Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why You Need Social Media Crisis Monitoring

Whatever your business, you probably need social media crisis monitoring much more than you think. It doesn’t matter if your business is low risk, it makes no difference that you avoid wrongdoing and it can even be irrelevant that you don’t even use social media – it can still cause you a crisis.  Not convinced? Here are the reasons why for each of these scenarios.

WE HAVE A LOW-RISK BUSINESS.  Some companies operate in such risky businesses that they are – or at least should be – always braced for a crisis and recognize that their social coverage is going to be mostly negative.  Military contractors, oil companies and drug makers, for example, should know that what they are doing is bound to provoke some reactions. But what about the others? You might think that a soft toy maker or the Red Cross have nothing to fear but this is not true. There is no such thing as a low risk company because everyone can have rogue employees, everyone can have accidents, everyone can be caught doing something wrong. If there is a wave of employee injuries it doesn’t matter if you make teddy bears or landmines you can still get into trouble. Look at all the issues Apple has had with subcontractors in China.

WE DON’T DO ANYTHING BAD. You don’t need to be engaged in any wrongdoing to get caught up in a crisis. Sometimes the crisis can be provoked by a rogue employee, a misunderstanding or an honest mistake. A few years ago Heineken was accused of sponsoring dogfights when a photo of a dogfight in a room decorated with Heineken banners started circulating on Twitter. Their explanation was that they had used the room the day before and just forgot to remove their branding (I’ll bet nobody at Heineken will make that mistake again).  In another case I blogged about here Stephen Fry tweeted to millions of followers his annoyance about an iPhone app. The maker insists that he must be mistaken, but the damage is still done.  This kind of no-blame crisis is much more common than you might think.

WE DON’T USE SOCIAL MEDIA. This is the case that surprises most people but it shouldn’t. You can get negative coverage on TV whether you advertise on TV or not and it’s the same In social media. Actually it is worse. If your company is getting negative social media coverage and you don’t have your own voice represented the you will find it much harder to defend yourself.   This usually affects small businesses like restaurants, where customers or sometimes even employees are tweeting or sharing negative comments on Twitter and Facebook. In one case a waiter engaged in a confrontation with a dissatisfied customer without the knowledge of the management; in another employees posted critiques of customers that leaked back to the people involved. It can also happen to larger companies that are not  truly engaged in social media.

Exactly how you monitor your social media reputation is up to you.  There are plenty of free tools that allow you to monitor all social media for your brand or other keywords. There are also more sophisticated paid tools that will give you a clearer picture and fewer false positives. You could even pay humans to do the monitoring, which could be useful in cases where your brand is not mentioned explicitly but is clearly implicated by another word or hashtag – like when the Red Cross beer tweet started a flood of tweets with hashtag #gettingslizzerd. Whatever you do, though, if you have some kind of monitoring in place you will be able to put out fires while they are still small enough to tackle, or at least have more time to prepare an effective response.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan by email at, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 pr 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through his website

Friday, November 20, 2015

Speaking: Talk About the Story, Not the Slides

As a child I recall being taken to see public lectures by explorers, mountaineers and other enterprising people. After all these years my lasting memory of these talks is how some people can do amazing things but be astonishingly dull when describing it.

Part of the blame lies in the style that they used. Every single one of them used a technique where they simply presented a sequence of slides and then described each slide.

"This is me putting on my boots".

"This is me eating breakfast".

"This is me on the summit".

Which is almost inevitably dull and uninteresting.

Once you make a decision to describe slides you are forced to adapt to the images and this simply doesn't work very well. Good talks are based on good storytelling so it is much better to craft your story first, and then to illustrate it with images, words, videos, props and demos that support that story. A really good talk would work without any slides at all, which is an added benefit if anything goes wrong with the technology -- you can simply fall back on a plan B. Knowing that you are not reliant on technology can be very reassuring for some nervous speakers.

