Analyzing a royal PR firestorm, finding hope amid crisis, vaccination planning, and more

How communicators can help save lives, close the gender gap and optimize employee experience. Plus, your daily dose of inspiration and motivation.

Tamping down a royal PR firestorm

Greetings and salutations, communication champions!

Here are some prime comms highlights, lowlights and soundbites from March 8-12, 2021:

1. Responding to a royal PR firestorm.

Did you watch the big interview this week? Yeah, me neither.

Just kidding, I am here for all the royal intrigue.

In all seriousness, Oprah’s bombshell interview with Harry and Meghan revealed disturbing allegations of racism and mistreatment from the royal family. It’s the latest salvo in what’s become a “toxic communication war” between the two sides. Buckingham Palace responded to H&M’s interview with a terse message:

One crisis comms expert took issue with the queen’s pledge to handle the situation “internally,” which is tantamount to saying, “I 100% do not want to talk about this anymore.” You see coaches and executives pull this move all the time, and it’s never the right answer. Sweeping accusations under the rug—rather than copping to wrongdoing and spelling out how you plan to rectify the situation—tends to prolong a crisis.

Amid such a visible, global kerfuffle, a more proactive, compassionate response likely would have landed better in the public eye. Though anyone who’s watched “The Crown” knows that monarchial messaging has never been known for candor and radical transparency. Perhaps this latest will force the institution to change with the times?

The key is backing up words with action. As Forbes writes, “Companies can put out statements and take a perceived stance on an issue any time. Without thoughtful action to back up those words, the statement doesn’t carry as much weight in this new era of authenticity and transparency.”

2. Finding hope amid crisis.

As we mark a somber year since COVID-19 turned the world upside-down, take a moment to consider that better days are ahead.

As Business Journal writes, every crisis has a silver lining. The piece notes a PwC finding that “42% of companies who faced a major crisis said they were ‘in a better place’ post-crisis,” and that “a company saves $7 during a crisis for every $1 they spend on crisis planning.”

The article cites crisis comebacks such as Robinhood, which has come out of the GameStop fiasco smelling like roses. Or money, at least. Business Journal writes:

“Since making what many perceived to be negative headlines, Robinhood led the industry with more than 600,000 downloads on one day in February (compared to 140,000 on its best day last March).”

Also:

“Robinhood raised $1 billion from investors overnight to allow trading to resume and went on to tap another $2.4 billion in funding a few days later.”

The piece also touts the turnarounds of Tide, Tylenol and UnderArmour—all of which strongly emerged from serious crises.

All this to say: Don’t linger on yesterday’s bad news. Handle bad publicity with honesty, courage and transparency. And of course, be prepared for tomorrow’s big crisis. Be prepared for tomorrow’s PR opportunities, too.

3. Employee experience is everything.

A report from Gallagher shows that 95% of companies shifted their internal communication practices amid COVID-19 turmoil. The study foresees continued growth of channels such as Teams, Yammer, and Zoom, but it also portends the dangers of burnout associated with prolonged remote work.

Benefits Pro writes:

“In the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, the study said, businesses reported an increased focus on mental health and employee well-being (70%), increased focus on diversity and inclusion (55%), finding new ways of working (52%), and increased leadership visibility (47%). Greater investment in digital channels and more flexible working patterns tied as a priority, at 46%.”

The report touts the emerging importance of optimizing employee experience, which should include special accommodation for working moms. Gallup shares the importance of offering mothers flexible, “hybrid” schedules, along with these ways to close the gender gap:

  • Document and detail the employee experience of working moms and parents. Ask them what they need to be successful and stay in the job.
  • Hire managers who are naturally caring.
  • Assign a manager to be responsible for every employee.
  • Help managers make the right changes in expectations and responsibilities.
  • Discuss DE&I as a business necessity with the leadership team and create risk analyses to address concerns.
  • Talk with your leadership team about leading into the future with hybrid schedules.
  • Open optional office space for those who are ready to return and/or need to be in the office to do their best work.

If your company cares about worker engagement, retention, recruiting and empowerment, make sure employee experience shapes the substance of your comms strategy. That means going beyond “performative allyship” to providing tangible, meaningful support—and possibly “auditing” your culture to gauge where you can improve.

4. Doing your bit to save lives.

Weber Shandwick says, “The moment for vaccine leadership is here.”

Its new Plan Vx playbook says businesses have an “imperative to step up and actively support, encourage and promote vaccination,” and “offers considerations and best practices to leaders of businesses, big and small, as you navigate and communicate vaccination plans to your stakeholders.”

Perhaps the legal implications of organizing a push for getting staffers vaccinated has your execs spooked. Or maybe you just haven’t had enough time to cobble together a campaign.

Make no mistake: COVID is down but not out. There’s still plenty of vaccine skepticism to combat, and that’s where you come in. To power your persuasive messaging, check out IPR’s COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Resource Center and the CDC’s Vaccine Toolkit—both of which are chock-full of wonderful messaging gems.

5. Your daily dose of communication motivation and inspiration.

If your creative well has gone dry, don’t fret. To stir your soul—and get those fingers flying again—try these 10 TED talks.

You might also recapture your writing sparkle with this fun exercise via Enchanting Marketing or by using science to get unstuck. Better yet: Slap that laptop shut, and go get some fresh air!

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