latest news and notes from dovetail

Friday
Apr042014

Handling a Crisis: Insights from Tracy Weiss of Weiss Communications

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend my first of what I hope will be many monthly PRSA luncheons. It felt a bit intimidating to be an intern surrounded by so many talented and successful public relations professionals. Despite my nerves about the situation, I found it to be very exciting and beneficial, and I believe that rings true for the rest of the attendees for a number of reasons.

The PRSA luncheon was a great opportunity to meet with other communications professionals and trade updates and advice. Tracy Weise, from Denver-based Weise Communications, gave a compelling presentation on crisis communication. Through their work with The Medical Center of Aurora, Tracy and her team were on the front lines of communication following the Aurora shooting on July 20, 2012. This tragedy had a significant impact on the state of Colorado in addition to the country as a whole.

During her presentation, Tracy shared valuable advice on dealing with crisis communication. She said that when it comes to communications, it is not a question of “if” a crisis will occur, but rather a question of “when.” Without an established crisis plan, you can’t do your job as a public relations professional. Crises are inherently unavoidable and ignoring them will only lead to even more significant trouble. A thorough communications plan is crucial for successfully handling a potential emergency and should include a strategy for information transfer, task-based roles and social media.

One element of a successful crisis communications plan Tracy shared that I found particularly unique is the use of social media. While social media can be very effective for a traditional public relations plan, this is especially true during a crisis. Tracy established that crises are when anyone who doubts social media will realize its true importance and benefits. However, if your social media presence is not already established and active, it will not provide much help, so it is critical to develop a presence that is vigorous and familiar.

For distributing information during a crisis, social media can serve as a reliable outlet that audiences will trust as long as it is coming from the source itself.  For example, following the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, the Boston mayor’s Twitter handle provided frequent updates on his office’s actions in handling the crisis. Because of their frequency, authority and accuracy, these 140-character messages from the mayor’s Twitter handle were enough to satisfy both the press and public audience.

I left the luncheon feeling much more knowledgeable about crisis communication based on Tracy’s thoughtful advice and experience. It was inspirational to hear about how one team successfully managed such a difficult time. This experience has made me very excited to contribute to crisis communications plans and attend further PRSA luncheons.

Wednesday
Feb262014

word to the wise

It may come as no surprise, but one of my favorite subjects in school was grammar. Admittedly, I even took a grammar course in college as an elective. Yes, even the professor was surprised to learn that I was in that classroom by choice. But I love the structure that grammar provides. It is an area governed by right and wrong, black and white ­­– right?

That is what I had thought until this past Wednesday. During an internal meeting, the dovetail solutions team debated the meaning of  the term “bi-weekly.” One individual, who, out of the kindness of my heart will go unnamed, argued that the term is correctly used when referring to a twice-weekly occurrence. The rest of the team, including me, disagreed. In a very compelling argument, I cited the AP Stylebook, which establishes the use of “bi-weekly” to express an occurrence every two weeks, and “semi-weekly” to indicate two times per week.

While doing some research into the correct use of the term “bi-weekly,” the best advice we found stated that this issue has become so confusing that the best solution is to instead indicate actual times, i.e., every two weeks. While I still defend the position that a bi-weekly meeting occurs every two weeks, we came to a more important realization through our disagreement: sometimes being “correct” is not as important as being clear. As communications professionals, we must weigh the grammatical rules in relation to the commonly accepted use of our language, as oftentimes the two will differ.

To that end, we have decided to implement a social media campaign that will provide weekly posts related to grammar, style and vocabulary. Check in each Wordy Wednesday as we share grammar and vocabulary tips, myths and puzzles.

How did we decide on a weekly campaign? While we hope to spread awareness regarding proper grammar and style, we also realize that the rest of the world may not enjoy grammar as much as we do. Therefore, we felt a SEMI-weekly campaign might be too often. ;)

Here’s to a grammatically correct culture!

Friday
Feb212014

How 'Bout Them Dodgers?

Have you ever found yourself standing at a networking event next to someone without a thing to say? What about sitting in a conference room with a client or colleague, waiting for others to join you before making a major presentation? How does one survive in an awkward situation like that? More importantly, is there a way to turn an uncomfortable situation into a comfortable and beneficial one?

I had the pleasure of learning all about the true art form that is small talk at the February PRSA luncheon, which featured Debra Fine, bestselling author and business expert. Aside from Debra’s infectious personality and captivating presentation style, I was especially taken by learning her background is actually in engineering, a field I don’t readily associate with those who are outgoing or especially talkative. Her insights on the topic covered breaking the ice, digging in deeper (i.e., getting more than “pretty good” as a response) and exiting a conversation gracefully. 

