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When a crisis situation develops, time is of the essence. There’s a saying: “If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant.” That’s why companies need to have a crisis communication plan in place before a potentially hazardous situation arises. While there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter” crisis plan, the following information will help your company begin assembling an effective plan.

Step 1: Establish the Crisis Team.

Consider all the aspects of your company—management, operations, internal and external communication, customer service, and legal. During the crisis, this team bears the responsibility for making decisions and spearheading communication.

Step 2: Identify and Prepare the Spokespeople.

Identify the person who will be the official “voice” of the company should a crisis develop and make sure that person is trained accordingly.

Step 3: Develop processes and protocols.

Having a set of approved procedures in place ahead of time is key to responding in a timely manner and protecting the company’s brand.

Step 4: Prepare for Social Media’s Impact on Crisis Communication

Online monitoring during a crisis is critical. Be prepared to jump into the conversation to correct facts, answer questions, and share the brand’s side of the story and steps taken to fix the situation.

Along those same lines, “new” crisis communication means you shouldn’t solely rely on the news media to disseminate your message. Leverage social media with real-time updates via Twitter and Facebook in a crisis.

Step 5: Brainstorm Possible Scenarios & Responses. Role Play. Repeat.

In any business, there are dozens of potential crisis situations that could ruin a brand … especially if poor communication makes the situation even worse. Work with your team to identify these potential situations and develop a “response template” in the crisis communication plan. The more preparation you can do ahead of time, the quicker you’ll be able to respond if a crisis does strike.

Source: Heather Whaling

Good customer service is the foundation of any business. Price reductions and special promotions may bring customers in, but to keep them, show clients you have their best interests at heart. When a client feels the he is being taken care of, he will be happy, and in turn share this happiness with his friends. This is one way to grow a business, so plant the seeds of customer service. Here are some tips to help you cultivate your client dealings on a daily basis:

Be available to clients all the time. Whether it is by phone or e-mail, in this day and age, people want answers and they want them immediately. Make sure you are able to respond as fast as possible to the inquiries of clients. If you are not at your desk, have calls forwarded to your cell phone, or check e-mail often and respond to it promptly and completely.

Be honest and follow through. When you extend an offer to a client, first make sure that the offer is feasible, and then do everything in your power to make sure the client receives the service (or discount, or promotion) as soon as possible. Follow up with the client to make sure everything went smoothly and offer assistance for anything else they may need. 
Listen to your customers. Don't make them ask or tell you something twice. Follow through on their requests the first time. Take this step even further by anticipating their needs and have an answer ready when they ask for it. 

Throw in something extra. It's the little things that count, and when you get to know your clients, you'll understand their needs. But knowing and doing are two separate things. Prove to your clients that you are there to help them along in their journey by doing everything within your business' power to make their lives easier and more efficient, even if that means going the extra mile. 

Social marketing earns, not buys attention, so have an opinion, be true to what you say, be of value, be open—above all, be human.

As markets become conversations, customer relationships and advertising models are changing for good. Passive consumption becomes active interaction. Monologue becomes dialogue. Control becomes collaboration. Customers are empowered, well informed, and connected. Companies are becoming more transparent whether they like it or not.

It's an environment in which the balance of effective communication shifts from being less about interruption to more about participation, less about delivering a message to more about being part of a conversation, less about what you say to people and more about what people are saying about you.

Career-MediaIt's an environment that operates to social principles—creating not subtracting value, serving a larger purpose than your own, being useful, and facilitating.

More human elements matter like having a point of view, being true to yourself and what you say, being open, honest, and transparent. Ford uses social media to "humanize the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with Ford employees," says Scott Monty, and the company regularly reaches out to bloggers for feedback and to encourage the spread of positive word of mouth.

Clothing and shoe company Zappos believes that its "culture is their brand" and use social media to create touch points throughout every area of its business and ensure customer service isn't just a department, it’s the entire company. Authenticity is the currency that encourages trust, involvement, and engagement. Authenticity is what turns an audience into a following.

