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This issue of Communication Command contains an interview about nuclear energy industry crisis communication as well as an article about effective communication with key stakeholders in times of crisis. We hope you will enjoy reading our e-Newsletter.

January 2014

Communication World Article Contribution
C4CS® contributed an article on "Communicating inside and out: Make sure your crisis response includes these key stakeholders" to the December 2013 issue of Communication World, which is published by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). An abbreviated version of the article is included at the bottom of this issue of Communication Command. If you would like to view the December issue of Communication World, please click on this link.
 
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PRSA International Conference
The International Visitor Center at the 2013 PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia hosted a number of PR professionals and served as a place to talk about international public relations. The photo above shows Jean Valin (on left), a PRSA member and former Global Alliance President, who along with PRSA Global Affairs Committee members answered questions from conference attendees. C4CS® is represented on PRSA's Global Affairs Committee.
 
IABC Southern Region Conference Tour
C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne Chase, Chair IABC Southern Region (center), IABC Fellow, Suzanne Salvo (on left), and IABC Southern Region Conference director, Stacy Wilson, at IABC's Southern Region conference in Houston, the last of four conferences held as part of the 2013 Southern Region Tour.
 
Our next e-Learning course on 'Harnessing the Power of Social Media in Crisis Management' will be conducted March 3 through March 14, 2014. Congratulations to those who completed the course work and obtained a Certificate in Social Media Crisis Management Planning accredited by ICOR. The course brochure can be downloaded via this link.
If you have questions concerning our e-Learning course, please contact us at training@c4cs.com.

 
Communication Command e-Newsletter
Please click here if you would like to access past issues of our e-Newsletter.

 
Five Questions about Nuclear Energy Industry Crisis Communication 


Cassie Hagan is Vice President, Communications for AREVA Incorporated, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prior to her current postiiton, Cassie served as AREVA Goup's Vice President, Marketing Communications, working out of the company's global headquarters in Paris, France. She has been with AREVA for more than 12 years and was in charge of creating and implementing the global processes and shared platforms for customer communications that are helping to transform the engineering and technology leader into a more market-driven company. Cassie was also responsible for the strategic positioning and communications plan that launched the AREVA EPR™ reactor product in the U.S. market.

Before Cassie joined AREVA, she served as senior brand manager for Gateway, where she helped create and build the cow-spotted computer image into one of America's most valuable brands.

 
Cassie Hagan

In what ways has AREVA’s communication strategy changed or evolved since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident in Japan?

Our overarching strategy is to build greater understanding, awareness and relevance for and with all of our target audiences, both internally and externally. Although we are a B2B company, we have increased our focus on public confidence, which is something we have to earn every single day. Earning the public’s trust is at the heart of our focus on safety, first and foremost – not only in our operations, but also through our communication outreach. We must show that we care about our neighbors and communities, and that their safety and well-being is the first consideration in all that we do.
 
To that end, AREVA is constantly supporting the nuclear energy industry and investing in resources such as our Operational Center of Excellence for Nuclear Products and Services in Lynchburg, Virginia. With the work we do at this facility, we are supporting the more than 100 nuclear reactors in North America with maintenance, upgrades and modernizations that help ensure their safe operation.
 
Safety remains a fundamental priority and our thousands of employees in North America come to work every day to carry out this commitment.

What insights might you share concerning managing stakeholder pressure when there are challenging times in your industry?   

To communicate well, we have to start by listening. This allows us to connect with our stakeholders and communicate with them in a clear and compelling way. Listening involves taking the time to talk with people, whether that’s one-on-one, in focus groups or roundtables, or on the phone. By connecting with key stakeholders on a personal level, we can start to achieve buy-in and build our communication strategies around our business objectives. Communication is the key link between business objectives and audience needs.
 
Particularly during challenging times, it’s important for our stakeholders to understand and recognize our commitment to safety as our top priority. This is true throughout all levels of our company – from those working at any one of our 44 facilities across North America to AREVA headquarters staff in Charlotte, North Carolina.


What lessons have been learned in crisis communication preparedness following the nuclear incident in Japan?
 
