Crisis Communications for small organisations

Crisis Communications for small organisations

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition: Preparing for the unexpected. Crisis Communications for small organisations


I’ll admit it: I’m a bit weird. In a number of ways but particularly in that crisis communications is one of my favourite areas of PR. I mean, obviously, it’s horrible when something awful happens and I’ve hated to see any organisations I’ve worked for or with going through difficult times but what I do love is preparing for a crisis. It seems I’m in a minority though and many people don’t enjoy this?! The hard fact is that every organisation needs to do it. Because you do not want to be facing a crisis unprepared. Figuring out who you need to contact, who will be affected, what you should be telling customers and the wider world, and how to keep parts of the organisation that absolutely cannot shut down going is not what you want to be figuring out while dealing with emergency services. But fear not, bury your head in the sand no longer because here is your guide to preparing for the unexpected. We’ve even put together a free resource you can use to get planning.


Getting started


It is more than understandable if you do dread thinking about a crisis and how your organisation would cope. But let’s start by getting the hardest part out of the way first. What is the worst thing that could happen? Yes, we need to go to that dark place and think about all the truly awful things that could happen. I mean death, destruction, dismembering the whole shebang. Don’t hold back. Remember if you don’t plan for it you can’t protect against it. But also, don’t forget the small things like lost keys, laptops and phones, sickness, and even road work. Anything that could cause your organisation to have to stop normal activities for any extended period of time or could give your customers or stakeholders a reason to take to social media to complain.

Once you have your list, try to group some of the scenarios. For example, your organisation may have these groups: premises issues (no electricity, water leak, lost keys, etc), staff issues (sickness, lateness, legal issues, complaints against them, etc), customer issues (contagious sickness outbreak, injury, death, complaints, etc).

Now going through your list and rate what would be awful and what would be inconvenient. For the majority of the inconvenience, you will be able to deal with these on a day to day basis. But it’s still worth having a plan for these. This crisis comms plan will help with that but make sure you have a business continuity plan in place. If you want help or advice in creating this please contact us, we can help or put you in touch with organisations who can help you devise and test your plan.


Preparing for the unexpected


The next thing to do is think about what you would do in these scenarios. Who will be affected? Who would you need to contact? Do you have their contact details? How will you keep everyone affected safe and what provisions for their welfare do you have? How will you contact those who are affected? Remember at this point you may not have all your usual equipment and colleagues etc. What are the critical parts of your organisation that must keep going and how do you prepare for that? What members of staff from non-critical areas of the organisation can be redeployed or drafted elsewhere to help? Or if you are a very small organisation, who could you ask to support you?


What will you say?


Now you know whom you need to contact you need to know what to say to them. We Are Comma can help with drafting some basic messages which can be tailored to the situation when a crisis occurs. At this point, though you need to bring your AA game – acknowledge the disruption or issue, apologise for any inconvenience, reassure that you’re working to fix things, and will give updates as soon as you can. Do not give too much detail. Do not speculate. Be sensitive and take control. As with all messaging think about things from the audience’s point of view. Yes, something may be an absolute disaster for you but it may not have a huge impact on your customers. Don’t downplay anything either. I admit it’s difficult to get the right balance and it does take years of experience to get messages out sensitively in a way that creates the impact you want and doesn’t have unintended consequences. My advice is to have a comms person on your emergency contact list. Even if they don’t work directly for you, just having someone you trust who can sense check what you intend to send out is very worthwhile.


Springing into action


Then have a plan for getting the message out. Make sure you can access your social media channels, that you can update your website, and be able to get to your email marketing systems. Think about images and not just words at this point. For example, a company that has to make redundancies and lets the world know about it with a photo of the chief executive smiling is asking for negative media coverage. Likewise, when organisations have to announce sad or difficult news, they may choose to change their logo to a black and white version and tone down their cheery brand. Remember not all crises will need these things but they are things to think about and have in place, just in case.

Getting the message out well can be a great thing for a brand, even if the news they are getting out is awful. If you can show you are taking control and learning from mistakes and moving on. You can even grow trust in your organisation, so don’t only view situations like this as a negative but potentially an opportunity to show the very best side of your people and who you are.


Preparing for the worst


Now think about all the negative things people – particularly journalists – could say about your organisation and operations as a result of the situations you brainstormed. Safeguarding, checks, security, planning, and every area of your organisation could be under the spotlight. It goes without saying your organisation needs to have all these contingencies in place and up to date etc. But you need to spend time thinking about what negative or difficult to answer questions you might face. Questions like “Why did this happen?” “Aren’t you supposed to be making sure X is safe?” “How can people ever trust your organisation again?”. These are not easy to face but are an important part of planning. Again, having a trusted, yet critical friend can be really helpful.


Review and revise


At this point, you should be starting to feel empowered and able to take on any issue life throws at your organisation. But that’s not the end. Make sure you have all of this safely stored but accessible by the relevant people in your organisation. But don’t let it gather dust. Regularly (once a year or when you change operations, areas of work, etc) get the plan out and go through it again. What’s changed? What needs to be updated? Depending on the size of your organisation, it may even be worth testing the plan. We Are Comma can help you with that.


Keep calm and carry on


If you do experience a crisis then you will be glad you put so much time into planning while you are dealing with trying to keep your organisation going. At that point, you’ll also have to look at other ‘moving parts’ for example how something relatively minor can become a national news story because it fits in with other topical issues of the day. And don’t forget once the crisis has passed and you’re in the recovery stage to debrief, review and evaluate.


See, that wasn’t so painful, was it? In fact, it may even have taken a load off your shoulders that you didn’t know was there.

