As a business owner, there’s a lot to think about these days amidst the COVID-19 virus pandemic sweeping across the world. For possibly the first time in a century, we all, together, stopped. Stopped going to school, seeing friends and family, enjoying live sports, travelling and unfortunately for some, working. We now only know an essential versus non-essential lifestyle. While businesses in both categories swiftly found solutions to modify goods and services, keeping the consumer, health and safety-first model a priority, many still face tough times as we all navigate the evolving landscape together.

At A. Bright Idea, one of our main core values focuses on flexibility. As a small business, we remain nimble to the needs of our clients, but more importantly during times like this, we show increased flexibility to the needs of our team, families and the communities we serve.

Within that same core value, we recognize the critical need to apply a proactive flexibility stance toward the future. When quarantine and stay at home orders wane, allowing people to return to work, school and normal activities, businesses small and large who start planning and investing in ways to stay relevant in the next phase now will see an easier transition when the time comes.

Here are five quick and easy tips to communicating your flexibility and proactive planning to audiences:

1. Send a personal message to your clients, partners, customers and friends letting them know how you’re doing, the decisions you made amid the crisis, words of encouragement and consultation. Sign it. Make sure it comes from you by using a personal email address. Don’t have a long email list? Mailing a note works too.
2. Leverage the power of social media and the increased digital impressions flooding the Internet to connect with consumers longing for that connection. Take the opportunity to teach people with tips and how-to posts or give advice. Share and comment on other content your audiences might find helpful. Respond to other’s posts and don’t forget to let the human element come through in your content. We’re not in a time of hard sales, but authentic connection does lead to top-of-mind relevance which can benefit sales in the future.
3. Depending on your goods and services offered, consider adapting an e-commerce option for your audience to use during this adjusted business environment. Consumers still want to make purchases and support businesses. Fortunately, getting an e-commerce function running is fairly easy with services like Shopify and Square which can seamlessly sync with your website. Your flexibility with this adjusted way to buy and interact could mean revenue build up!
4. All of this connection through personalized touchpoints, social media and e-commerce means your business website needs to appear up-to-date, eye-catching and easy to navigate. Now is a great time to tackle that website update you’ve continually put on the back burner. Consider the user experience. Look at other websites and find what you like. This does not need to mean a complete overhaul. Little tweaks can make a big difference. Just ask us – we’re constantly tweaking our site based on the needs and wants of our clients!
5. Budget for advertising! No, you don’t have to put money into advertising right now but come up with a tiered strategy that will help you launch into the next phase of business as we come out of the pandemic. Thinking about the strategy now, means you’ll be ready to put it into action when the time comes.

Trust us when we say we understand the endless thoughts and considerations that come with business management during a situation like COVID-19 but we remain encouraged ourselves by these tips to staying relevant and connected with our audiences at any time or phase. Just remember – flexibility and proactive planning. Plus, your ABI family is here to help in any way we can. You can find us on our cell phones, email and social whenever you need us!

Looking for more information about website design and features? Check out Website wisdom: The keys to a successful site.

No one likes to think about the worst. Crisis communication planning remains a topic that many businesses and organizations would rather not think about when it is not needed. At its core, the perception of crisis communications screams negativity and causes people to think about catastrophic disasters. The response for most, albeit the wrong answer, typically is to bury one’s head in the sand.

However, crisis communications boils down to two basic principles: adequate planning and building relationships. Three mantras in a crisis all surround the plan and the people: prepare for the worst, hope for the best and expect the unexpected.

Prepare for the worst

  1. Know and understand your business and any possible threats against it.
  2. Develop relationships with those media and organizational allies, which could assist you in an emergency.
  3. Identify the spokespeople, who will control the message during a crisis.
  4. Prepare your virtual “go bag.” Gather all social media and website password and logins, as well as any standard operating procedures for efficiency in a crisis.

Hope for the best

  1. Develop the key messaging necessary to allow spokespeople and staff to speak with one voice about the company, accentuating the positive and allowing potentially negative questions to circle back to a key message.
  2. Train your staff on delivering exceptional interviews and teaching the concept of bridging and redirection. This can benefit your organization in good times and bad.
  3. Build trust by ensuring you circle the wagons immediately during a crisis to allow your internal audience, the staff, know they remain the priority.