The nuclear energy industry has a long history of stringent requirements for responding to and managing issues, and communicating about them with stakeholders. Within AREVA, we have more clearly aligned our crisis communication procedures with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and with our overall corporate functions.

Regulatory authorities around the world have learned from that event and the industry’s safety regulations are ever increasing and evolving. Since Fukushima, we have learned more about the public’s perceptions of the situation surrounding that incident. First, most people realize that the trigger was an external hazard of exceptional magnitude and not an inherent problem with nuclear power plants. Second, people are now more aware that you cannot just flip a switch and turn off a nuclear plant. It takes weeks to power down and cool a nuclear reactor safely. And finally, the public is coming to understand that even in such an extreme situation, it is possible to safeguard the safety of plant personnel and the surrounding community in both the short and long term.
 
The implications for communicators are clear. First, the internet and social media are largely responsible for informing and educating the public rapidly, so we must further leverage digital media platforms to reach our stakeholders. And second, crisis communication must be a core competency, not just an area of specialty. We must be prepared to deploy all the necessary communications resources if an incident were to occur. These preparedness efforts include the full spectrum of operational and communication response exercises with regular crisis scenarios and media trainings.


How do you know if you are prepared for communicating effectively during a crisis?

Scenario-based crisis communication training is critical to assessing readiness to communicate effectively during a crisis situation and is not just a means to an end. Training helps us discover our strengths and weaknesses in communication. It helps us learn how to prepare for and manage crisis events, as well as develop, practice and refine communication skills for both urgent and non-urgent times. It is through ongoing communication trainings and evaluations that it is possible to assess communication readiness and effectiveness. A real crisis is not the time for companies or individuals to command respect and confidence; those attributes must already be earned and well in place long before an issue arises.
 
At AREVA, we focus on ‘forward looking energy’ and we work every day with that goal in mind. It informs what we do and how we communicate, and it is our due diligence.


What role does scenario-based crisis training play at AREVA?
 
Scenario-based training is critical in not only developing the intelligence, messages and skills needed to respond during a crisis, but also in understanding the different corporate and cultural expectations and expected outcomes across the company.

We are keenly aware of the need to align our crisis response and communications strategies, tactics, deliverables and goals with our partners around the world. The very nature of our crisis trainings, including practicing various formats and scenarios, is key to successfully handling any incident no matter where it happens. From table-top communication exercises within our own small corporate communications team, to comprehensive real-time global crisis scenario trainings involving colleagues across geographic regions of the world and across business units, the value of these exercises cannot be overstated. Scenario-based crisis communication training is a continuous improvement program that is just a small part of AREVA’s overall culture of operational excellence in safety, quality, performance and delivery. It’s a vehicle that drives us on our journey toward communications excellence.

Communicating inside and out
Make sure your crisis response includes these key stakeholders
 
C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne L. Chase and Managing Partner Oliver S. Schmidt contributed this article to the December 2013 issue of Communication World, which is published by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a professional network of about 15,000 business communication professionals in over 80 countries. If you would like to view and download the December 2013 issue of Communication World, please click here. We hope the article is of interest to our readers.

While every business crisis and corresponding set of affected stakeholders are unique, there are some groups with which organizations must communicate in order to protect their reputation, brand equity and the bottom line during times of crisis. A successful response to a business crisis demands making and communicating far-reaching and emotionally difficult decisions while under pressure and perhaps lacking complete or fully accurate information. To overcome the communication challenges that crises present, management must enable effective communication with three key stakeholders: employees, reporters from traditional news media, and social media users.


Internal matters

Employees especially are often neglected during a business crisis, and as a result, many companies alienate their best advocates—the people who are excellent workers and whose opinions and attitudes have an impact outside the company, through their daily conversations with friends and family, as well as through their social media interactions. Your company’s crisis communication plan should definitely include
an employee communication component. (If your organization doesn’t have a stated crisis communication plan already, then creating one should be a priority.) Processes, responsibilities, channels and recurring training should be determined and a framework established that encompasses employee communication, including the following:

• Make sure senior management understands the importance of two way communication and incorporates employee feedback in its decisions. Employee feedback during a crisis helps identify the value of messages, helps keep tabs on rumors and false information, highlights employee concerns, and enhances trust. Even questions that seem inconvenient or unimportant should be addressed in order to keep people informed and their morale up. Follow-up messages should take employee opinions into account and provide information about the steps company leadership is taking.

