Scandal! – 5 Tips from Image Marketing Consultants on Managing Crisis

There is the old saying in media: If it bleeds, it becomes the lede.

Media have always highlighted the ugly underbelly of a society.  With such brutal competition in that 24/7 space, no one should be shocked that the shocking dominates even more.  What might have been a simple embarrassment to an organization several years ago now could be framed as a front-page scandal.  So, yes, expect that the media will grab hold and run with when a person in or associated with your organization “gets into trouble.”

That might be a key executive who is arrested for driving with intoxicants.  Your celebrity spokesperson is accused of domestic violence.  The head of the partnership you put together has been charged with embezzlement.  Here are tips from Image Marketing Consultants on how to manage these incidents.

Realize that this happens all the time.  Being under the media spotlight has become the “new normal.”  Because it happens all the time, you must have a crisis management and communications plan which provides details about what to do and what not to do. This must contain input from legal counsel.  America is the land of lawsuits.

Don’t be premature.  Before the organization does or says anything the facts must be in and must be double-checked.  Was the celebrity spokesperson actually arrested or were the authorities merely called to the house?  Once the facts are verified, then you proceed cautiously in developing your position, releasing information, and then providing ongoing updates.

Filter all release of information through one contact. There are many constituencies to provide information to.  They range from employees and investors to media and local authorities.  Those communications must be approved and released through one central contact.  That keeps your response consistent and avoids worsening the situation by rumors.  It also protects you legally if there are to be lawsuits. Legal action can keep the alleged incident on the front page for years.

Apologize or provide appropriate verbal gestures.  Standard communications procedure is to provide an “I’m sorry” if one is at fault in any way or has created a situation in which there has been a misunderstanding.

However, that is not the only communications ritual that has become part of good public relations. For example, if someone has died and, even though the organization is not liable, offer a sincere expression of sadness.  Empathy is mandated.  Organizations are supposed to act human.  In the court of public opinion, organizations are now “people.”

Get on with business.  Scandals are disruptive because they can distract organizations from doing what they should be doing, be that selling pizza or delivering social services.  After you take care of what you should be taking care of during this crisis, move the organization back on task.  Remember leadership and good management are often noticed during crisis.  Although the situation is stressful, how it’s handled can enhance the brand, convert to added revenues and funds raised, and provide boosts to careers.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on crisis communications, public relations, marketing, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

Layoffs: 3Tips from Image Marketing Consultants on Managing RIFs

Economists from JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley forecast that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth will “rebound” this first quarter of 2013.  However, that doesn’t mean that organizations will not continue to lay off employees, that is conduct a Reduction-in-Force (RIF).

RIFs have become the “new normal” and not only for cost efficiency.  As your products/services,  market conditions, and technology keep changing so might manpower needs.  For example, you are closing down your physical office and becoming an ecommerce business.  Here are tips how to manage that RIF to protect your brand, prevent customer/client flight, and maintain positive community relations.

Tell the story of why this is necessary for the business.  The deep economic downturn has conditioned all constituencies to accept layoffs as a restructuring must.  Explain in detail how the changes will strengthen the business. If you predict eventual growth which can create jobs in the future, say that.

Identify the right mediums at the right time to tell this story to employees, vendors, customers/clients, investors, community leaders, and regulatory agencies.  For employees,for example, in-person conversations are the best approach.  If you are a public company, all material information must be released to all investors at the same time.

Make effort to place employees within or outside the organization.  There may be jobs within your organization employees can fill or you may be able to contract with them for just-in-time assignments.  On the night a Connecticut political leader lost the election, in his televised concession speech he appealed to employers to hire his staff.  That positioned him as a selfless hero.  It can enhance your brand.

Keep constituencies up-to-date about your progress. Layoffs are tricky business because they can send the signal that the organization is in distress.  That’s exactly why you must disclose in detail in a timely manner the results coming from the new approaches.  For example, what technology have you been able to purchase with the funds freed up from manpower expenses?

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on your communications, marketing, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

 

Selling – Image Marketing Consultants Explains Why You’re Not Closing

Your product or service has received wonderful reviews.  Your marketing people have gotten you in front of prospects.  But, you’re not closing those sales.  Image Marketing Consultants identifies what tends to go wrong and how you can prevent lost sales.  Here are five of those situations.

