The companies that survived 2009 aren’t just looking to weather another year. Instead, many are deciding to take action and lay the groundwork to thrive in 2010 and beyond.
To prepare for this strategy change, companies must take steps not only to retain their top executives but also make the decision to recruit and upgrade their existing talent pool, says Tyler Ridgeway, director, and leader of the Human Capital Resources and Executive Search practice at Kreischer Miller.
“When owners think of a total compensation package in 2010, they shouldn’t just think of base and bonus,” Ridgeway says. “They should also contemplate which intangibles they can offer employees to provide them with the peace of mind that they are advancing their careers.”
Smart Business spoke with Ridgeway about how businesses could consider enhancing compensation structures and team-building techniques, and have a positive effect on the retention of top-performing executives.
How have companies’ hiring and compensation practices shifted in the last year?
Retention moved ahead of recruiting in 2009. Much of the focus from an executive compensation standpoint shifted internally; instead of lateral hiring, many companies tried to do more work with fewer people. As a result, many in the work force knew, at least throughout 2009, that they probably weren’t going to earn much from a bonus or raise standpoint.
Most executives were happy to have a job and knew they had to take a team approach; they realized the need to focus not only on being a strong individual performer but also a strong team player to help their company survive and remain competitive.
Companies followed the ideal that they were not going to exceed their financial budget for a new hire. They knew that they could find executive talent that possessed all of their desired skills and abilities and hire them at lower compensation levels.
In 2009, if a newly hired executive desired more in terms of cash compensation, many companies tied incentives to both individual and company performance. These executives were given the potential to make more money, but they had to share in the risk with the company and prove that they earned it.
In 2009, there was also a trend toward getting the entire employee base exposed to and engaged in company initiatives so everyone felt like they had a bigger impact on what was going on in the company. For example, many companies assigned high-potential employees to participate in cross-functional projects that provided executive-level visibility.
Other companies randomly invited certain employees to join C Suite private company meetings. Another tactic involved developing more departmental and one-on-one meetings.
These examples increased employee morale and enabled employees to feel more involved in decision making. From a professional standpoint, even though these tactics did not tie into compensation, they went a long way toward retention.
The successful companies in 2009 were the ones that were proactive in trying to get their work force more excited about the team focus and company as a whole.
What’s in store for the rest of 2010?
If 2010 is off to a stronger start, you must prepare for the possibility that your executives may be exploring job opportunities outside of your company.
Statistics indicate that 50 to 60 percent of executives are determined to make a move once they feel the economy has rebounded. Many executives worked harder for less money in 2009 and feel they now deserve to be repositioned financially to compensate for their sacrifices.
Companies risk losing top performers to their competition. Remember, there has never been a better time to attract and upgrade your work force.
Even many of those currently employed might be contemplating making a career move.
What can companies do right now to retain and incentivize their executives?
First and foremost, companies should identify their top performers; i.e., who can you not live without? Then determine what the marketplace is paying for those same positions in other companies. Identify companies of similar revenue and employee count and determine where you stand as it relates to that benchmark.
If your company is paying below the mean, you should seriously consider increasing cash compensation. If you are paying what the market dictates, the business leaders need to communicate this fact to their executives. Many companies are thinking outside the box as it relates to total compensation for 2010.
Total cash compensation remained either status quo or decreased for many executives in 2009. As a result, to retain executives, companies are doing other things, such as offering an extra week of vacation, paying more of the executives’ health benefits, or providing spontaneous spot bonuses to reward solid performance and production.
Companies should continue to be creative and offer noncompensation perks. Offering in-house classes, training or other forms of career development is another way to give back and invest in your top-performing executives.
Successful companies in 2010 will be those that continue to be proactive in involving their work force and creating strong team work and leadership.
Tyler Ridgeway is a director at Kreischer Miller and leader of the Human Capital Resources and Executive Search practice. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 x175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Carbone knows that a leader can come from anywhere. In a late-2009 interview with Executive Leaders Radio, Carbone talks about growing up in Camden, New Jersey, and working his way up to become president of TD Bank’s metro Philadelphia market.
Carbone says in the broadcast (he comes on in the 25th minute) that he learned the value of working hard from his parents. Fittingly, he spoke with Smart Business Philadelphia for a recent cover story on how to prepare future leaders, talking through the process of preparing future generations. Here is the opening to that story.
You shouldn’t do it alone.
You can’t do it alone.