• Communicate first with employees about matters that affect them. Think about it: Wouldn’t you want to know from your own company about a situation that could affect your job? Empower your employees with the facts, and let them function as communication allies, carrying specific messages into the community.

• Designate company spokespersons to address stakeholders with carefully crafted messages. Then consider using employees as informal communicators in times of crisis with official messaging that was developed for various crisis scenarios. Familiarity with communication channels helps prevent and overcome employee uncertainty, and encourages continuous and constructive dialogue.

Breaking news

Organizations that are unprepared to work with traditional news media during a crisis often experience intense media scrutiny and negative coverage that can easily lead to unfavorable stakeholder perceptions and lasting reputational and economic damage. It is the media’s job to report crisis-related news, illuminate relevant issues, influence issue portrayal and propose solutions. While journalists generally seek to report news in an objective, fact-based and balanced manner, today’s media environment is highly competitive, and reporters must generate relevant information fast in order to meet deadlines and stay ahead of
the competition. As you develop or update your crisis communication plan, keep in mind how you work with journalists and other media representatives:

• Be ready when a journalist calls. Because reporters may be unable to wait until the company has gathered, verified and officially communicated crisis-related facts (What happened? Where? When? Why? Who is affected? What are the relevant concerns? What is being done about it?), they may turn to unofficial and less reliable sources. Quickly coordinating the managerial, operational and communication
response to a crisis is critical, but only designated spokespersons should address the media.

• Build long-term relationships with relevant journalists. Mutual familiarity and trust will increase the likelihood of fact-based and non-sensational reporting if a crisis does occur.

• View media interviews and news conferences as valuable opportunities to convey key messages. The reporter functions as a filter through which your carefully crafted messages pass before they reach various stakeholders. In addition to recurring on-camera media training, proper interview preparation includes studying the assigned reporter’s tendencies, previous interviews and interview techniques.

• Closely monitor news coverage, especially during a crisis, so that any false or incomplete information can be identified and corrected right away. Don’t delay following up with reporters even if new information is not available or cannot be shared for legal or other reasons. Keep a media inquiry log to track inquiries (Who inquired? Which outlet? When? Reason for call? etc.) and to streamline processing and follow-up.

Social gains

Simply put, no company today can afford to ignore what is said online and in social media about its business practices, brands, performance, products and services, and that is even truer during a crisis situation. Employees, customers, competitors, reporters and other stakeholders turn to the Internet and social media to obtain, publish and distribute crisis-related information. As a result, uncensored and potentially damaging content, including audio and video clips, may be published and syndicated across borders in real time, and rumors and false information may remain available on the Internet indefinitely. Be prepared to communicate and engage with a broad range of stakeholders by way of peer-to-peer conversation using various social media. Determine what social media outlets stakeholders are already using,  and which channels might be particularly effective in reaching specific groups. In addition, consider the following:

• Establish, communicate and enforce a social media policy that clearly outlines what employees are permitted to do with social media while on company time. Thorough Internet and social media monitoring has to be conducted around the clock as well, and should include issue- and crisis-specific monitoring, with the results shared within the company.

• Listen and respond to stakeholder comments and feedback provided via social media, especially if the information posted is incorrect and potentially damaging. Identify and connect with key online influencers who will share your messages with a large number of individual stakeholders.

• Address and correct any false claims or accusations as soon as possible. Make sure any content pertaining to the crisis that is added by or on behalf of the company is clearly identifiable as such. Because every crisis is different, management must evaluate the crisis response continuously and make adjustments as necessary.
 
If you have any questions concerning this article, please contact us at info@c4cs.com. We look forward to hearing from you.


Food For Thought

“As responsibility increases, a company
has to respond to the crisis in kind.”


Timothy Coombs



 
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Leaders in Strategic Communication
and Crisis Management


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