Not treating sales as separate process. Selling is where you are interacting directly with the prospect.  It is not marketing.  It is not product or service design.  The focus and skills are very different.  That’s why organizations which have the resources establish a sales force.  They are the front lines who are not attached to all that has led up to the sales call.  If you can’t afford a sales unit, then clear your head of all the other things which you usually think about in the business and devote your full attention to getting that sale.  Nothing else matters.

Not pulling out all stops identifying prospect’s needs.  Most needs are not obvious, perhaps not even to the prospect.  That’s why the most important part of the sales process is to gently ask questions.  The prospect may enter your retail operation with the intent of buying one suit for a board presentation.  However, what she really needs is a wardrobe makeover in order to appear more trim and youthful.  The salesperson who invests the time in finding that out winds up with a homerun that day and long term customer relationship.

Not doing a trial close. The purpose of a trial close is to get a feel for how the process is going.  You gently check if the prospect feels good about the product or service, the price, and other terms and conditions.  Then you ask for the sale.  When the prospect balks or simply doesn’t buy, then that’s an opportunity to reframe what you’re offering.  Some salespeople then ask, “What will it take to get this sale?” or “What’s keeping you from buying?”

Not leading prospect to point of purchase.  Most prospects need the nudge to go through that final door in the purchasing continuum.   That means, you have to, in some way, move them along.  Some salespeople do that by asking if they prefer the leaf or the shell pattern.  Others assume the sale by recommending add-ons such as a smartphone carrying case.  The bottom line on this is to be alert to where the prospect is and, if stuck at point of indecision, have tactics to move the sale to completion.

Not giving the exit signal.  Research shows that salespeople who respect their time generate not only more sales but also more revenue per sale.  If prospects remain trapped in indecision, then salespeople have to signal that they are ready to exit.  Frequently that in itself puts the prospect on a buying track.  When heading toward the exit sign, let the prospect know that the door is always open, although not necessarily with those terms and conditions.  Sometimes the prospect will realize those terms and conditions are great and buy right then.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on your sales, marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868

Nemo: What Business Did Smart, Explains Image Marketing Consultants

Nemo, the storm which hit the Northeast Corridor hard, was a crisis.  And it’s before, during, and after a crisis that businesses can have breakthroughs in revenue, profits, branding, and relationships with employees, customers, the community, law enforcement, and more.  We at Image Marketing Consultants noticed some best practices.

Having crisis plan/communications in place.  All constituencies, be they customers or employees, knew what to expect and do, no matter what could go down in the weather event.  The multi-dimensional message sent through comprehensive crisis planning was we care and we manage well.

Giving customers easy access to what they need.  Right in the front of the store, a CVS along the shoreline had not only shovels but a variety of choices, clearly marked with affordable prices.  This is one-stop shopping for whoever would have to dig out.  No one had to go off to other stores to find an appropriate shovel and compare prices.

Figuring out the right incentives.  One 24-hour call center had to be staffed, of course.  If it wasn’t fully manned, customers would likely not contact it again.  It provided attractive incentives, ranging from monetary to ritzy overnight accommodations, for employees to show up and stay as long as needed.   One manager had suggested simply providing lots of free food.  Fortunately she was ignored.

Thanking everyone in the loop. By time the storm ended early Saturday, businesses were using their social media networks, phones, and homemade signs expressing gratitude to those who had pitched in.  A plumber who had braved the snow to fix the employee restroom in a 24-hour facility was celebrated as the Hero of Nemo 2013 on the intranet.

Crisis seems the new normal in 21st century.  Those businesses which become skilled in navigating it will develop a unique kind of competitive edge.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, provides complimentary consultations on marketing, public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

Sweet Spot – That depends, reminds Image Marketing Consultants

Valentine’s Day reminds us of the power of the “sweet spot.”  In romance when human beings aim for that sweet spot and hit it, there can be breakthroughs in relationships, ranging from healing to engagements to marry.  However, those who operate businesses often find that what they aimed at in their promotions doesn’t turn out to be the sweet spot.  The results of the campaign are disappointing.

Why does this happen?  We at Image Marketing Consultants find there are three major reasons why promotions fail.  Here they are:

Not enough research into customer needs. The cardinal rule of sales is to invest the most time in finding out what the customer needs.  At a car dealership it might be high gas mileage because of a long commute, not so much price.  The salesperson who keeps pitching price will not get that sale.