Even if you founded your company and have overseen its growth every step of the way, you can’t possibly have all the answers as you pilot your business through choppy economic waters, a competitive market and a host of other conditions that have caused more than a few experienced business leaders to lose some sleep. It’s a lesson Michael Carbone has taken to heart. The regional president of TD Bank’s metro Philadelphia market has placed a strong emphasis on identifying, grooming and promoting new managers and executives in his 4,500-employee division of TD Bank, a banking giant that employs more than 23,000 people in the U.S.
Executives Leader Radio and Smart Business are content partners. Executive Leaders Radio is dedicated to honoring individuals who have risen to leadership roles through hard work and dedication. Carbone appeared on the same Executive Leaders Radio program as Jay Shah, the CEO of Harsha Hospitality Trust, Larry Borden, the founder of The Borden Agency and Ed Brill, CEO and founder of Brill Worldwide Investments Inc.
Although directors and officers liability insurance is sometimes perceived to only be necessary for leaders of large public corporations, all organizations can benefit from it even nonprofits.
“Statistically, more than a third of all companies can expect a claim against an officer or director,” says Shane Moran, vice president of ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants. “The risk is pretty high that you’re going to see a claim.”
Smart Business spoke with Moran about how directors and officers liability insurance can protect the board members of nonprofit organizations.
Why do nonprofit organizations need to invest in D&O insurance?
A comprehensive D&O policy is essential for nonprofit organizations for several reasons. It’s a necessary tool in order to attract qualified individuals to sit on the board, as well as to act in the capacity of an officer or director. As a board member, you can be held personally liable for claims that arise out of the running of the organization.
While many states have enacted charitable immunity for people serving as an officer, director, or trustee of a nonprofit, those laws can vary by state, as well as who might be entitled to protection under that statute. Whether or not a board member is compensated in that capacity can determine whether that person has protection under that statute. However, there is no liability protection under any state statute for violation of a federal statute. For example, if you violate the Americans with Disabilities Act or Civil Rights Act, there is no protection under state law.
Another reason is cost. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase a liability policy to protect not only the officers and directors, but also the entity itself when compared to the cost of hiring an attorney to defend an allegation, let alone a judgment against the organization. Most nonprofits don’t have in-house counsel with the expertise to address these claims.
What does D&O insurance cover?
The basic D&O policy form is meant to cover directors, officers and board members for wrongful acts while they are acting in that capacity. The amount of coverage you ultimately purchase varies by each entity and its potential exposure. In the for-profit world, you have the risk of shareholders making a claim against the operations and running of the company. In nonprofits, you typically do not have claims from shareholders but may see claims from guardians of people that the organization serves, past officers and board members, as well as from its employees.
The nonprofit D&O policy has evolved to include claims against the officers as well as claims for employment practices liability. Another area of coverage that may be included is fiduciary liability. Most of the D&O claims that we see stem from wrongful termination, discrimination and sexual harassment.
What are the consequences of leaving an organization unprotected?
As a board member, you can be held personally liable. Your personal assets are potentially at stake if there is no coverage. If you’re going to sit on a board without day-to-day oversight of the company, putting your personal assets out there is a gamble that most people are not willing to accept. Most people asked to sit on a board consult with an attorney about potential ramifications. The first question that attorney will ask is, ‘Does the organization carry directors and officers insurance?’
From the organization’s perspective, the consequences of not carrying this policy can be fatal. The average cost to defend an allegation can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a cost most nonprofits can’t afford, nor do they have access to a specialized attorney to properly defend themselves. In the end, the organization may have to close its doors.
How can the fiduciary responsibility of board members lead to a claim?
The charters or bylaws of most nonprofit organizations require the board members to protect the assets of the nonprofit, as well as to expand and grow the funding forces. An example might be if an officer or board member decided to use certain funds within an agency on a risky new program, and that risk proves to be a bad investment and the overall agency suffers financially. Then, you could conceivably see a third-party or fellow board member claiming that the future of that organization could be in jeopardy because its endowment or funding has been diminished significantly by the choices of that officer or board member. You could see claims coming from the choices the officers made in connection with the organization’s 403(b) or 401(k) plan. Most nonprofit D&O policies have the ability to address this fiduciary liability now, and many organizations address this exposure with a standalone fiduciary liability policy.
How can you avoid situations that lead to claims?