Some recommendations Debra shared were completely intuitive, although I hadn’t previously thought of them. Debra recommends tapping into the free information available to you during any small talk situation. That is, start a conversation around your location or the occasion for being there. For example, for someone attending an industry presentation on social media, a great question to ask would be, “What did you think about the speaker? Have you heard him before?”

Another daunting topic Debra covered was acquaintance etiquette – how to begin a comfortable conversation with someone you’ve met once or twice, have some information about, but aren’t entirely caught up with? Debra recommends asking questions that allow the person the flexibility to tell you what they want you to know, rather than tying them down to a topic they may not wish to discuss. For example, rather than asking, “How’s your job at Google?” you would be better served by asking, “What’s new with work since I last saw you?” Since you’re not commonly in touch with this person, you have no idea whether this question may tread in an area that will incite discomfort. For example, what if they were recently were laid off? That’s likely not something they would like to discuss with an acquaintance.

The final takeaway Debra’s luncheon presentation provided was particularly empowering. She challenged each of us to take on the burden of making those we speak to in casual conversation feel comfortable. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the difference this shift in perspective makes. 

Monday
Feb032014

No Longer "Seasick"

For two full weeks leading up to the BIG GAME there were many office Broncos talks, some funny pictures distributed via email and tons of team spirit (see picture below) all to come to a close with such a heartbreaking Sunday evening in front of not only MetLife stadium but also according to SportsCenter, the biggest US live TV event on Twitter with 24.9 million tweets.

From the excruciatingly long 4 full hours of football last night, removing my Elway jersey for the final time until August, the drive to work this morning, the picking up of the Denver Post outside our door and reading "SEASICK" with Peyton Manning and his head down, to the final office talk about how depressed we all were... I'm glad to report loud and clear: I AM NO LONGER SEASICK.

Why, you ask? Because good 'ol social media quickly reminded me of all we (Broncos fans/Coloradans) have to be thankful for. Here are some of my favorites, to name a few and to hopefully lift your spirits as well: 

1. 300 days of sunshine and blue and orange sunsets each night
2. The view to the west and the ability to head for those majestic Rocky Mountains in under 30 minutes
3. We enjoy all FOUR seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Football
4. You won't find better green chile anywhere in this world... yes, world
5. We live, love and laugh higher than most... 5,280 feet to be exact
6. The arts and music scene is vibrant... enjoy the show, enjoy every show
7. Our Front Range is on the front line of this country's beer production
8. There is a "Vision for Denver" thanks to its great leaders
9. Larimer Square during the day or night, when it's warm or cold
10. Two words: RED ROCKS

And finally and perhaps most importantly, our Quarterback, Peyton Manning who is undoubtedly the best of our generation... just look at all those records broken in 2013. I'll end with this quote: "everything gets better with age."

Hello 2014, hello Arizona.

 


(Photo, left to right: Rachell Buell, Renee Savelli, Andy Boian, Molly Buell,
Emily Holleran, Jackson Holleran-Teiffel)

Saturday
Nov162013

Serious Duty

I am privileged to be a member of the 2013-2014 Leadership Arts class through the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts. We meet once a month to learn the ins and outs of what it means to serve on the board of an arts and culture organization.

This month, we met at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Jewish Community Center to discuss legal and fiscal stewardship. (As an aside, if you haven’t experienced a production in their newly renovated theater it’s definitely worth it.)

I’ve never been one to take my board service lightly, but this month’s topic definitely drove home the fact that board service, whether for a corporate or a community board, is a serious duty. Many in class were surprised to learn that board members can be held personally liable for oversights and misconduct of the board that leads to the detriment or dissolution of the company or organization.

 

So how do I make the most of my board service, you ask?

 

Choose the board(s) you commit to wisely. Do they carry directors and officers insurance? Are you passionate about the organization mission? Can you realistically commit the time not only to regular board meetings, but also to ensuring you’re prepared for those meetings and are available to attend and support the organizations’ programs and initiatives?

Participate and ask questions. You were likely asked to serve on the board because of your expertise, so find opportunities to bring that to bear to benefit the organization. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

Educate yourself. It’s always a good idea to experience first hand the programs offered by the organization whose board you sit on. Also, if you don’t know how to read a financial statement or don’t have much experience dealing with HR issues, do some research, talk to an expert or read up on the areas you feel weak in.

Delegate. The board should oversee operations, but should not be involved in the day-to-day activities of the organization. These should be delegated to staff. In addition, look for opportunities to leverage outside resources to achieve results if the skills or capabilities don’t exist among board members or staff.