Not enough choice. If you read those credit cards offers coming in snail mail you will notice the proliferation of choices.  You can choose a shorter period for a balance transfer at no interest rate or a longer period for a low interest rate.  Reward points can be “spent” in a growing number of ways, including applying them back to pay off part of the monthly balance.  Without these choices, prospects might just toss the sales literature in the trash.

Wrong tone.  As lovers know, how something is said is everything.  The tone of business communications keeps shifting, sometimes in subtle ways.  After the wild west days of the rhetoric used in social media, communications have become more subdued.  Morever, there has to be a different tone for diverse target markets.  That’s why some companies have separate Facebook brand pages for diverse products and demographics.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation for your marketing, public relations, partnership, special events, and social media needs kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com 203-404-4868.

When Your “Superdome” Goes Dark – 6 Crisis Communications Tips by Image Marketing Consultants

As all the world knowns, part of the Superdome went dark during the Superbowl.  And the leaders and managers at organizations like yours began wondering what would happen if their own version of a “Superdome shut-down” took place.  The first step in managing that kind of crisis – and it is a crisis – is to have your Crisis Communications Guide completed and continually up-t0-date.

In itself that plan restores a sense of order when bad things happen because everyone in the organization knows what to do, how, and when.   Here are 6 tips from Image Marketing Consultants on putting that Guide together:

Define “crisis.”  The freezer going off in a food establishment is a crisis.  So is a choking guest.  Another form of crisis is an unexpected snow storm which starts to roar outside as patrons are starting to eat.  Listing examples of crisis reassures everyone in the organizaton that leadership is in control.  Therefore there is trust in the process.

Indicate who’s in charge of what. In emergencies, human beings need leadership.  Specify who’s accountable for what, in what order should they be notified, and the contact information.

Establish one spokesperson.  All information should be given to that representative who is the only point for release of information.  No one else should comment to anyone else.

Release information as soon as it is available and has been verified. Constituencies, ranging from the media to investors, will view you as credible if you ensure they receive accurate informaton as soon as you have it.  Use all mediums for this real-time disclosure.

Be generous.  When the electronic cash registers went down in a supermarket, that event had been provided for in the crisis plan.  Check-out clerks had hand calculators and provided a percentage discount for the inconvenience.

Thank all constituencies. Acknowleging the role of others in resolving the crisis is a key public relations initiative.  It creates the platform for cooperation during the next unexpected incident.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, provides complimentary consultations on all your communications and marketing needs, including public relations, partnerships, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

Teasers – 3 Tips from Image Marketing Consultants

By time SuperBowl Sunday actually happens most of us will have already viewed the commercials.  Some of us will catch them on traditional television, some on YouTube, and some on media properties like BUSINESS INSIDER.  And, studies as well as expert opinion show that these “teasers,” if well done, can enhance the results advertisers get.

Using “teaser” ads and “teaser” promotions in your organization before actual campaigns can also be effective for you.  For example, you may be opening a new upscale dessert shop. Before that, you can arrange partnerships with elite retailers to distribute small samples of a gourmet cookie.  With the consumers’ permission you can video that moment of high pleasure when the indulgence meets the taste buds. Those can be shown on YouTube and your on Media Center.  In addition, local media might find them fun to cover.

Here are 3 tips from Image Marketing Consultants on how to get the biggest bang from your teasers.

Do Them Right.  Every detail about the teaser is even more important than what goes on in the actual roll-out.  That’s because, as the conventional wisdom goes, less is more.  This small amount of information or mini experience has to deliver.  Therefore, invest all the resources needed.

Get Maximum Exposure. The best-made promotion won’t help your organization unless enough people enjoy it.  That’s where partnership comes in.  You have to identify the most useful venues for the teaser.  Those with a huge budget could have the introduction of the 2014 model electric car shown in movie houses before the film.  The rest of you probably have to be focused about figuring out what organizations would partner with you because they are also getting something out of this.  For example, the gourmet cheese shop might want to be associated with a gourmet dessert startup.

Build. Both the teaser and the relationships you build provide a platform for your future marketing, partnerships, public relations, special events, and social media.  From then on, consider what you do as an outgrowth of this early effort.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultantion on all your communications needs kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com 203-404-4868.

