What We’re Reading and Watching

  • Survey Finds Business Don’t Have Crisis Comms Plans – In a recent survey our VP Rod Hughes found that 67 percent of businesses don’t have a plan in place to deploy communications during a crisis. As he says, things can fall apart pretty quickly in the absence of a plan. Read more to learn about next steps for developing a plan on LinkedIn.
  • Research: Women are Better Leaders During a Crisis – We’ve all read the headlines that countries led by women may be faring better during the COVID-19 pandemic. What does this tell us about what employees need from their leaders during a crisis? Read more at Harvard Business Review.
  • Politics, Polarization and Purpose in 2021 – If there is one thing the public, reporters and PR professionals can agree on, it is that no one agrees on much. These insights from Muck Rack and USC Annenberg shed light on how the U.S. political climate is affecting the media — important insights as we move through 2021. Read more at MuckRack.
  • Reputation Issues in the Insurance Industry – The insurance industry has long battled reputation issues, which have been exacerbated by the recent business interruption controversy. Our agency President Gary Kimball offers insight on the need for a public relations campaign to resolve these issues in this article for PropertyCasualty360.

Clients in the News

In his role as the new chair of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) International Board of Governors, Hank Watkins, regional director & president of Lloyd’s Americas, provided a forecast for 2021 in diversity and inclusion, as well as the measurable, actionable steps businesses can take to secure a more inclusive future. Read it here at Insurance Journal.

As technology drives innovation in the insurance industry, ReSource Pro’s Andy Niver, senior vice president for Innovation and Analytics, shared his insights with Carrier Management on the state of innovation the industry today and its outlook going forward. He shares practices for utilizing robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. Read it here.

In adapting to the business realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, David Wolin’s Old York Cellars has managed to thrive, thanks to several innovations and new business ideas that have turned challenges into opportunities. In this feature article in NJ Biz, Wolin discussed how his small business has managed to excel through new offerings like virtual wine tastings, a new wine club and more. Read it here.

Looking to establish its seat at the table regarding data storage and the continued debate over mainframe versus cloud data storage and management, Israeli-based Model9 CEO Gil Peleg caught the attention of Forbes as he discussed the future-focused hybrid model that marries the best of both technologies for maximum advantage of enterprise computing and management of legacy data. Read it at Forbes.

Get to know Eileen Coyne, Public Relations Director

Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re offering this blog series all about our team members. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.

1. What got you interested in public relations?

Journalism brought me to public relations. It was back in high school that I discovered that I wanted to be a reporter, when I landed a student work week at the local NBC affiliate. I helped to man the police blotter, cover a hostage standoff, and flew over house fires in a helicopter. I was sold on a career in the news and out of college, I was fortunate to get my start as a reporter in Washington, D.C. As it does for many, journalism introduced me to public relations. Working as a reporter with a story budget to fill, I quickly learned that these PR folks working so hard to get to know me and share their clients’ stories, could be key to a good story. After several years as a reporter, I jumped the fence to PR and haven’t looked back

2. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?

I always enjoy The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, now, in a house where Marvel movies and football reign, it’s not the most popular, but I try to watch it when it’s on. I enjoy the beautiful scenery and familiar songs that take me back to grade school. 

3. What was the last, best book you read and what about it spoke to you?

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand stands out to me. It is the remarkable biography of World War II POW and Olympian Louis Zamperini. Recently, I enjoyed sharing the young adult version with my 12-year-old and we talked about his amazing and inspiring stories together. 

4. Tell us about a meaningful hobby or “outside of work” commitment that is important to you?

Outside of work, I am a mother to three school-age boys. I enjoy watching their baseball and basketball games, their many various other endeavors, and organizing functions at their school including trivia nights and the annual Santa shop.

5. Share a fun fact about you.

I played piano at the White House. I won’t say who was in office back then, but let’s just say it was back in high school. It was a wonderful experience to accompany my high school choir during the holidays and something I will never forget.

Reputation is What Others Think You are

An important factor influencing an organization’s reputation is how it is represented in the media. With this in mind, Kimball Hughes PR recently ran an independent survey of business professionals to get their perspective on how media coverage of their organization reflected on their reputation and, ultimately, their brand.

What we found was broad dissatisfaction among respondents with how their brands are perceived and represented through the media.

Among two significant reputational goals — having a regular presence in news media and being clearly differentiated from their competition in those media — a clear majority of those surveyed (more than 60 percent) did not believe these goals were met.

If these findings are any indication, brands hoping to benefit from any post-COVID economic boom have significant work to do in working with the media.

Survey results:

My organization’s reputation, as it is communicated in the media, social media and other public venues, represents our stated mission, vision and values.

  • 9% Strongly agree
  • 45% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 27% Disagree
  • 0% Strongly disagree

Senior leadership is regularly quoted in news and trend stories about our industry.