Expect the unexpected

  1. Remain flexible in your plan to allow for quick-turn changes. A crisis rarely looks the same twice, so leave room in your plan to adjust, when needed.
  2. Anticipate a fluid situation, which often lasts longer than expected. Back up your plans to allow for a longer situation. Avoid burnout, if possible!
  3. During a crisis, communicate early and often. If you leave a void, expect your adversaries to fill it.

Post-event evaluation remains an essential main component of a solid crisis communications plan, though often is the component left undone. The evaluation plan is usually placed boldly at the end of the plan awaiting execution. Most practitioners and business owners, ready to put the negative event behind them, avoid it like the plague.

Ideally, conducting a hot wash of the event and the application of the plan immediately following the event leads to key adjustments to improve the execution. Take the time to assemble the team, even the external partners, if possible, to discuss the execution and brainstorm ideas to make it better for the future.

Our work with clients allows us to assist in planning for the unknown and developing key relationships with people and organizations, which ultimately leads to better responses during a negative event while managing crisis PR effectively.

Nonprofit organizations provide great benefits through services and products to local communities, positively changing the lives of families and individuals – your loved ones, friends, neighbors and colleagues. In most cases, they’re providing support with limited funds and resources, running on the time of volunteers along, while for-profit businesses have the advantage of better resources and full-time staff to support their endeavors. Often times, these disadvantages mean nonprofit organizations are put on the back burner with the media because their stories may not have the “flash” and grandeur available to the media from for-profits.

Focusing on nonprofit organizations, it’s especially crucial to keep a strong strategy behind PR efforts in order to effectively garner the attention of the media even with limited resources and time. Public relations require careful strategy to demonstrate information relevant to the audience. Implementing this strategy in a tactful and meaningful manor comes in the form of the newest PR buzzword – PESO – paid, earned, shared and owned media.

  • Owned – content generated by the organization and thus messages controlled completely through their content
  • Paid – paid advertising or sponsorships via media partnerships or other events
  • Earned – information presented to the public via the media where the organization is a resource; or PSA/donated media via advertising
  • Shared – social media mentions and virtual/social media conversations (“buzz”) surrounding the organization that builds through a word-of-mouth, viral network

These four avenues implemented strategically by any organization can garner attention related to its cause. Below are examples for paid, earned, shared and owned media and how to execute tools and tactics related to each. It’s important to consider added value with each, including compelling content the media can incorporate with mentions, such as images/video, trends, expert references, social media polls/campaigns, pop culture references, etc. Including these types of compelling content provide relevance for the media’s audience making the story more important.

Paid

  • Media exposure and mentions via media sponsors/partnerships, including print, radio, television, digital outdoor, and online impressions
  • Public exposure and mentions via partnerships, including other business’/organizations websites, press releases, broadcast media mentions, on-site/stadium events/exposure

Earned (Media pitches)

  • How businesses are affected by the organization’s fundraising, including statistics and what that means for those employed by or benefiting from the products and services of those businesses; Relate it back to the end user
  • Research and technology advances in the local area that support the organization, including scientific sources and news articles
  • Profiles on each volunteers/donors and their connection to the organization and the community, including video interviews and photos so viewers can identify
  • Benchmarks and milestones in industry advancements related to the organization and how they can be applied by families and individuals locally, including expert tips and trends for easy application

Shared

  • Charts/graphics/statistics locally and what difference funds raised for the organization could mean to the community
  • Map of communities within the area served most effected by the problems the organization serves to help
  • Facebook poll quizzing social media users on statistics and facts
  • Links to research directly impacted by the organization
  • Hashtags to use on FourSquare and Facebook when you check in at locations related to the organization and its cause

Owned

  • Create a PSA to distribute to local media outlets and ask them to share the video in order to help your specific cause. The PSA will serve as a vehicle to control the message and can be repurposed for earned media.
  • Provide the media with statistics specific to the local community and how money raised by the organization can help to improve those statistics
  • Create information graphics to visually represent statistics, event information and key messages that can be provided to the media for easy inclusion in their stories/mentions
  • Video clips from organization events and locally-based families and individuals who have benefited from the organization

With all public relations efforts, it’s important to make the pitch newsworthy with an angle that allows the media and the media’s audience to relate without much thought. For example, correspondence and information provided to the media should be brief, in layperson terms, eliminating hype and sticking to fact and direct to what it means to the audience.