With D&O policies, the devil is in the details. A comprehensive review of the policy language is essential to understanding what you do and do not have coverage for. Does the policy contain an insured versus insured inclusion? If the policy is providing coverage for employment practices liability as well as fiduciary liability, is the limit of insurance a shared limit, or does each agreement have a separate limit of liability? Is the cost of defense included within the limit of liability? What is the retention amount? Using a broker that specializes in the nonprofit sector can be a great source of information as to the differences between policies and insurance arms.
When completing the application it is important that you fully disclose accurate information, as misstatements can void coverage. The application becomes part of the policy and is a warranty statement. Organizations should also emphasize any loss control and risk management policies used to help minimize any potential losses. By giving more information to an underwriter to help that person become comfortable, you will be able to negotiate better pricing and broader coverage.
Shane Moran is a vice president at ECBM. Reach him at (610) 668-7100 x1237 or email@example.com.
Decreasing costs in the first phase of an economic slump is easy because people tend to lose focus on doing so when business is booming. As a result, finding ways to contain costs when the economy contracts is not that difficult.
In contrast, generating profit improvement during a mild recovery can be extremely challenging because management teams have already addressed the most obvious inefficiencies in their businesses, says Mark G. Metzler, CPA, director at Kreischer Miller.
“A company’s financial viability depends not only upon its revenue but also on effective management of costs and expenses,” Metzler says. “During these challenging times, managing costs has become a top priority for business owners.”
Smart Business spoke with Metzler about how to approach sustainable cost management in a challenging economy.
What makes managing costs in this economy more challenging?
Too often, companies focus on increasing revenue without fully understanding what is happening to the cost side of the business equation. Many organizations lose sight of the true cost when they are expanding their product lines or service offerings to meet customer requests. Companies need to analyze their cost structure to identify all of the costs associated with providing each product or service. Once the true costs are identified, it is often easier for the business owner or manager to effectively allocate resources to the work that is most profitable and eliminate those that are determined to be too costly.
While it may seem counterintuitive in a stagnant sales-growth environment, sometimes enhancing profits means cutting sales efforts. The Pareto Principle tells us that 80 percent of profits are generated by 20 percent of your customers. But do you know which customers are in your top 20 percent?
By performing a critical analysis of customers or products, management might find that cutting sales efforts in less profitable areas of the business and shifting resources to the most profitable areas can increase overall profitability levels.
Top-line growth without bottom-line improvement can be disastrous. The goal should be to work smarter, not necessarily harder.
What can business owners do to get a better handle on their costs?
What you can measure, you can manage. Organizations that actively monitor operations are in a better position to uncover costly problems before they impact the bottom line. Successful companies recognize that it’s not about accumulating volumes of financial data but rather using ‘information dashboards’ that compile key performance indicators for any business function that managers want to track. Dashboard information is provided in real time, enabling the CEO or owner to take the pulse of the entire business at any time.
What areas of an organization are the best places to audit?
Payroll and benefits are typically the largest expenses, and reductions in work force to match associated revenue can result in significant savings. However, before taking this route, many organizations look at other alternatives, such as shortened workweeks, unpaid leaves of absence, temporary salary reductions, or revamping or suspending benefit packages to reduce payroll costs without losing valuable employees. They recognize that the costs, including recruiting and training, to replace an experienced employee when the economy improves may be far greater than the cost to carry the employee on the payroll.
Additionally, companies may not be too quick to hire a replacement for an employee who leaves. Rather, they rethink how work is being performed and look to reallocate the individual’s duties to existing employees.
Another option that shouldn’t be overlooked is outsourcing, which can turn a fixed cost into a variable cost and it’s the fixed costs that are challenging to cover in a difficult economy. Continued technological advances have made it possible to outsource a wide range of functions, including HR, customer service and IT. For example, software-as-a-service is now a thriving sector, allowing companies to dramatically decrease their IT infrastructure and the internal resources necessary to support it, and gain enhanced customer service and application availability.
Lastly, companies should examine each expense item on the income statement to determine what they can live without. Multiple small-dollar savings, whether attributable to unnecessary subscriptions or services, can result in substantial bottom-line improvements.
How can a business strategically and rationally look at these areas for ways to improve them?
In the simplest terms, business owners need to look at their operations to identify what is adding value. Successful businesses look for ways to streamline their operations and shorten the number of steps in the delivery process. Owners who think in these terms find it easier to determine what costs can be cut without harming the business. The focus is on serving the customer in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
What mistakes do businesses make when trying to manage costs?
