Crisis Planning Must Happen In Advance of a Crisis

Don’t play chicken with your business’s future

Crisis situations happen everyday in all types of businesses. From food manufacturers having to recall mislabeled products, to faulty products causing death and injury, to embezzlement, to billing fraud, your business has many threats lurking in wait.

There is a lot of advice directed to business owners about what to do if you have a cataclysmic event or crisis at your business.

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The time for crisis planning is not during a crisis

If you wait until you’re in the midst of a crisis to plan a response, it will be too late. The time for crisis preparation is before you experience a crisis. Advance planning is essential to making sure your business not only makes it through the crisis, but is able to carry on in the future.

Planning can help prevent chaos in social media as the story rages and company execs are wring their hands.

Esteemed crisis communications consultant and author Jonathan Bernstein observes,

Responding to a crisis without a plan in place can be like trying to buckle your seatbelt after you see a semi cross the center divider and head straight at you.

What usually results is a lot of chickens perambulating rapidly without their heads, until one who retained his/her head can manage to calm and organize them.

What also results, invariably, is the organization incurring more damage that it would have if a plan had been in place and executed.

So, how do you plan in advance to respond to a crisis?

To prevent becoming a headless chicken, start by conducting a crisis audit for your firm and then creating a crisis management plan.

According to Bernstein, a crisis prevention audit identifies threats, analyzes public perception of your business, and analyzes your internal staff’s perceptions.

“Bernstein gives these examples of issues that have been detected as a result of recent vulnerability audits and/or have been the cause of avoidable crises:

  • perceptions of racial and sexual harassment and discrimination
  • employees accused of wrongdoing (sometimes accurately, sometimes not) on and off the job
  • union actions and/or hostile attempts to unionize
  • blatant violations of customer confidentiality around the workplace and in public areas
  • damaging rumors — online and off-line”

By identifying threats, you can remediate the cause, thus preventing the probable crisis and build responses to threats before they occur.

Create your crisis communication plan

To create your plan, designate one staff member to lead the audit and prepare a crisis response plan.

Your crisis plan should:

  • List members of the crisis communications / management team and their contact information (including personal cell numbers and vacation home numbers.)
  • Identify where you’ll meet. Whether a board room, or external site such as your public relations agency’s office.
  • List the technology and information you will need to communicate with the media. Be sure the appropriate people and or your communications firm have updated media contact lists and permissions for all social media channels, as well as access to your corporate social media account management dashboards like HootSuite. Create and set aside unpublished pages on your website where the designated team member will post crisis communications and responses.
  • Specify the location of and access to or permissions required for critical files needed to compose your responses, such as accident reports, HR files, safety audits, annual reports, financial audits, etc. If you cannot back up these critical files to a “crisis response” network accessible file or drive, have the subject matter experts for each threat area make sure to have ready access to any and all files.
  • Identify the company spokesperson. It is imperative that the company spokesperson have completed media training before any crisis arises. It is also imperative that your communications plan clearly explain who may communicate with the media (online, offline, print, and broadcast), when, where and how. One of the worst things which could happen is having an unauthorized person communicate with the media.
  • Delineate all communications policies which must be included in staff and employee training. For example, if you have multiple outlets, or a single outlet, every employee must know what to do and whom to refer a member of the media to should media contact them. If you don’t have a communications policy in place, have your public relations team or consultant author one for you to implement.

Compose your initial crisis responses

Once you have delineated these elements, you can now compose initial responses to be used in each of the broad categories of vulnerability. These need not be elaborate statements, just an initial response which provides you immediate ability to respond to the crisis.

With advance crisis planning, you will have a ready team with access to all the necessary information, a prepared spokesperson, and messages.

Now, you must drill. Without drills, you will not know if all your planning will work. Every year in the summer, Charleston County and surrounding counties conduct an emergency drill. They refine their plan and keep all elements up-to-date.

Keep your plan updated

Your crisis audit and resulting communications plan will take a month or two to complete and test. From this point forward, you should revise it every quarter, adding and deleting staff who have left, or new information.

Does your firm need help conducting a crisis audit or creating a crisis communications plan? Contact us. We’ve successfully assisted businesses and organizations undergoing many types of crisis.

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Thoughts on Stale Websites and Cold, Outdated Content

Is your website content as cold as an ice cube?

Is your content colder than a block of ice? Keeping your content up to date may take time, but it is your best marketing spend.

Content development leads to white page syndrome

For many years I’ve been working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. A great amount this work is assisting them with the development of websites and content.

