One of the speakers I was able to see last week at the ACCE convention was Michael Herman whom I’ve know for over 20 years. Michael was my first PR professor at NC State way back in 1987. Since then I’ve seen Michael from time to time while he was head of Communication Sciences International and Epley Associates. If you know Michael you know that he is one of the more respected and honored PR professionals in the United States so I was glad to see him again and hear his presentation.
Michael was speaking on communications planning for the chamber executives at the workshop. His presentation reminded me of some of the core principles he taught me back in school that are very relevant today but can tend to get overlooked with the massive amount of information in today’s business environment. With the internet becoming our primary news source and social media increasing the amount of information we are evaluating how relevant and truthful the content is.
Organizations face change in a stubborn and combative manner and require communication to efficiently and effectively manage the change. Since change can have ripple effects in our organizations the proper use of our communication channels and message becomes even more important. The basic questions of who, what, where, why, when and how must be answered otherwise incorrect information can assume its place.
One of the points Michael made that I thought really hit home with me was that you should always communicate change first to your employees and staff. They are the primary audience being affected by the change and also must manage the change as they go forward when dealing with customers and other stakeholders. If they are not getting accurate communication from the organization they will turn to peers and others for information, assuming it’s true as there is nothing to refute it from corporate leadership.
Another great core value Michael mentioned was that you must plan for the unexpected. He mentioned that his mantra is, “life is always about how you handle plan B.” It only becomes your fault when you fail to plan then react poorly or inappropriately. It is important that when change happens you as the communications professional are the person chosen to manage it!
Do you have a crisis communication plan for your organization? What is your Plan B?