Notes on a scandal with Judy Smith – #Demand14

Vocus – Demand Success 14 Round-up

Cox Business and CoxBlue recently attended the Demand Success 2014 conference in Washington DC, hosted by Vocus, a leader in marketing and PR  automation software. 

Demand-Success-LogoThe conference featured amazing keynotes, in-depth panel discussions and a venue that was nothing short of spectacular.  Over the next week we’ll provide our readers with a round-up from several of the sessions we attended, as well as key takeaways.

Sidenote: If you were unable to attend #Demand14 this year, start planning now for #Demand15 now – Its a “must attend” event for marketing and PR professionals

 Notes on a scandal with Judy Smith

judy_smithOne of the many highlights of the conference was a presentation from Judy Smith, the CEO of Smith & Company and a crisis management expert. Smith also served as the inspiration for “Scandal,” one of the most popular contemporary TV shows.

Read below if you want to know what the real life Olivia Pope had to say about PR and crisis communications.

Plan ahead

Crisis management and communications seem like a reactionary field. After all, you can’t do anything unless something’s gone wrong, right? Not so, according to Smith. She and her firm do a great deal of pre-crisis planning and intervention because those actions pay off in the end. “If you’re working for some company, do some planning [and get ahead of the crisis.] … When you have a [pre-crisis plan] you have a 90 percent success rate,” Smith said.

The best way to do this is think about what can happen when managing your business. Could products cause issues? Is there a risk for workplace accidents? You need to identify these problems and work to prevent them. Beyond that, you should develop a response in advance. List steps and best practices for certain types of incidents. Once there is a crisis, you won’t have to scramble because you already have an actionable plan ready to go. As a result, you’ll avoid any major long-term headaches.

Know when to act

Speaking about social media, Smith explained that businesses need to know how to pick up on potential crises and how to respond. She used target as an example of a large enterprise that has to track problems and determine the best time to act. “If you haven’t thought about it, find out what your threshold is. If you are Target and there’s something out there moving on social media, what is that’s going to make you respond?” Smith recommended.

Whether it’s the number of mentions or tweets or the viral nature of a crisis, you need to have a set criteria for what motivates you to take action. Smith then transitioned to how you’d want to react and why you’re doing that. “The second thing you want to honestly think about is, in terms of responding, usually someone would send out a spokesperson. [But] how do you want to respond? What is your objective all this? Is it to squash it? To minimize it?” Smith asked.

This goes back to the importance of planning. When developing a crisis strategy, you should think about your course of action and your ultimate goal. It’s almost like a road trip – you need a destination to map out your route.

Do you think Smith’s strategies can help your business improve its crisis management strategies?