One of the fundamental mistakes that businesses make is failing to recognize that, in order to improve, change is inevitable. Tom Peters, who is often referred to as the father of branding, said, ‘Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence, only in constant improvement and constant change.’ Leaders of organizations must embrace change and not allow those who oppose change to derail the organization’s goals and objectives. If the tone at the top of an organization does not support an initiative, then the initiative is doomed to fail.
Business owners who are successful surround themselves with the brightest people and solicit their input.
Mark G. Metzler, CPA, is a director at Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 8 million people were enrolled in health savings accounts in January 2009, up from 6.1 million in January 2008.
Enrollment in HSAs has been growing steadily since their introduction, from less than half a million people in September 2004. These plans continue to become more popular because the premiums can be lower than those of traditional plans, and members may have more flexibility in how they use funds in accounts such as HSAs and flexible spending accounts.
“As consumer-directed health plans become more mainstream, even more employers are looking at offering these plans,” says David Crosby, regional president of HealthAmerica. “Yet, despite their growing popularity, some may still feel unsure. The key is education, and it’s easier than one might think.”
Smart Business spoke with Crosby about how employers can help ease their work force into adopting and embracing consumer-directed health plans.
What issues do employers face in implementing consumer-directed health plans?
Consumer-directed health care options involve a higher degree of cost sharing with employees. For 2010, the minimum deductible is $1,200 for single coverage and $2,400 for families, in order for plans to be compatible with health savings accounts. These deductibles may be unsettling for employees who have never had deductibles before.
Employees may not be sure what is expected of them or what being a ‘more active health care decision-maker’ is all about. They may be confused and more than a little resistant to change.
How can employers tackle these issues?
An informed and empowered work force will improve the odds that employees will embrace this different type of health plan. Therefore, it’s important that employers take the time and make the effort to explain why they are implementing such measures, and do so early and often.
Sharing information is the key component to effective introduction. Employees may not like what they are hearing, but they will appreciate the explanation about why it is necessary. These products have the benefit of history on their side now. There are a lot of tools and resources available to help.
What messages should an employer be communicating to employees regarding HSAs and FSAs?
Begin by defining health care benefits within the broader context of business. Employees need to understand that rising health care costs will affect the company’s ability to succeed. Let employees know that although their contributions toward health care premiums are increasing, yours are going up even more. Let them know how much more it would be if you didn’t make changes to benefits.
Adopting a policy of ongoing, honest communication can help overcome skepticism, encourage employees to be partners in controlling costs and promote understanding of the changes as a necessary business decision.
What else can employers do to help ensure a successful transition?
Successful consumer-directed health plans are supported from the top. Research has shown that employers who contribute to their employees’ health savings accounts may achieve higher rates of employee participation than those who don’t contribute. Even if it’s a one-time contribution, it’s better than nothing.
Some employers are easing into consumer-directed care by slowly increasing deductibles each year. Others are offering incentives, such as lower premium contributions, to employees who enroll in these plans over the more traditional coverage they also offer.
Creative options that consider the needs of each work force are available.
What are some other tactics employers use to help employees feel comfortable with these plans?
Recognize that this type of plan design represents change for employees in some cases, a significant change. The more prepared they are for the change, the better. Begin a communications effort early and don’t worry about overcommunicating.
Create special but inexpensive communication material just for this campaign, such as employee bulletin boards, newsletters, payroll stuffers, information sessions and your intranet. You may also want to send information to employees’ homes, where it can be shared with a spouse. Encourage two-way communication and invite questions one on one so employees can evaluate their own personal situation. It’s important that they understand all their costs and responsibilities so they are not surprised or discouraged after enrollment.
Emphasize and re-emphasize the connections between unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking and obesity and the dramatic impact such habits can have on health care costs. Reinforce the idea of proactively tackling bad health habits now to deter high medical costs later. The message can be as simple as, ‘If you stay healthy, you will preserve more money in your HSA.’
Many health plans offer 100 percent coverage for the cost of approved health education programs such as smoking cessation and weight loss at no cost to the employer.
Finally, stress to employees that they are not on their own after they enroll. Make your human resources staff available to review information and answer questions. Small companies can receive help from their health plans. Health insurers are committed to helping members be comfortable with their decision to choose consumer-directed health care and to be smart users of health care services.
Representatives are trained to educate employees about the process and the decision-making tools available to them.
DAVID CROSBY is regional president of HealthAmerica. Reach him at email@example.com.