Content is the single most toe-stumping, road-blocking obstacle for every single SMB owner I’ve worked with. Whether at the start of the web building or later after outdated content is on the site, keeping a business’s web presence fresh seems to stymie most business owners.

Slow to start

During the web development phase content is what takes longer to determine, author and edit, especially if owners wish to pen their own page text. Most get “white page syndrome” and stare at the blank screen and produce nothing. Cure: Hire a content development expert.

Set it and forget it yields outdated content

After a site is launched many entrepreneurs simply forget their sites and never look back, overlooking the fact that their business website is their always-on, always-open office. Outdated content makes your business look out-of-date. Cure: Develop an editorial calendar to keep you on track.

Most websites we develop are based on a content management system (we prefer self-hosted WordPress), allowing the easy modification of existing pages, and quick publication of new pages or posts.

Yet despite these easy to use tools, most website owners neglect their sites. It is so easy to get caught up in the other activities of managing your business. However, I’d ask you to consider this: almost every single small business I’ve ever worked with has very little disposable cash to spend on paying for advertising placements, or pay per click ads.

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The single most effective marketing spend is that of time and thought to keep your website updated.

From listing new testimonials, to new clients to new business accomplishments to insights designed to help your customers solve problems, you can find many sources of fresh content for your site.

Has your content grown cold?

If you find yourself suffering from white page syndrome, and lack inspiration on how you might update content, use these tips from Site Pro News blogger Adrienne Erin:

    • Make sure every page has some call-to-action. This can be to pick up the phone for a consultation, email for an appointment, download a white paper, join an email list, set up an account, add items to a wish list, etc. Think about what you want to get from every visitor to your site.
    • Rewrite the content on all the webpages. Just as the appearance of a site can become dated, so can the readability. You don’t have to majorly rewrite all the content; even minor tweaks can alter the way a piece reads.
    • Delete pages that no longer apply to your company. Has your business changed its direction? Do you have pages that make zero sense to keep? Remove them or risk confusing your guests.
    • Add pages for new products or services. Just as you deleted some pages, you may want to add others for the same reasons.

Want other tips to develop your website content? A few of our previous articles may help you find exactly the topic or trend or type of inspriation you need.

Blog Post Inspiration Sources

Avoid Writing “Click Here” When Authoring Your Website or Marketing Email Content

WordPress Blog Post Development Checklist

Give me a call. We’ll help get you focused and on track with an editorial plan and if you need it, professional content development assistance.

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Driwood Ornamental Moulding Selects Charleston PR & Design

News from Charleston PR & Design


Architectural moulding and millwork producer Driwood Ornamental Moulding of Florence, South Carolina has selected Charleston PR & Design (CPR&D) as their marketing agency. Following a competitive review, CPR&D was selected to assist Driwood in a revamping of their approach to markets and creative.

Driwood Mouldings

Cheryl Smithem, principal with CPR&D, said, “With our knowledge of building and construction markets, we look forward to working with Driwood as they continue their traditions of excellence and distinction.”

History of distinctive design

With a history of more than 100 years as crafters of architecturally correct mouldings, Driwood, specializes in hand-crafted mouldings made from 100 percent hardwood. Their line of in-stock profiles exceeds 500 designs.

Driwood Ornamental Embossed Moulding

The firm sells mouldings and consults with national millwork firms, architects, interior designers and specifiers, general contractors, home builders and the general public. Driwood’s embossed mouldings are created using techniques and machinery developed and in use for over 100 years and are distinguished by their crisp precision and their perfect proportions.

Driwood Moulding Profiles

Driwood works in concert with architects and interior designers to create period millwork for specific requirements and installations. From overdoor pediments, to fluted columns, to paneled libraries, cornices, chair rails, staircases and cabinet work, Driwood’s years of expertise support outstanding results and distinctive design.

For more information about Driwood Ornamental Mouldings, visit their website [].

*Photo Credit: – All photos taken by Dale Aren

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Real Estate Photography Tips: Shut That Toilet Lid

Messy Bathroom: Realtor Photo Tips

Put down toilet lids, remove shampoo bottles, toothbrushes and personal toiletries from bathrooms to have a more professional appearance.

Realtors you must take better photos to market listings

Charleston is fortunate to have a robust real estate market — even in the down times our market was sounder than other areas in South Carolina.  Now that the recession is mostly over and there’s great velocity in the real estate market, there’s even more competition to market homes.

According to the National Association of Realtors, ninety percent of homebuyers begin their real estate search online and 100% of buyers use the Internet at some point in their home shopping. Presenting your listing with the highest quality photographs is crucial. Because most searches don’t originate in your website, your first point of marketing is always a property’s photos. Most MLS systems syndicate photos to other search outlets such as, or or Potential buyers coming from these sources don’t always visit your beautiful website or your brokerage’s listings.