Source: Jon Leuty Photo: Alicja Stolarczyk

Recently, we have been surrounded by much talk regarding women in the workforce. The conversations centered around, becoming a leader, not being categorized negatively by being strong, in-charge, and demanding respect. Some of these topics are very uncomfortable for us to discuss...very uncomfortable.

Why have conversations on women leaders, women supporting other women, and the perception of women in the workforce made us so uncomfortable? First off, we’d like to make it clear that we don't walk around complaining that we are women. In fact, we have often used being women to our advantage, as have many others. Who hasn't called into work once or twice and complained of 'women trouble' when really you just didn't feel like dealing with the day or had other obligations that took precedent but explaining those to a boss for a “personal day” is usually met with difficulty. We haven’t yet encountered a man who has been able to use that free pass, although we know plenty that suffer from PMS.

What has sent us reeling about this topic, is the emotion tied to it. If it hadn’t been for a recent experience, we may not have analyzed why 'we' women are always apologizing for our strengths and our accomplishments. Like, we should feel bad for being recognized for doing something amazing?

As women, we are nurturers and are consciously making sure others are comfortable, cared for, and feel at ease. This often translates into self-deprecation, insecurity, guilt, and resentment. We don't want to be seen as braggarts or proud, so we put ourselves down. Stop. Just stop it.

STOP APOLOGIZING for your accomplishments.

Stand up straight, look a person in the eye and say "thank you." 
You see, we actually have the advantage. As women, we are the first to acknowledge our weaknesses and work to correct them. We work harder because we have set incredibly high expectations for ourselves that we can only hope to achieve, likewise we have so many others depending on us. We know that we are judged by our looks, brains, and work/life balance and we work to be stellar in all of these areas. That’s a lot to think about when you just want to be successful like anyone else.
The point is, when you achieve something that you know you worked long and hard at, shout it to the rooftops, take to social media, hold a party, open some champagne, and don’t ever apologize for it. Ever.  

Being a manager and taking a vacation doesn't always mix, but it is possible to pull yourself away from your business to take a much-needed vacation. What's more, a vacation is necessary for hard workers because without work-life balance and perspective that a respite provides, you won’t remain an effective executive.

“I was that guy checking email at the beach–not a good thing,” says Scott Miller, an entrepreneur who in 2010 launched The Bee, a web-based financial application. “I just decided to take the risk,” during a month-long family vacation in New Zealand. Miller had absolutely no communication with his staff or clients.

“I gave my staff our itinerary, but I wasn’t going to make it easy for them to reach me. They handled issues on their own and made some great decisions,” he says.

Don’t feel ready to take the plunge and revamp your management style? Here are some tips to prepare you for your impending vacation: 

Familiarize Clients with Employees. Don’t let your e-mail auto-responder be the one to tell your customers who to contact while you’re away. Transparency is important, so let any clients you're currently working with know you'll be away and introduce them to who will be covering for you while you're gone.

Network. Network with other small firms in your industry and exchange resources when principals go on vacation. “It does require a high degree of trust to work with people who are occasionally your competitors,” says Powers.

Appoint Someone to Cover for You. Delegate your daily activities, one by one, to those who will remain in the office while you're away. Rob Jager, principal of Hedgehog consulting, advises: “Look for tasks that only you do. Ask yourself, is it critical that I do these tasks? Identify who on the team can perform them.”

Practice, Practice, Practice. “Practice being hands-off for longer and longer stretches, even when you’re in the office, to allow employees to get comfortable being in charge,” says Kate Koziol, president of K Squared Communications.

Prepare for the Worst. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Take this not as a rhetorical question but as a challenge requiring a detailed, documented response. “Put contingent action plans into place for what staff should do if something goes wrong,” says David Gammel, principal at High Context Consulting.

Do a Post-Mortem. Debrief your team and critique yourself so that your next vacation is even more successful. Miller says if his preparations for vacation fell short in one area, it was business development. “When I returned, the sales pipeline wasn’t as full as usual. I could have done a better job by loading the pipeline with more pre-sales activities.”

Your vacation away from your business gives you the chance to learn some big lessons. Prepare the office to that when you're out of it, you'll be able to vacation in peace.

Source: John Rossheim Photo: Piotr Bizior

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