By far the best way to create a strong story-focused talk is to start with the story, buts sometimes it's already too late for that because you already have a presentation. But it's not impossible to fix an existing presentation that is too slide-centric. Here are three ways to do this:

First of all go through the presentation and remove all of the slides that do not add any value. In business presentations it is common to have a slide on the screen at all times and when there isn't a useful illustration to fill in the gap with a generic stock illustration. This is not necessary and distracts from your message. It also wastes time searching for images, time better spent working on the story.

Second, simplify all of the slides, concentrating on key images and words. Resist the temptation to squeeze many images onto one slide and avoid wordy slides that speak directly to the audience. If you have written all of your messages on the screen people will read that and not pay attention to what you say. In academic presentations there are sometimes so many things on the screen that the audience can't even absorb them, never mind listen to what the speaker is saying.

Finally, adapt what you say about the slides so that they support the talk and not the other way around.
What you say about the images on the screen or the prop in your hand is important. You might need to provide context or explanation, but you don't need to describe what people can see with their own eyes, so if you are showing a picture of an ice axe that broke in an awkward place halfway up a glacier then you should be telling the story then show the axe; don't start by showing the axe and then saying "This is an axe". We can see that. What we don't see is the story.

Once you have a compelling story and the slides or props that support that story you need to practice the talk using a clicker to find the ideal moment for each transition. Somewhat counter intuitively it's better to start talking about something and then click to the image, and not the other way around. This keeps the attention of the audience on the speaker and also feels more natural. Showing the image first then starting the story leaves an awkward gap where people try to understand themselves.

But what is always most important is to work on the storytelling before anything else. This is the surest way to ensure that you are focusing on telling the story and not just on describing a slide show.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking, influencing and networking and other topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through his website

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Being Easy to Find; Why Checking Your Contact Info is Important

In an earlier post Five Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About Getting Media Coverage I mentioned that one way to get more media coverage for a startup is to make it easy for people to find contact information: every website should have some clearly marked contact details -- and not just a web form.

But it's not just websites. People sometimes forget to provide contact information on emails and even business cards. And sometimes it is there but it is wrong. Recently at a networking event someone gave me a business card. The next day I tried sending a message to the address on the card but it didn't work. I then went to the company website and that provided just the same address. It can happen to anyone. Adding a new email account to my phone recently I made a mistake in my own phone number, happily discovered and corrected very quickly.

But these episodes reminded me that sometimes you might miss opportunities simply because people have had trouble contacting you. You can minimize these risks by following these simple best practices.

TEST YOUR OWN CONTACT INFO. Take your business cards, website, letterhead, LinkedIn profile and website and test all of the contact info to make sure that it really works. Better to discover it yourself now than after months of lost opportunities.Actually try the email addresses and phone numbers because typos are very hard to catch just by looking.

MAKE SURE CONTACT INFO IS EASY TO FIND. Imagine for a moment that you are a potential customer or a journalist and try to find your own contact information using just Google. Can you get to an email address and a phone number with a simple search? And are these things clearly marked on your website? Be very wary of using webforms for initial contact because many people will simply not bother using them. The response is often late and unhelpful, if it comes at all. An email address is essential, and if you really want to be responsive make sure that there is a phone number, too.

HAVE ALTERNATE CHANNELS AVAILABLE. Always make sure that there are two ways to contact you. One email address might be broken, one mobile phone might be unreachable for some reason. There should always be an alternate if only to report that someone's inbox is full and you can't send emails. In these cases I am sometimes creative and find channels like Skype to alert people. Not everyone can be bothered. Some people have just an email address, a phone number or even a Twittername on their cards. This is risky in case that channel is not available for some reason.

Checking and testing contact information takes just minutes, but if it makes it easier for one customer or one journalist to contact you then it was worth it. Don't waste this low hanging fruit.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Communication Consultant Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about good communication, networking, influencing, digital marketing and culture. For more information you can email or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find more contact info on his website, hopefully all accurate.