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Recap – Virtual Idea Swap – Coping with COVID-19

 “This is a time of service, not so much a time of sales.”

Dealing with the COVID-19 global crisis is bringing new challenges to how we work as well as how we guide our staff and clients through this crisis. And yet it’s also spurred creativity and thinking outside the norm as we balance it all. On April 6, we were joined by Laura Van Eperen, CEO, Van Eperen; Chris Stevens, Director of Communications, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future/Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dave Curley, Senior Vice President, Sandy Hillman PR for the first of a series of virtual idea swaps.

Listen in below. And check out the recap for some of the highlights of what we discussed.

RECAP

Staying in communication with your audience:

  • Listen rather than promote.
  • Offer solutions to the problems your audience is facing. Communicate ways we can help one another.
  • Pay attention to accuracy. Don’t speculate. Always stick to what you know and realize it’s ok to say, “we don’t know yet.”
  • Use your best judgement. Be sensitive to what’s happening locally, nationally and globally.
  • Be conscious of what you are promoting, when you are promoting, and how it will be perceived.
  • Find moments of positivity.

*When pitching to the press to help get the proper message out, offer new or unique insights and/or details to journalists they may not be getting, i.e., what a local company/organization is doing that is having a meaningful impact.

 

Staff communications – Be true to your culture:

  • Give as much leeway to staff as possible. Respect the challenges of juggling working at home while dealing with unique family circumstances such as parents becoming teachers to school-age children, the lack of childcare, spacing issues, etc.
  • Continue your regular routine as much as possible. Schedule regular virtual staff meetings, host virtual happy hours, share docs via digital platform, etc. But … be sure not to “over-zoom”! Don’t have a meeting to have a meeting.
  • Encourage staff to support local businesses and/or participate in charitable activities when possible.

External and internal communications: How many emails are “too many”?

  • Be relevant and meaningful. Ask yourself if this something that will help you or someone you care about in this moment?
  • Make sure you have a strong message and a strong subject line.
  • Be appropriate. Be careful how you tie your message into this public health crisis.
  • Be mindful of timing of message. What is going on at that moment?
  • Look at different channels for distribution such as direct mail vs. email.
  • Consider segmenting your message to be sure the right message is going out to the right people.
  • Use soft messaging.
  • Be part of the positive message.

The chat was only the beginning of a long conversation that we’ll be having for weeks and months to come. To do our part, we’ll be holding weekly virtual meetings to gather and address a variety of topics. Have a question or suggestion to share? Send us an email.

Articles of interest:

 

In case you missed it, here are few comments shared by our participants on what their organizations are doing …

One of my clients is a law enforcement support organization, and we have been able to get the CEO on Baltimore TV talking about how officers in the Baltimore PD being quarantined with coronavirus is impacting public safety. We also have placed Op-Ed pieces on the same topic in The Sun and Chicago Tribune.

My company is deferring premium payments for our policyholders, many of whom are the small businesses which are laying off employees as a result of COVID-19. We are also providing information on the SBA loans to small businesses. Additionally, the company is also providing grants to several non-profit organizations which align with our business and has also increased the amount of money it will match for employees’ matching grants.

 My content strategy is changing virtually day to day, sometimes by the hour. I represent a veterinary hospital, so today we’ve been talking about the tiger in the Bronx Zoo that tested positive for coronavirus, and what that means for our household pets. That “tiger” news just broke yesterday afternoon. We didn’t see that one coming!

Right now, at our organization the National Association of Bond Lawyers, we are sending out targeted emails to members who have bars in states who have temporarily changed their CLE requirements. We are focusing the emails based on deadlines for CLE and doing it about a month out, so members are aware of what’s happening and created a webpage listing each state with updates and doing it on a daily basis.

The Walk of Shame … what happens when we aren’t prepared to talk or work with the media

By Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE

I caught up with our two media experts for a chat about the upcoming deep dive workshop on the Do’s & Don’ts of a TV Interview, September 28, 2-5pm. Debra Schindler is currently the Regional Director of Media and Public Relations, MedStar Health; however, her career started in journalism. Debra launched her television work as a reporter for the national Fox Television network show, America’s Most Wanted, followed by work at WMAR. She netted an Emmy nomination as well as been recognized with such honors as the National Headliner Award and a Clarion for investigative journalism. Today, she oversees all external media and PR efforts for MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Good Samaritan, MedStar Harbor and MedStar Union Memorial Hospitals where she created the MedStar Television Network and conducts physician media training.

Dan Dunne, APR, Fellow PRSA, Director of External Communications, Erickson Living. During his national spokesperson role with the U.S. Justice Department, he was interviewed each week by national news media and served as an agency media relations training expert at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Aurora, Colorado. He continues to help enhance the media relations expertise of government officials and others, recently instructing a two-day workshop enabling Franklin County, Pennsylvania officials to increase their public and media relations knowledge and news media interview skills.  

Peggy: The title is the do’s & don’ts of a TV interview, but I guess the prep starts before the interview, right?

Debra: Yes! I use this video clip (the Walk of Shame) to demonstrate the importance of contacting media relations when the media is calling.  By ignoring media requests, or not responding to negative allegations, they don’t go away. The result is an ambush interview.  And this one is from an investigative reporter I produced at WMAR -way back when- about a bad doctor. I contacted the hospital and the doctor, and no one would respond or supply a statement.  Never a good move for a PR professional. A statement would have averted this action.

Peggy: Not everybody will be confronted by TV or make headlines, so will this training translate to radio, podcasts or video casts?

Dan: Absolutely! Being successful with TV interviews is about sharing messages in a way that your audience will understand. By building your interview skills, you enhance your ability to be an effective speaker via multiple communication platforms.

Peggy: What are the top interview tips that you’ll expanding on?

Debra: (1) Use short, concise sound bites that are in complete sentences.  (2) Chances are the reporter questions are cut out of the video package so to ensure the message, put the question in the response. (3) Stay with three message points. (4) Bring visuals, such as props, models photos or video on a thumb driver or via shareable software. (5), this often gets left unsaid by the reporter … keep eye contact with the interviewer, not the camera. Reporters tend to do what they do so frequently, they forget to tell the interviewees to not look in the camera.

Peggy: Dan, what tips do you offer to control the interview or avoid tough/wrong question?

Dan: You will always have the option to “bridge” to a response that aligns best with the main messages you intend to share…your primary talking points. For example, if asked about details of an ongoing investigation (which you are not able to share), instead of saying “no comment,” you could bridge to a response like: “Since the matter remains under investigation, we are unable to share any details at this time…which is standard practice in these situations. This matter continues to be one of our highest priorities, and we will share any details possible after this investigation has been completed.”

Peggy: There’s going to an on-camera portion of the workshop – tell us more.

Dan: Because we’re hosting this in the Erickson Living TV Station, we are doing a combination of conversation/content sharing with on-camera work. So, participants will have the added value of having an on-camera interview and immediate feedback.

There is still time to register for the workshop; however, seats are limited to 12.

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A really simple entry

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Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors