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This issue of Communication Command contains an interview on global communication and reputation management as well as a newspaper article concerning crisis communication. We hope you will enjoy reading our e-Newsletter.

November 2014
 
Risk Communication Workshop
C4CS® Managing Partner Oliver S. Schmidt recently conducted a workshop on Risk Communication at the 2014 Emergency Preparedness and Hazmat Response Conference. The four hour session was attended by professionals from countries including Australia, Taiwan, and the United States. The conference website can be accessed via this link.
 
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PRSA International Conference
The International Visitor Center at the 2014 PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C. hosted PR professionals from around the globe and served as a place to talk about international public relations. The photo above shows Dr. Dean Kruckeberg (on left) and Quentin Langley, who along with other PRSA Global Affairs Committee members answered questions from conference attendees. C4CS® is represented on PRSA's Global Affairs Committee.

 
IABC Southern Region Conference
In October, C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne Chase attended the 2014 IABC Southern Region Conference in Austin, Texas. Dianne (third from left) completed her term as Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators' Southern Region in the summer and continues to serve as a board member. Pictured with Dianne are past international IABC Chair Adrian Cropley, inaugural IABC Southern Region Hall of Fame inductee Wilma Matthews, and Cyrus Mavalwala, IABC All Star Speaker. Please click here if you would like to view the conference website.

 
Our next e-Learning course on 'Harnessing the Power of Social Media in Crisis Management' will be conducted January 19 through January 30, 2015. 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 Global Communication and Reputation Management


Muriel Werlé is the Global Head of Communications at Archroma, a colorants and specialty chemicals company based in Reinach, Switzerland.

 
Muriel Werlé

Archroma grew out of Clariant, a leading global specialty chemicals company, and is now a little more than a year old. What were the biggest communication challenges leading up to and following the creation of Archroma and how did you work through them?

Archroma was created from three former Clariant businesses: Textile Specialties, Paper Solutions, and Emulsions Products. We were driving the birth of a brand new company with three core businesses, enabling us to better focus on the needs of our customers. Fortunately, we did not have to build everything from the ground up because we were coming to life with a strong heritage and a worldwide network of experts in our industries, our employees.
 
However, we had two major challenges to overcome.

The first challenge was that we had to get started with a clear company identity and positioning, and swiftly capture and retain the reputation inherited from the acquired businesses. We wanted our brand identity to not only reflect who we want to be as a company, but also to create immediate acceptance, trust, and enthusiasm among our stakeholders.

We therefore needed to create a complete branding concept in a very short time frame. The brand creation project team was comprised of representatives from SK Capital Partners, Archroma’s future owner, and the leaders of the businesses to be acquired, to make sure we had a strong fit with our heritage and industries, while incorporating the vision for Archroma’s future and ambitions tied to its core identity. We also decided to go live with a best-in-class brand concept and design to present ourselves with a clear and strong brand identity from the very beginning.
 
Creating a new corporate identity and corporate design, and ensuring it would be used consistently by several thousand employees from day one, was no small task given that we had only two professional communicators in the transferred businesses. Our efforts were successful and the new brand identity very much helped our employees, customers, and other stakeholders understand that we were clear about who we are and what we want to achieve as Archroma.
 
From day one, our CEO Alexander Wessels was travelling and sharing his views and ambitions for Archroma with employees, customers, journalists, etc. supported by and building on a brand that translated spot-on our identity and purpose. From day one, our employees were able to use branding tools and guidelines that were helping them to convey our identity and purpose everywhere in the world, which further strengthened the Archroma brand.
 
Our second challenge, in parallel to building our new identity, resided in the ambitious objectives we set for ourselves for this first year, which required a tremendous amount of work and commitment from everyone within our organization.
 
First, we needed to transition from separate divisions into a new company running the acquired businesses as one Archroma. This meant in-depth changes in our operations such as creating a fully integrated supply chain in charge of producing and delivering our products, and refocusing the business teams on growing existing and potential markets. Second, we had to initiate and complete many projects aimed at allowing us to stand on our own feet. Clariant was providing us with infrastructures and services support during the first nine to 12 months of Archroma's existence in areas such as IT, finance, and human resources, and we needed to prepare the transition to our own set-up. Last but not least, we also needed to deliver the challenging key performance indicator targets that will allow us to support our goal to grow organically as well as through acquisitions in order to become the preferred supplier in our industries.
 
The situation required a complete turnover in our working culture based on ownership and accountability. We needed our colleagues to focus on delivering results.
 
Our leadership team defined four work pillars as the foundations of our new work culture. We call them our “ACTS for growth." The A stands for “Accountability for performance," the C for “Customer and market focus," the T for “Teamwork and collaboration,” and the S for “Speed and simplicity.” We rolled out the new culture throughout the company with a powerful and motivating workshop program conducted with the personal involvement of our leadership team members who attended workshops internationally and explained the new company work culture and how it would support our goals.
 
This program has been a huge enabler in changing the mindset of everyone within the organization. We see colleagues thriving in this new environment, and our results are starting to reflect the cultural change.
 
Our first year of operation, which concluded in September, was certainly one of many challenges. However, I would have left the opportunity to participate in such an adventure to no one else. When I look back and see how we have been able to create a new global player by successfully convincing our customers in various markets that they now have a partner that is stronger than ever, I do believe we have what it takes to achieve our long term goals.


You have a legal background as well as corporate communication expertise. In what ways did your professional training and work experience as an attorney prepare you for your current position as global head of corporate communications?

Most communicators have acquired some basic legal knowledge along the way although it is usually limited to the communication field. My experience as an attorney who practiced in areas such as labor, commercial, and company law has an impact on the way I see my role and do my job as head of communications.
 
My previous work experience created a kind of “integrated alert button” concerning the potential risks and opportunities of a given situation or activity. It allows me to give more thorough communication advice and, especially in crisis situations, it helps to minimize reputation damage. My set of skills also helped in building a reputation as a valuable communication partner with a broader, more accurate perspective on business and operations.  


Archroma recently entered into an agreement to acquire the global textile chemicals business of BASF and more worldwide growth will likely follow. What does the communication function do to enable the smooth integration of new businesses in different parts of the world?  

At this time, the two companies still operate independently. However, we are already doing a lot to support the acquired business, for instance via presentations on Archroma to our future employees. They naturally have questions and concerns, and we address them as best as possible at this stage.
 
Looking forward, the communications function will also be instrumental in convincing our current and future customers that they will benefit from two leaders in their markets joining forces to better serve their needs and growth ambitions.


As a relatively new global company, Archroma is in the process of building a solid corporate reputation. How important are reputation and crisis management compared to other areas of corporate communication?

Everyone in our company has been taking the reputation of Archroma seriously since the very beginning. Our colleagues everywhere around the world understand the need to reassure our customers that we are the ideal partner for them.
 
We also know that we have an important duty towards the communities we operate as a part of, in particular those in close proximity to our sites. We conduct regular trainings and crisis simulations to stay as well prepared as possible. Effective reputation and crisis management are critical components of our preparedness planning, as we need to be able to quickly provide accurate information to our stakeholders in the case of emergencies. Archroma is hence working with a network of reputable consulting firms, including C4CS®, in order to allow our local management teams to benefit from the advice and support provided by experienced external consultants.


In what ways does senior management support the communication function’s efforts to protect and enhance company reputation and what role does recurring crisis communication training play?

Because Archroma is a new company, we need to work twice as hard to convince our customers and suppliers that we are the ideal and reliable partner for them, that we are committed to producing and delivering products that provide the highest performance, and that we are committed to enhancing safety in connection with our products as well as our manufacturing processes and facilities.
 
The members of our leadership team, and in particular our CEO, are fully engaged in supporting our efforts. Being prepared in case of an emergency is part of that company wide engagement and support. Our management and employees worldwide are therefore fully aware of how critical it is to be prepared and to take part in recurring crisis communication training and crisis response exercises.

 
C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne Chase Interviewed about PR Crisis

C4CS® Senior Partner Dianne Chase was recently interviewed by The Charlotte Observer's Mark Washburn. The article can also be viewed on The Charlotte Observer's website via this link.

CMS flunks PR challenge

There was no drama on TV this week that could beat the tragicomedy at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board.

It was a classic study in how not to handle a crisis.

After news broke Monday morning that superintendent Heath Morrison was unexpectedly leaving his job after only two years, reporters sought confirmation from the school system and board members, but hours passed without any.

At 3:30 p.m. Monday, the school system’s chief communications officer, Kathryn Block, conducted one of the most amazing briefings ever held at the county government center: She told reporters she could neither confirm nor deny whether Morrison was leaving.

About two hours later, the school board released a statement saying that Morrison was out. Deputy superintendent Ann Clark would take over when his resignation took effect Thursday. Nobody on the board was talking. And, in a telling move, no one was issuing any statements expressing regret over the superintendent’s departure.

Morrison would be quitting his job to take care of his ailing mother in Virginia, reporters were told.

That was the best they could do? County commissioner Bill James put it best: “So why would a guy quit a job paying $288,000 a year plus benefits? And quit a visible political job the day before an election?”

Tuesday afternoon, board Chairwoman Mary McCray appeared at a news conference with Clark. It wasn’t much of a news conference, really – no questions from reporters were allowed.

“I know that you have many questions at this time,” McCray said, “but we’re unable to answer them.” Their appearance lasted less than four minutes.

As the week went on, details emerged that showed Morrison – whose public persona was that of an up-and-coming administrator leading CMS to new glory – was not as popular with the board as it seemed. There was a report that said cost overruns were kept from board members and Morrison was considered personally abusive by some of his closest aides.

Whatever the reason, CMS and the school board weren’t talking. There had been an agreement on what each side could say, and the sick-mother cover story was obviously part of it. So you had one of the top 20 school districts in the nation by size wobbling around without telling the public what was up with its top leadership.

It didn’t look good. At best, it looked comical.

With no one on the school board setting the tone, and no one apparently in charge at the school system – Morrison was still superintendent until Thursday, but he wasn’t at work anymore – the situation with the press and public ran out of control. It felt as if the leadership of the school system had been effectively decapitated and no one knew quite what to do.

“I know it was fast-moving, and they were worried about confidentiality and things, but somebody should have stepped up,” said state Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Mecklenburg Democrat and former CMS administrator. “There should have been stronger leadership to set the tone and say, ‘This is what we can tell you right now.’ ”

Dianne Chase, a crisis communications consultant for C4CS, gives the system a “D” for its handling of the media.

“There’s always three things you can say in a crisis,” Chase says she advises her clients. “What you know, what you’re doing about it and how you feel about it.”

Even when there are legal agreements on what can be said publicly, there’s always some information that can be shared, Chase says. This is particularly important with an organization such as the school system, where taxpayers feel a sense of ownership.

“That situation where they said they could neither confirm or deny was an exercise in frustration with impatient reporters,” Chase says, “and you don’t want to make them mad.”

Chase, a former reporter who still occasionally anchors at WBT-AM (1110), says she noticed social media chatter about frustration with the CMS communications department this week, including some people who longed for the era of Nora Carr, the former schools spokeswoman who left for the Guilford County system in 2009.

“They definitely didn’t seem like they were prepared, and quite frankly, well-trained in these situations,” Chase says. “You’ve got to be prepared to communicate.”


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/11/06/5297156/cms-gets-bad-grade-in-handling.html#storylink=cpy
If you have questions concerning this article, please contact us at info@c4cs.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
 
Food For Thought

"Justice will undoubtedly take months to resolve this.
But the court of public opinion is much faster,
albeit far more unforgiving, immoderate
and uninformed."

Hans Rollmann

 
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