Education: B.S. in electrical engineering, Marquette University; MBA, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
Be prepared to learn something new every day, and be open. You never know from whom or where it will happen, but it will. And there will be something new, every day.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
Get input from multiple perspectives, especially those closest to the action. Be ready to (make) decisions with incomplete information. Monitor those decisions and adjust accordingly toward improvement.
What universal truths have you learned about leadership?
The difference is really in the people. Personnel choice is critical. Seeking to understand that their core values align with the values you are trying to build into the business is most important.
What is your definition of success?
Achieving (short- and long-term business) goals, but doing it in such a way that brings the best out of the employees, and our customers are so satisfied that they want to act as referrals.
Joe Paterno once said that the minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner. Rick Eckert, chief financial officer of ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants, says the legendary football coach’s words are a perfect reminder of the importance of having a plan so that you will be ready when disaster strikes.
“Anything that has the potential to take your business out for an extended period of time needs to have a plan attached to it,” Eckert says. “The last thing you want to be doing is trying to figure out that plan in the middle of it.”
Smart Business spoke with Eckert about what to include in your company’s disaster plan and how to ensure that your plan will work.
Why is it necessary for businesses to have a disaster plan?
In the middle of a disaster, you’re emotional, and if you’re making decisions based on emotion, you’re going to make bad decisions. So take the time to have a thorough, well-practiced plan before disaster strikes. It doesn’t make it any easier if it happens, but at least you’ll have an idea of what to do and you’ll execute instead of panicking.
If you think of people who deal with disaster all of the time, such as police, firefighters, EMTs and the military, the reason it works for them is that they are well-trained and well-disciplined. They don’t stop and think, they don’t panic, their hearts don’t start racing, and they don’t get worried. They execute. That’s why you need a plan.
What areas should a good disaster plan cover?
There are basic components that are the same for everyone, but from those core components, it changes based on your industry and size. There are a lot of variables, so not every company’s plan should be the same.
Start with life and safety. Look at your evacuation plans, fire protection, security, your access to health professionals and where you are located. If you lease space in an office building, you have to understand your neighbors’ plans, as well as your city’s plans, and know how you tie into them.
Then find out exactly what your mission-critical components are. What do you have to do to function, and how would that be replicated in a disaster environment? Can you get temporary space with communications, computers and warehouse space, and how long would it take to set up?
Look at how your business data is secured and if it is accessible off site. Can your employees work from home? Do you have other work sites that can house you temporarily?
Finally, you have to keep in mind that your employees will be dealing with that same disaster in their personal lives. You can’t just expect them to be your employees and do what you say, because maybe their houses got destroyed.
How can business owners develop an effective disaster plan?
First, don’t assume your insurance will take care of everything. Most people think their insurance will take care of it, but that’s not always the case.
You have to look at your plan as a business continuation plan. From there, gather a team that represents all aspects of your business.
Rank every aspect’s importance and determine how you would attack it in a disaster environment.
Then take that a step further and talk to others in your industry. Use trade associations, business groups, your insurance broker, even peers in your business. Government Web sites such as Ready.gov and the Pennsylvania version of that called Readypa.org can also be helpful.
You have to keep in mind that your plan is a living document. Once you build it, it doesn’t just end there. You have to look at it regularly, and you have to change and adjust it.
How can you ensure that prioritizing tasks in the planning process goes smoothly?
Have somebody from the senior executive or ownership level who has significant authority lead the charge, because people by natural tendency are going to get competitive between their units and want their issues to be covered first.
It’s a good idea to have somebody from the ownership level, which is where it really counts, who can referee and make a decision if they have to.
Once it is in place, how can companies evaluate their disaster plan to ensure it is working?
Three words: Practice, practice, practice. Dry run your plan using different scenarios to see what works and what doesn’t. You actually have to run the plan from start to finish. Create a scenario and then practice executing your plan based on that scenario.
With our team, I told them we would have a dry run on a Friday. I told them I wouldn’t spring it on them totally by surprise, but I wouldn’t tell them what time and what disaster would be coming. So they’re sitting on pins and needles, and I send an e-mail saying there is a tornado three miles from here react.
Throw a few scenarios at them, then execute the plan from a tabletop level. We didn’t actually move people, at least on the first few runs. From there, you will find out what you missed. Then you can have some full-blown total company runs, as well.
Obviously you can’t do that a lot, because you don’t want total disruption, but you should do it at least one each year.