Table of stats about how home buyers shop

If you are a realtor you need to remember that every single thing you do contributes to the success and eventual sale of your listing.  This includes the quality of the photos that you post to the MLS.

Interior photos are your key marketing tactic

Recently I took some time to peruse photos of properties that were interesting to me and I noted a great number of realtors failed to use a buyer’s point of view as they take photographs.  I saw photos of bathrooms which contained bottles of shampoo, toilets left open, kitchens cluttered with bags of chips and even in some cases dirty dishes. In these days of staging everything, you would think that this message would have reached everyone by now. However, there are some horrible examples of poor real estate photography out there.

Most realtors don’t use professional photographers to shoot photos of their listings.  If you do use a professional, hopefully your photographer will art direct the shoot.  If you’re not using a professional photographer, you owe it to your clients to bring an art director’s scrutinizing gaze to the photo shoot.  Since competition is intense, any little thing that causes a potential buyer to leave and not return to your listing costs you and your seller.

So here are top five real estate photography tips:

  1. Lighting is everything.  Make sure every room is well lit.  Adjust your settings if you’re in a dark room so that your lens takes in more light.  A professional photographer’s trick to illuminate dark corners is to place a lamp (without a shade) behind a piece of furniture.  Doing this will provide an upward focused beam of light illuminating the dark corner.  Watch where the sun shines.  If one side of the house is illuminated by the morning sun it will be best to take images of those rooms early in the morning.  Conversely if a room is over illuminated by the sun, you may have to avoid it during those times of the day.  If you have to take multiple photographs over several days depending on the sun’s position in order to get the best group of images to market the property do so.  Be mindful of dark corners or “blown out” or overexposed areas from too much sun shining through the window.
  2. Use your eagle eye.  Art direct like a pro. If you’re photographing the dining room and there’s a tablecloth on the dining table make sure that it is not wrinkled.  If you’re photographing the bedroom make sure the bed is neatly made up and that there no corners are crooked or that the sheets don’t protrude from the bottom of the bedspread.  In the bathroom put away all personal toiletries.  And for heaven’s sake, close the toilet top.
  3. Include the entire room.  If your camera has of panoramic setting and are in a less will allow you to use panoramic photos take one to use in your listing.  If panoramic photos are not an option for MLS, get a fish eye lens—so the entire room is included in the photo.
  4. Choose your vantage points well.  It’s important to buyers that they understand each rams relationship to the other room next to it.  If your buyers can not see how the living room flows into the dining room or how the kitchen relates to the breakfast area they won’t understand the house or its layout.  So choose your vantage points so that every buyer has a progressive experience of moving from one room to the other.
  5. Make sure everything is in focus.  If I’ve seen one poorly focused photograph in a real estate listing I’ve seen a million.  If you don’t know how du jour camera properly take lessons.  Or hire a professional.  If you are too unsteady to hold your camera level without shaking use a tripod.

If you have trouble taking quality photos, get someone else to take them for you. Or practice in your own home until you develop a keen eye and better skills.

If you prefer to hire a pro, we offer a real estate marketing package.

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Say no to printed media kits

Online newsrooms are a bright idea.

As a public relations consultant, my job is facilitating a one-to-one relationship for my clients with their customers. Knowing what customers think and how they use your product is important. The only way to know this is to have an ongoing conversation and dialogue.

Relationships, not spam

The same is true for the media, meaning editors, journalists, reporters, bloggers and producers. Many times I’ve have prospective clients tell me that they’d like to create press releases that they can send out broadcast style. To which I say no. And you should too.

The same thought is just as valid when it comes to distribution of media or press kits. Research, target and then pitch. Use a PR rifle, not the old shotgun.

Digital, online newsrooms for company materials

These days, everyone prefers electronic media. So, it only makes sense to have an online media kit to which you can direct interested journalists. It should include copies of all media releases, video releases, high resolution photos of product(s) and key staff personnel, bios/backgrounders on all key personnel, fact sheets, and links to recent clips.

When pitching, present the pitch and direct the journalist to your online media area. Most journalists can’t accept attachments. When they do accept attachments, make sure you know what type they prefer. Some don’t want PDFs because they can’t copy and paste from them as easily as from a .txt document or a MS Word document. My practice is to ask what the contact prefers and then to provide them exactly what they prefer.

Journalists’ preferences matter

Our whole job is to make the journalists’ jobs easier. To give them targeted information about what they want, when they want it, the way that they want it.

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