Collaboration – 4 Questions Image Marketing Consultants Says to Ask

Collaboration or partnership has many benefits, ranging from lower costs to greater reach. The restaurant which structures joint promotions with local playhouses and movie theatres could attract lots of long term customers, with its partners also experiencing sustainable increases in business. However, alliances or joint ventures can also directly or indirectly produce unique problems, as the world is seeing with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  That venture has 50 partners in more than 100 locations around the world and it has encountered serious setbacks such as batteries which catch fire.

In 2010, reports the SUPPLY CHAIN QUARTERLY, McKinsey & Company, Nielsen, and the Grocery Manufactureres Association conducted its annual Customer and Channel Management Survey (CCM).  What it found was this: About 80 percent of the companies interviewed used collaboration but only twenty percent indicated that they generated results worth the effort.

In our experience, we at Image Marketing Consultants found that not every professional or organization can successfully partner.  Here are 4 questions to ask before deciding to collaborate.

Do you have the necessary expertise? Partnering increases the complexity of any initiative exponentially.  No one can enter the situation blind.  If you don’t know what you’re doing hire a consultant or an employee who does know the field. Partnerships allow you to enter new territory, but you still need guidance.

Can you identify a partner or partners which can gain as much as you from the venture?  You may be interested in increasing sales and your partner in enhancing its brandname.  The project must be structured so both can accomplish that without undermining the success potential of the other.  When the outcomes aren’t mutually satisfying, trouble starts.  That usually takes the form of delays.

Do you and the potential partners have resources for as long as the project might take?  Typically, organizations underestimate the time it takes to reach a goal.  Therefore, you must have access to more resources than you initially need.  Those could range from borrowing power to the ability to keep recruiting volunteers.

How will you measure “success?” You and your partners have to be realistic about, for example, when the venture will be expected to reach “breakeven,” that is, enough revenue coming in to equal or exceed the revenue going out. The metrics have to account for what setbacks can be tolerated.  Those might include 20 percent returns on online orders.

Kate Sirignano, founder and head of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on partnerships as well as marketing, public relations, special events, and social media kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com 203-404-4868.

 

 

Collaboration Economy – Tips from Image Marketing Consultants on Getting the Edge

Technology has created what’s being called “The Collaboration Economy.”  Thought leader Evan Rosen explains in MIT’s TECHNOLOGY REVIEW this game-changing phenomenon.

Instead of operating alone, professionals now are pooling their  insight, analysis, and strategies through group emails, wikis, video meetings, conference calls, social networks like Facebook and Google+, commenting on articles, receiving comments on their own blogs, and sharing material with one click.  Image Marketing Consultants explains how you as a personal brand and your organization can leverage collaboration to get an edge.

Choose the right partners.  The potential obstacle with collaboration is that it tends to consume more time and patience than does working alone.  Therefore, you need to ensure there’s a payoff by including in your process only those useful to your objectives.  Partners are not created equal.

Be open.  Your partners can’t “get” how vital you are to the team unless you disclose your best thinking and hunches about strategy.  The risk of collaboration is this openness but the reward can be awesome since research and experience show that joint efforts can generate superior outcomes.  That’s why even competitors like BMW and Toyota cooperated in designing the battery for the electric car.

Don’t expect individual recognition. The enemy of superior outcomes from collaborating is the star system. Ego is a throw-back to the 20th century way of doing business.  It’s the group effort which counts, not your input.  Organizations are overhauling their cultures to recruit, develop, and retain professionals who can be a “we,” instead of a “me.”

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, invites you to a complimentary consultation on how you can partner in this changing economy kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

 

 

Valentine’s Promotions – Harnessing the Power of Two or More, Advises Image Marketing Consultants

Valentine’s Day celebrates the power of romantic love to join together two separate human beings into a kind of joint action.

Businesses and non-profits can broaden the theme behind this holiday to bring together people to work together for a common cause.  Restaurants can partner with other local organizations to address healthy living.  Real estate agencies can work with the shelters about training those without homes in how to develop marketable skills.  And non-profits can ask school children to create symbols of what it means to be a community.

Kate Sirignano, founder of Image Marketing Consultants, extends to you the sweet treat of a complimentary consultation about your marketing, public relations, partnership, special events, and social media needs kate@imagemarketingconsultants.com, 203-404-4868.

 

 

 

 

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