Rick Eckert is CFO of ECBM Insurance Brokers and Consultants. Reach him at (610) 668-7100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born: Quebec City, Quebec
Education: B.S. in biochemistry and MBA, University of Ottawa
First job: I worked in a medical laboratory in my last years of high school, separating serum from red blood cells. My father worked in the same lab as a radiologist; he knew they needed help. You don’t need a license to do it, and it’s not as complex as it sounds. You take a test tube of blood, spin it in a pipette and suck it back out. Really, it’s not rocket science.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
The truth will set you free. Not that anyone is necessarily trying to lie or be deceitful, but you need to be open about the challenges your business faces and the obstacles your business has. You need to be open with stakeholders, your board, peers and employees. If you do that, it really fosters an environment of communication. If you downplay negatives or withhold information, it only leads to problems.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
You need to have adaptability. You can’t be so narrow- and single-minded that you can’t adjust to your environment. What we’ve gone through at ModSpace over the last 18 months is a perfect example of that. You need to have the flexibility to adapt.
Whether you realize it or not, people form opinions about your company based on your brand. And every organization, no matter how large or small, can benefit from using public relations and strategic marketing to improve the way it communicates its brand to potential customers.
“PR can help you define that brand, so you are presenting yourself and your qualities the way you want to,” says Maria Evans, adjunct professor with Delaware Valley College and president of Martino Evans Communications. “It can then help you create messages to help you communicate that brand.”
Smart Business spoke with Evans about how to use effective public relations to bolster your brand.
What can a good public relations program do for you?
A good PR program can create greater awareness of businesses and individuals, attract additional clients and increase the revenue of the business not necessarily the number of clients but how much and how frequently they are purchasing.
If you are recognized as an expert, you can increase your revenue through additional sales or through increased demand generated from raised awareness.
PR can build your credibility, enhance your reputation and establish you as a leader in your particular niche, area of a profession or geographic area.
That doesn’t necessarily have to be tied directly to the business. An employee’s good deeds or involvement in community events can increase your company’s reputation. The halo effect gives that benefit to your company or the products and services that you sell.
How can a company improve its brand?
The first step is to decide on your brand. Keep in mind your unique offering and what the competition offers. Develop your message, then get it out consistently and constantly.
It can be something everyone can do. For example, the signature on your e-mail and the incoming and outgoing messages on your voice mail should all be consistent. They should all include whatever benefit you are trying to make sure people realize you have to offer. Whatever that benefit is, you need to get it out consistently and constantly in small and large ways.
What different avenues can you use to get the word out about your brand?
There is a lot of chatter out there, so you need to participate in the chatter that your target audience pays attention to. You can go on some of the social media sites, but if your target audience isn’t on them, that’s not going to benefit you.
However, if they spend a lot of time online, you want to make sure that you keep coming up and coming to their attention. It’s a matter of focusing.
Public relations can help you get a buzz going on your services, and it can help create that word-of-mouth, that raised level of enthusiasm and awareness about your products and services. PR also works to cultivate media, which is not just pushing out stories. It means learning what people who are important to your audience need and becoming a resource for them.
Public relations done right is a very time-consuming endeavor.
Public relations also involves managing a crisis. A good PR program deals with that before it happens and has a plan in place so you have people trained to speak to the media so they can be clear and concise about what they need to communicate. It also helps make sure they get the information out in a timely manner. Public relations is all about timeliness.
Is spending money on PR or marketing wise in today’s economic climate?
With the downturn in the economy, a lot of people say they can’t afford to do PR or marketing. Now is the time you should, though, because it is a little bit quieter out there.
Whether you are a small or large company, you want to position yourself as viable. If you intend to be a company that is around in five years, you need to be out there letting people know you’re still out there doing good things.
People say they’ll get the word out when the market gets better. But remember: Out of sight, out of mind. Public affairs is about consistently being involved and sharing your knowledge.
How can a business determine which branches of PR or marketing it might need?
One thing I always advise clients is that you don’t want to start with, ‘I need a press release!’ You need to start a few steps back. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I trying to reach?’ It’s basically a marketing plan. ‘What do I have to offer them? What is special about what I’m trying to offer them? Where are those people I’m trying to reach?’
If you figure out what that is and develop your message, it starts falling into place. You have to start by looking at it strategically.
Once you’ve decided that, you can determine priorities. Sure, it would be great to reach all your targeted audiences, but your resources may allow you to only do some right now.
Your PR plan needs to be strategic, or else you’ll be overwhelmed, and nothing will happen.
Maria Evans is an adjunct professor with Delaware Valley College and president of Martino Evans Communications. Reach her at (215) 738-2544 or email@example.com.