  • 0% Strongly agree
  • 18% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 27% Disagree
  • 36% Strongly disagree

If I conducted a Google News search today of topics most important to my industry, I would find my organization quoted or written about in recent news from legitimate, third-party business or trade media outlets or sites.

  • 9% Strongly agree
  • 9% Agree
  • 18% Neutral
  • 9% Disagree
  • 54% Strongly disagree

Our brand reputation, as communicated by the media, adequately differentiates our organization from competitors in the markets we serve.

  • 0% Strongly agree
  • 18% Agree
  • 9% Neutral
  • 36% Disagree
  • 36% Strongly disagree

Worried about your brand’s reputation? Contact Kimball Hughes PR for a free, no obligation SWOT Analysis of your brand’s reputation within the media that provides top line, practical and actionable advice on what you can do to make improvements.

Getting to know Elena Tzivekis, PR Intern

Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re starting a new blog series all about our team. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.

  1. What college do you attend and when are you graduating?

I attend La Salle University, where I major in communications with a focus on public relations. I’m graduating in May 2021.

  1. What got you interested in public relations?

I have always liked the idea of working in a fast-paced, evolving industry. I think it’s interesting to go into work every day and have new and exciting projects to work on. With public relations, I love that I can use my writing and communication skills throughout my projects, with the end goal being that I can contribute to the success of an organization.  

  1. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?

One of my favorite movies of all time is Rocky. Besides the fact that this movie is filmed in the city I love, the 70s style cinematography along with the storyline of an underdog boxer surrounded by a support system warms my heart every time I watch! 

  1. What or who is your favorite artist and why?

Father John Misty is one of my favorite musical artists of all time. His music at times can be poetically whimsical, and at times even aggressive, yet relatable. I’ve realized there is a FJM song for just about every occasion. 

  1. Share a fun fact about you

I am currently working on starting a coffee blog in which I will be publishing my personal coffee-related recipes, as well as coffee shop reviews! 

Pitching media during the COVID-19 crisis

In the U.S., we have found ourselves in an unprecedented situation: a pandemic combined with a national economic shutdown and widespread social unrest. Many businesses and non-profits have repeatedly asked about the timing of any type of public relations efforts.

  • Is now the right time to announce a product launch?
  • Should we try to connect our message to COVID-19?
  • Can we break through with our message given what’s happening in the world?
  • Are reporters/producers looking or eager for stories that aren’t COVID-19 related?
  • Will we be seen as tactless if we try to get our message out now?

Compounding these questions is the state of the media itself. While the news industry has been experiencing financial challenges for decades, COVID-19 has had a swift and devastating impact on the Fourth Estate at the exact time Americans stuck at home are rediscovering the importance of good journalism.

According to The New York Times, furloughs and layoffs have impacted nearly 40,000 journalists since the pandemic began in the U.S. Those who aren’t furloughed or laid off are working remotely, doing more with less, and are harder to reach than ever. What I’ve heard personally from reporters and editors at major daily metropolitan newspapers, news desks and producers of broadcast news and journalists at a range of trade media is their inboxes are inundated with hundreds of pitches, nearly all including COVID-19 in the subject line.

So how do you break through? Patient persistence.

In times normal and otherwise, it is essential to have a compelling and relevant story to tell. We advise our clients to work backward from the reader/viewer/listener perspective when evaluating the newsworthiness of any message. Absent your brand, would a generic story like yours be of interest or value to the intended audience? If it is promotional, only about your brand or is out-of-touch with the state of the world, stop right there, toss your pitch into the garbage and, if I may be so bold, set fire to it. In the midst of a pandemic, you can’t afford to sound out of touch.

My advice is also the advice good journalists give to public relations professionals all the time: do your research. This is the time-consuming leg work that pays off; the work often overlooked or even ignored by those who “just want to get the message out.” Beats, for those who still have them, are less ridged than ever. That green energy beat reporter from last week might be covering Capital Hill tomorrow. Look back at their recent work and make an informed decision as to whether their work indicates a reasonable wiliness to learn about your story.

If you feel you have a newsworthy story, and if you believe the journalist you want to contact might be interested, email away and then follow-up afterward. But assume your email is just to get on their radar. They won’t read your pitch if it is longer than 100 words or has an attachment. Bullet points can help. In times like these, getting on the phone with a reporter — assuming he or she will take your call — is the make-or-break moment of a pitch and is simultaneously nearly impossible.

I recently pitched a national story to an editor at major daily newspaper. Where I would normally follow up two or three times, I left two voicemails and emailed five times. He actually called me back, thanked me for being persistent and then asked me to “just tell [him] what the story is about.” He remembered seeing my email (just one?) but “didn’t have time to read it.” So, I gave him the 15-second elevator pitch. He liked it and ended up not only interviewing my sources but running a major feature article on the issue. Patient persistence.

COVID-19, and the economic fallout from it, will continue to have lingering effects all across the U.S. economy. Journalism is not immune from this, and this will continue to pose challenges to those engaging with the media. I advise patient persistence in getting your message out. A tenacious PR professional helps a lot, too.

