pitch.

The world of journalism has changed. There are fewer resources being put towards the types of stories that we, as PR professionals, pitch to media. Good stories aren’t picked up because of lack of space, airtime and journalists to cover them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a conversation with one of our media contacts and they say: “I love this story, but we don’t have the resources available.” I have to admit, there are days when it is a little heartbreaking. However, there is a silver lining to this shift.

Organizations can tell their own stories in a compelling, authentic and engaging editorial style. Your stakeholders are out there looking for information about your product, services and brand, and you have the opportunity to provide it to them through your website, your blog, social media and other online sites, videos (and they don’t have to be expensive, slick corporate videos – flip style or editorial style videos can be great and far more reasonable than you may expect), articles, white papers, etc.

We are quite thoughtful about our media pitches. We go through the same process of gathering information that I learned at Maclean’s magazine. We take our media pitches very seriously and our high success rate at getting pick up in media outlets reflects the quality of our work in this area. Although sometimes, there just aren’t the resources available for a media outlet to cover the story. That’s when we take the media pitch and use it to build out an article, a broadcast segment, or a series of blog posts that we share via social media networking sites. This means that if a good pitch doesn’t get picked up, it still has huge value. And I have to say, sometimes the results that we get from the organization producing their own content is more relevant than if it had been covered by traditional media.

How could you tell the stories about your organization? Would it be by using video? A blog? An editorial style article? There are huge opportunities in this area. It’s very exciting for PR agencies like ours, that have writing and storytelling skills, and for our clients.

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CrisisBeing prepared for an issue or crisis is important. Even if you don’t think something negative will happen to your organization, take a moment and think about all the worst-case scenarios that could possibly happen. Then, at the very least, outline the chain of command for communication, how you would provide this information to those affected and to other stakeholders – including media – and how you would follow up and ensure that you consistently communicate and update people as the issue or crisis evolves or is resolved.

Here at AHA, we have worked with clients on some incredibly challenging issues and it’s not easy on anyone. Days are long, pressure is high and depending on the issue or crisis, there can be non-stop media attention, which has its own set of challenges. Planning is important. In fact, for many organizations it is crucial, but I know that there are many people out there who will never be convinced of that and refuse to plan.

Below are some key points to consider when creating an issue/crisis communications plan. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, but the information below should get you thinking about what to do in order to be prepared.

Define Communications Vehicles

It is important to know how your key stakeholders (staff, friends and family of staff, customers or clients, community members, board members, media, etc.) should receive information during an issue or crisis. Defining how you will share information – and confirming that it is the right approach for your stakeholder group – is crucial.

Develop a Straightforward Approval Process

Understanding the approval process for sharing information is also crucial. Setting up a complicated, time-consuming approval process creates unnecessary pressure and stress – and the fact is, during an issue or a crisis, there is no time. Information needs to be accurate, it needs to be timely, and it needs to be communicated quickly. Make sure you have put a process in place that lets the communications person have direct access to the CEO, president or senior executive who is in charge at that time. Don’t put barriers in the communicator’s way.

Communicate with One Voice

Speaking with one voice is critical. Sending out information that contradicts other information because there are too many people communicating publicly only confuses and frustrates everyone. Identify one spokesperson, with one or two backup people (should the spokesperson be unavailable). If you need experts to explain complex topics, have them available with the spokesperson and ensure that they only speak on their specific topic. Make sure there is one communications person in charge of the communications team (if you have more than one person). Let that person update his/her team and manage the messaging directly with the senior executive who is in charge.

Be Transparent

Be as transparent as possible and respond to questions as much as possible. If you can’t respond to a media question, explain why you can’t. (For example: “This situation is evolving and that is a matter for the police, fire department, government, etc. to deal with; we are in the process of understanding just what happened and when we do, we will make a statement.”) Don’t hide, avoid questions or refuse to respond to specific questions. That only makes you look guilty or like you are hiding something. Be upfront; if you made a mistake, say so. Explain how it will never happen again and how you are going to make it right. And for crying out loud – apologize. If you messed up and did something illegal, unethical or wrong, take responsibility for it.

Don’t Take Responses Personally

Don’t take negative or critical responses or attacks personally. This is easier said than done – especially when people have been working late hours, under high pressure. Responding emotionally to comments online, to critical people who come at you as you go to work, or even in the coffee line can create a bigger issue. Sometimes the critics are right, and reviewing negative comments can help you to understand the public’s perception – but that is a job best left to the communications team.

Be Ready 24/7

Realize that the news cycle is 24/7 – and during an issue or a crisis, it is relentless. Social media has changed how we respond to a challenge. It is crucial to understand the social media world and to know when and how to provide news and updates, share information and respond.

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