Thursday, June 17, 2010

7 Tips for Tony Hayward to Survive the BP Oil Spill Congressional Hearing

If Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, and ultimate person responsible for the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf wants to survive the present Congressional panel (heckler disruptions aside), he needs to not only get his message straight, but also get the delivery correct. Just like in any crisis communications situation he needs to work on:

1. Credibility – so that the panel has confidence in the message and believes in him.

2. Appropriate context – for the panel and ultimately the population of the US.

3. Right content – which is appropriate for the population of the US (and no doubt the viewers of the countless other international media following this event).

4. Clarity – so that the message is unequivocal.

5. Continuity – with previous and proposed BP marketing activity.

6. Simplicity – so that the message cannot be misunderstood or misinterpret.

7. Impact – so the media cover the story from BP's angle.

We also know from previous news reports that Mr Hayward is not a night owl (OK, I get he needs to be up early to do business back in Blighty). If I was him, I'd be spending a lot of long evenings anticipating what the panel (and journalist) are likely to ask and prepare my response and messaging in reply. I'd be spending my time exactly how a crisis communications spokes person should be preparing:

Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse
Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse
Anticipate – Prepare – Rehearse

While Tony may be one of the most hated people in America (has anyone run him head-to-head with Joran Van der Sloot?) if BP can get their crisis communications right, they could emerge a stronger and more profitable company.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

5 Crisis Communication Keys for Smaller Businesses Learnt from the BP Oil Spill 2010

Yes, there is a lot we can learn from the recent BP Oil Spill and the Crisis Communications they have implemented, but for the small (er) company there are five simple foundations to keep in mind:

1 - crisis happens to businesses big and small - and don't think it'll be a calamity (such as a plane crash) - far less serious events lead to a crisis

2 - a crisis is not always your own doing - sometimes you get there due to activities outside of your company, from third parties or just bad luck

3 - speed is vital in a crisis - if you can't act quickly you create a 'media vacuum' that someone will fill - and it won't be pretty

4 - preparation - knowing what your message will be, who will say it and how it will be delivered, is the key to success. A proactive crisis communication plan and media training are not expensive - you can do it yourself or in today's market, ask a local PR agency to help you out - it'll cost little more than a couple of days of consultancy

5 - practice makes perfect - if you practice, or are experienced in dealing with the media, it will be a lot easier when there is a crisis. Getting media trained before a crisis is a vital investment.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

10 Secrets to Killer Copy

Whether writing for PR or for business the universal truths we use when writing professional PR copy can be applied to emails, letters, business proposals, speeches and pretty much any written word in business.

We all want writing that’s compelling, interesting, and unique. We need writing that’s magnetic. In short – killer copy. Luckily a few simple techniques can make any piece of writing more compelling.

Here are NettResults’ top ten ways to help you write copy that draws the reader closer:

1. Don’t hedge
“Hedging” is when you go out of your way to cover every contingency in an argument. Example: “Nowadays almost all tech-adapt travelers have at least some sort if electronic book reader.” The hedges are “almost all” and “at least some sort.” These may be strictly true, but it’s soft, flabby wording that lacks impact. Instead: “Tech-adapt travelers love electronic book readers.”

2. Repeat a phrase

Repetition establishes structure and rhythm. Repetition taps into the part of our brain that loves rhyme and meter. Repetition pulls the reader into the flow of your writing. Repetition isn’t difficult to use. Repetition is annoying if overused.

3. No passive voice

Passive voice is when you switch the positions of the subject and object of a sentence. For example: “The man hit the computer” is in active voice; passive voice is: “The computer was hit by the man.” Notice how passive voice uses more words without adding information — usually a warning sign of flabby writing.

The wrongness of passive voice isn’t universal, but wouldn’t it have been killer if I had said that passive voice isn’t always wrong?

4. Brevity!

I don’t care how good your writing is, most people won’t read more than a few sentences. Today’s society affiliates with 140 characters. The best policy is to just write less.

5. Use short sentences

Short sentences are easy to read. They’re easy to digest. It’s easier to follow each point of an argument. Sometimes longer sentences — especially if divided up with dashes — are an appropriate tool, especially mixed in with shorter sentences to break things up. If you think short sentences are incompatible with excellent writing, read Stephen King. Or Hemingway.
6. Provoke, don’t solve

If you’re writing a report that is supposed to cover all the bases, this tip doesn’t apply. But if you’re trying to be persuasive, don’t try to handle every objection in one sitting. Your goal is to get the other person to respond: To ask you about a feature of your product, to challenge your assumptions about a competitor. Don’t solve every problem, leaving no stone unturned; leave them wanting more.

7. Eliminate trash adjectives

Most adjectives and adverbs don’t add information; they just take up space and dull your message. Example: “I’m very interested in quickly assessing all suitable software options.” Remove the adjectives and you get the same message, but sharper: “I’m interested in assessing all software.”

8. Be direct

Pardon me, dear reader, but if it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience, could I trouble you to do me the favor of applying your obvious considerable facility with the English language to just get to the damn point?

Flowery, respectful and qualified wording is appropriate when you’re asking a waiter to do you a favor without spitting in your food. But it has no place in killer copy.

9. Tell a story

I knew a girl named Sophie who couldn’t figure out why people couldn’t understand the benefits of her software. She had feature and benefit bullet points but they just weren’t sinking in. One day Sophie changed her tactics completely. She wrote up a one-paragraph story about how one of her customers saved $125k by using her software. After that, sales were a lot easier.

10. Write informally

Sure, informal writing isn’t “professional.” And yeah, using phrases like and yeah violates the brevity rule. But it’s usually smart to write like you talk. Being informal helps you come off as a real person.

‘course, it can git to be too durned much, s’don’t go ’round makin’ it hard to just plain understand what in blazes yur talking ’bout.

They say first impressions are most important, and often your written word will be the first impression someone has of you! So take the time and care to make it killer copy.

Do you have any suggestions?