Friday, November 3, 2017

Overlooking the importance of transparency hurts your brand

In today’s world you never know when a crisis is going to hit. I watch organizations and brands struggle with this publicly and as a communications professional, it’s one of those things I hope and pray won’t happen to me. However, in a culture dominated by a 24-hour news cycle and social media, the likelihood is not if but when. How a company or organization acts or doesn’t act when a crisis hits will have lasting effects. We have best practices that help inform how we should proactively respond, yet somehow organizations still miss the importance of being transparent, showing empathy, and being apologetic.

In my home state of Connecticut, the University of Hartford has made national news with what seems like their inadequate handling of alleged racism between two students. In the video linked, you’ll notice the story headline highlights “bullying,” but as this story has evolved and more facts have been reported, Brianna Rae Brochu, the student accused of harassment, now faces hate crime charges and is no longer a student at the University of Hartford.

While I understand there’s still an active investigation underway and the university is looking more deeply into this issue, investigative reporting has highlighted policy and communication failures from the university. They include:
Since this story broke, I’ve noticed a pivot in the university’s response. But their initial communications and public relations failures remind me of the importance of these three crisis communications best practices.

1.      Be transparent – Organizations should expect all stories will be made public. Look at your organizational policy and practices. Make sure they reflect your organization’s mission and values. If they don’t, change them so they do.
2.      Actively listen and engage – The university missed an opportunity to proactively engage with students on this critical topic. They’re now reacting to the event, and as a result, have lost credibility in the eyes of the public and student body.
3.      Take action – Take action right away. No organization wants to be perceived as ignoring a problem. In the case of the University of Hartford, according to some student accounts, they don’t feel safe or that the university takes complaints related to racism and prejudice seriously.

In closing, don’t wait for a crisis to hit. Make sure your organization and its communication policies include these three crisis communication best practices.

I’m interested to read your comments on how you’ve helped your brand, company, or organization navigate through a crisis.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Stop looking for success; instead bring value to others

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”Albert Einstein 

I really love the above quote from Einstein. In two simple sentences, he covers a lot of ground. His words help push my own thinking on the differences between success and value. When it comes to your work, what percentage of your time is focused on winning and having your project be a success? Is it more or less than 50 percent? Take a minute to think about your answer. Now here’s your follow-up question. Do you prioritize success over value and if so, what may you be missing as a result?

Einstein’s quote reminds me to press pause on my notion to drive for success and instead think of how my work helps to bring value to others. How we understand and perceive the differences matters to how we deliver on our individual goals. When you hear of success, recognition tends to follow. While our reputations are built on successful outcomes if we’re not careful, success can inflate our egos and instead of doing the right thing for the right reason individuals may seek out success for their own self-interest. Bringing value puts people first and addressing their needs second. 

When I focus on my strengths and bringing value to my work, I’m thinking about people and outcomes. I’m building relationships, looking at the bigger picture and trying to positively influence others. Earlier in my career, I focused on delivering successful outcomes. Now I can see that was short sighted. Success will follow when you bring value. 

A resume can provide an overview of your successes and yes, you want to list them, but Einstein’s words remind us that the value we bring is in our work.

Here are four simple ways you can bring value:
  • Always consider the perspective of others
  • Ask individuals what they need and deliver on it
  • Benchmark your work and look at trends overtime
  • Keep track of your journey