What’s Next: Crisis Communications Planning

What’s next? We asked ourselves this question after 9/11 and after the great recession, and we’re asking again, now in the midst of a pandemic. The answer, of course, is no one knows. It could be another terrorist attack, another pandemic or another financial crisis, or more likely, something we never imagined.

One thing is certain: we need our organizations to be prepared. It’s better to plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Those with a Business Continuity Plan/Emergency Preparedness Plan, Crisis Response Plan — or whatever you want to call it — will be better equipped to respond quickly and effectively.

Communications are a big part of any plan, and whether you have a stand-alone crisis communications plan or one integrated in an overall BCP, you should have one. And now, while we’re all thinking about the impact COVID-19 has had on our organizations, is a perfect time to get started. Below are some guidelines to get started.

Learn from the past

Start by taking a look back at how your organization responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. What did you do right? More importantly, what did you do wrong? What resources will you need if something like this happens again? What are the risks to your business?

For example, were you equipped to communicate quickly and accurately with your clients? If you were contacted by the media, did you have media response protocols in place? Were you effective in keeping your employees informed and productive? Was there a process in place to timely convey mission-critical messaging to vendors, suppliers or your sales force?

Gather a team

You’ll respond as a team, so prepare as a team. Put together a crisis response team that covers executive management, legal, human resources and those responsible for communications and relationships with your key stakeholders—clients, shareholders, employees, media, etc.

Evaluate your risks

Next evaluate your risks. Where is your organization vulnerable? What type of crises could damage its reputation? Are those responsible for managing and responding to a crisis trained and ready to do so? By answering these questions, you’ll know what you need to do to prepare.

Write the Plan

There are several key components to a crisis communications plan:

  • Introduction: Why the plan is important and how it fits into your organization’s overall missions and structure.
  • Scope and Objectives: What the plan is designed to accomplish, what it covers and what it is does not.
  • Vulnerability Assessment: As discussed above, where the organization is vulnerable what that means for the plan.
  • Crisis Communications Team and Responsibilities: Names, contact information and responsibilities of each team member. Include external resources such as public relations agencies, legal counsel and other experts.
  • Media Response Procedures: Who are the primary and secondary spokespeople and what is the protocol throughout the organization in responding to a media inquiry. Social media should be addressed as well.
  • Plan Triggers: What type of event will trigger the plan, from contagions, data breach to natural disasters to unexpected legal action or negative media coverage.
  • Communications response: Step-by-step guide to activating the plan (team member contact, assessment and next steps), planning and execution (determining a response and delivering messaging) and evaluation and follow-up.
  • Messages and prepared communications: While messaging will be tailored to each situation, some core messaging around specific types of crises can be done in advance to ensure consistency with brand and reputation.

A crisis communications plan, like a BCP, is a living, breathing document that should be practiced with tabletop exercises or other training tools, and updated at least once a year and always after a new crisis.

It’s also a good time to contact a crisis communications professional and tap into his or her expertise. It’s an investment that can pay dividends when the unexpected happens.

Introducing KHPR Office Hours

white and blue come on in we ere open signage

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COVID-19 has disrupted even the best business marketing and communications plans. If you are wondering how to get back on track with your messaging, looking for advice on the most appropriate way to promote your business during a pandemic, or if you need a plan to deal with the media, we can help.

Kimball Hughes Public Relations, a national agency based in Philadelphia, is hosting virtual office hours from 3pm EDT to 5pm EDT on May 28, 2020, offering FREE public relations consultation to organizations in need of assistance. We’ll listen and offer practical, expert advice on how to proceed.

Whether you are struggling to create effective messaging or simply need a seasoned professional to gut-check your current communications plans, Kimball Hughes PR can help.

These free consultation appointments are on a first-come, first serve basis. We’ll discuss your challenge during a 30- or 60-minute call. Depending on the issues, we’ll either offer advice on the call or follow up within 24 hours with thoughtful suggestions and advice on next steps you can take to help your business.

Email us at info@kimballpr.com to schedule your May 28th appointment today.

Link

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, your employees, clients, partners and other stakeholders are getting their messages from sources ranging from the CDC to Instagram. Writing in PropertyCasualty360, KHPR President Gary Kimball asks: shouldn’t some of that messaging come from you? He provides guidance on how business leaders can communicate with their audiences — read it here.

Download our Communications Checklist

KHPR Download

For businesses, there is a right and wrong way to communicate during a crisis as tragic and widespread as the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know the wrong approach when we see it — but how do we do the right thing? We hope our Communications Checklist points you in the right direction

Click here to download the KHPR Communications Checklist.

(It’s free to download and we’re won’t make you sign up for anything — that link takes you directly to a PDF download.)

If you need further guidance during this trying time, please rest assured that our team is fully operational and ready to support you. Reach out at info@kimballpr.com for general inquiries, or connect with the Kimball Hughes PR team on LinkedIn.