From the widespread backlash from the horsemeat scandal, to disgruntled HMV staff taking to Twitter to criticise the company, crisis communications seems to be commonplace for many brands at the moment.

On a local level, with Scunthorpe being named least romantic place in the UK to Mouchel’s contracts with Lincolnshire County Council coming to an end, managing crises, or even change to your business, and still coming out with your brand’s reputation intact is crucial.

Risky business

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Identifying and assessing the key areas where your business is most at risk should be an important part of your marketing strategy. By recognising areas in your business that may cause a crisis, and planning for grey sky situations, you can prevent or at least prepare for problems arising.

Prevention is better than cure

Averting a crisis before it happens is an advantage for any business. Remember to set realistic goals for your clients and your staff and manage their expectations. Promising more than you can deliver can lead to you landing in hot water with your customers, but if something does go wrong, being honest and communicating regularly is vital.

Get social

Make sure you review staff morale on a regular basis. Employees taking to social media to complain about their workplace is becoming more and more common. Ensure you have a stringent social media policy in place, which outlines what your employees can and can’t say on social media platforms about the company.

Be prepared for grey skies

If something bad does happen, be prepared to address it head on. Reacting quickly and providing suitable information is the best way to deal with any negative publicity.

Keep an eye on competitors, how do they handle crises and how are specific actions received by customers and staff.

Communication is key

Saying the wrong thing is bad, but saying nothing can be much worse. Make sure your team is briefed on what information can be released. Giving one person or organisation, such as your marketing agency, the responsibility of handling enquiries from the public or the media will ensure that messages won’t be misconstrued.

Positive proactive promotion

Don’t just comment when things go wrong! Take the opportunity to shout about all the good things your business is doing. Ensure you have a PR plan in place for the year so you can keep your current clients and potential customers up to date with your news, achievements and company milestones. Not only will this let people know about all the positives but it will also help to soften the blow if a crises does occur.

Learn from your mistakes

After the dust has cleared, take heed from what has happened. Look at what you did right and what you could have done more successfully to prevent the crisis in the first place. Could your handling of the incident have been better?

Following these steps won’t necessarily stop bad things from happening, but by having a plan in place, addressing your problems early, briefing your staff and keeping your customers in the loop, you can help your business to weather the stormiest times.

Stephanie Tod is the PR manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln.

It’s official: advertising is dead. Or at least advertising as we used to know it.

There was a time when a high budget TV advertising campaign was enough to promote a brand and get its key messages across to its followers.

But with the rise of digital video recorders and watch again services like BBC iPlayer and Sky+ encouraging more and more people to choose when and how they want to receive content, brands are having to come up with new and innovative ideas to capture the imaginations of their audience.

Social media is also responsible for the changing landscape of how people access the information that is important to them and then share it with their friends.

However all is not lost, as by making slight adjustments to your marketing activity, you will be able to get your key messages out to your target audience in a targeted way.

Go Viral!
Viral campaigns are already beginning to create a buzz amongst audiences. The Guardian’s Three Little Pigs campaign is an excellent example of a successful traditional advertising campaign, supported by social media. The newspaper’s first TV advert in 25 years took a popular children’s tale, The Three Little Pigs, and turned it on it’s head, looking at how the newspaper would report the story using both traditional and new media channels.

The advert was launched on February 29, with a two-minute TV spot on Channel 4, which ran the TV advert for four weeks. It was also screened nationally in cinemas and was hosted on YouTube, Facebook and at The film received over 10,000 Facebook shares and over 100,000 views in the first week alone, as well as winning the prestigious Gold Lion award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Make friends
It is important to try and build a relationship with your audience; as with so many brands vying for people’s attention, quick win campaigns might not be as effective as before. People build relationships with brands in the same way they do with people, so think about who your audience is and listen to what they want before engaging with them.

Get personal
Personalised campaigns, creating a unique experience for the individual, are also becoming more popular. Nando’s recent ‘find yourself’ campaign aimed to match people’s personalities with different strengths of its PERI-PERI sauces. Using print, digital and outdoor media the campaign aimed to drive people to Nando’s social media channels to allow direct engagement with the brand.

Think integrated
Integrated campaigns will help to generate the best results. Closer to home and as part of our Christmas campaign for the Waterside Shopping Centre, we produced a gift guide to showcase the different stores and their gift offering in the run up to Christmas. We also promoted this across local radio and online channels, making the guide available to download from Facebook and the Waterside’s website. A successful competition run via social media also helped to raise awareness.

Promote your product
Many brands are turning to product placement opportunities to combat the decline in people watching traditional adverts. Hit US TV show Modern Family focused one of their episodes on the launch of the iPad. Following main character Phil Dunphy’s obsession with the gadget, the show successfully helped to create buzz around the product three days before the launch of the iPad.

Although hijacking a TV show might be a bit ambitious for most businesses, sponsorship of local events and shows is a great way to get your message out there to a targeted group of people. See our other column on sponsorship for more ideas on how to promote your brand locally.

Stephanie Tod is the PR manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln.

— In an expert comment series for The Lincolnite, Lava’s PR manager, Steph Tod, highlights the top things to remember when applying for work in today’s competitive job market, whether you’re looking for work experience or long-term employment.

Last Thursday thousands of young people across the county found out if their hard work had paid off when this year’s A-level results were announced. But with the TUC claiming that more than one in five people aged between 16 and 24 are out of work, how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd when applying for a job? By marketing yourself, that’s how.

Marketing activity doesn’t just have to focus on products and services. People can be marketed too – and not just pop stars or celebrities.

Standing out from the crowd is essential for job hunters – so what can you do to market yourself?

Try following the same approach businesses take when developing their marketing strategy: research you audience, tailor your message and publicise yourself.

1. Do your research

Find out the correct name of the person you need to send your CV to. Nobody at Lava goes by the name “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern” so don’t address any emails or letters to them – they don’t exist!

2. Tailor your CV

You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing, but it’s good to have an introductory paragraph that explains your key skills and experience and how they are suited for the job you’re applying for.

3. Investigate the company

One of the most popular questions employers like to ask is “What do you know about our business?” This is your chance to show that you have researched the company and gives you an opportunity to explain why you want to work for them. Investigate their website, find out who they work with, trawl the local news websites for any coverage on them.

4. Build your personal brand

Try and get as much work experience as you can. Get involved with the newspaper or magazine at the University, write for the local paper, get a placement with a local business, set up your own blog and make sure you update it regularly.When it comes to interviews not only will you have a good insight into the world of work, but you will also be able to present a portfolio of work you’ve produced.

5. Be original

From branded pots of Play Doh to stop motion videos, it’s the quirky and original job applications that get people noticed. However it can’t be style over substance, if you’re going to do something different it still needs to deliver the relevant information that a word-processed CV would.

6. Arrive on time for the interview

It’s an obvious one but remember first impressions count and if you’re not punctual then it looks like you’re not bothered. If you know you’re going to be late for whatever reason, ring the company ahead of the interview and apologise. They will be more appreciative that you’ve let them know. On the other hand don’t turn up too early either, aim to arrive five minutes before the interview is due to start.

7. Be yourself

If you’re knowledge of social media isn’t that great or you haven’t built up a great wealth of media contacts then be honest. Explain that it’s something you’re interested in learning more about or turn the conversation around to focus on your strengths. But don’t pretend you know how to do something when you don’t. Trust me, you’ll soon be caught out further down the line!

Stephanie Tod is the PR manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln.

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