So tell us, how many crisis scenarios have you come up with?


You can find out about We Are Comma, who we are, and the services that we offer on the website. Or to start a conversation you can email or use the contact form.


Pics courtesy of Adobe Stock and Motion Array.
Pic showing a senior team leader with her team planning strategy
4 types of content your organisation needs

4 types of content your organisation needs

4 types of content your organisation needs

You’re busy. We get it. Even when clicking on this blog you were thinking “do I have time for this?”. We know that social media can seem like just another thing on your never-ending admin list. And that pressure can take away your creativity. So here is some inspiration to get your juices flowing again. Here we share four types of content that all organisations benefit from.


1. Evergreen
This is the stuff that you create and can use again and again. It’s particularly good for when you have no time – when that unexpected ‘thing’ happens and social media really falls to the bottom of the to do list.  Spend an afternoon creating posts which you can share, adapt and recycle. Your future self will thank you.


2. Little buds
Your clients, donors, supporters, and anyone else who follows you want to hear about your latest news. It doesn’t have to be anything big but they want to know what you’re working on. What services, products and events might be of interest to them. Share it all. People often like a tease too so if you are working on something but can’t quite share the full details then just share what you can and let them know you will spill the beans as soon as you can.


3. Perennials
These can also be useful too for when you are feeling uninspired. Introduction posts, opening times, what you do and offer posts are great to pepper your content with from time to time. Just try to give them a fresh twist when you can. These are great to use when you notice you have had an influx of new followers.


4. Seasonal
Reflect what’s happening in the world but linked to your organisation. For example, you might like to share a photo of the office dog for bring your dog to work day. Just remember to make sure you are staying authentic and not just shoehorning in an awareness day, event or holiday for the sake of it. For example, if you run a cats rehoming centre then bring your dog to work day probably isn’t one to take part in.


Remember social media is all about creating community. It’s a place where your fans, clients, supporters etc can come together to get the latest news, events from you as well as keep in touch with your organisation but it should be just as much about them as you. Ask lots of questions and get discussions going.


Remember, if social media gets too much and you can’t keep up, you don’t enjoy it and it isn’t giving you the rewards you want you can contact We Are Comma for a free audit. We can suggest ways to improve. We can create content for you, give you a schedule or we can run your social media accounts. Drop us a line and see how we can help you:


So, to practise what we preach, tell us: what types of social media posts do you find most engaging? Drop us a line or comment on this post. You can also find out more about the services we offer by visiting the What We Offer page on the website.


Pics courtesy of Adobe Stock
Pic showing a group of people working on ideas for social media content

New Year, new clients

New Year, new clients

New Year, new clients

Not sure how it is already more than one month into 2022 but here we are. Towards the end of last year, I wrote a piece explaining our team had grown in 2021. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about the new clients we have been fortunate to work with in 2021.

Our new clients joined our collection of organisations that we produce a range of marketing, communications and design assignments for. We are very fortunate to be able to work on such interesting, diverse and exciting projects. One week we will be producing a new website, the next an animation and the following a range of social media posts. It keeps our creative juices flowing.

We had a number of return clients in 2021, including Shaw Trust and Ambiental Risk. Shaw Trust asked us to help with their annual Power 100 publication and their safeguarding report. Ambiental asked us to produce a new promotional animation for them.

Support goes both ways so as well as the services we always provide for our clients, we try to go above and beyond to add extra value and when we can provide favours. We believe in what our clients are trying to achieve and usually have to rein ourselves in knowing there are only so many hours in a day – so we love it when we get a chance to go overboard for a client and do that bit extra. These are just some of the ways we demonstrate the importance of supporting one another.

We also started working with the Career Innovation Company, helping them with their social media. It has been great to work on engaging potential clients through their channels and driving more visitors to their website. They have some really interesting blogs which have certainly got us thinking.

The Gandhi Foundation tasked us with updating their website – then added in a rebrand and some social media support too. Again, another interesting project which required some research into the life of a fascinating, wise man. You can see some of the work connected to this project on our Behance account.

We’ve also been back working with Vision Mission on a new website, another interesting project which concluded the branding and messaging work we did for them in 2020.

2021 was another busy year for We Are Comma and 2022 looks to be the same. No doubt we will be working even more new clients too.

Pic showing the updated Disability Power 100 logo and a spread from the new publication
How to create a successful marketing campaign: Christmas jumper day

How to create a successful marketing campaign: Christmas jumper day

How to create a successful marketing campaign: Christmas jumper day

This is the first in our irregular series looking at successful marketing campaigns and how you can create your own winning promotion.

2021 is the 10th anniversary of Save the Children’s annual fundraising Christmas jumper day. Last year the campaign raised £3m for the charity – despite all the challenges of last Christmas. So why is this campaign so successful? And most importantly, how can you recreate its achievements?

There are five key reasons Christmas jumper day is so popular.

First, it’s simple. It’s an easy-to-understand concept. Wear a Christmas jumper then donate some money for doing so. Great! Finding a similarly simple concept to promote your charity or organisation might not be so easy but it is possible. There are a few options – either you can choose a time of year that you want to focus your efforts on and pick something familiar as a ‘hook’ to hang your campaign on; Easter bonnet day for example. Or you pick something that it iconic to your brand and focus on that.

Secondly, use an item they have or are familiar with. Everyone knows what a Christmas jumper is. Many people own them. Picking a day when everyone should wear them makes it powerful. This leads into point three.

Three, make your campaign accessible. Everyone can wear a Christmas Jumper. This is one of the reasons it is so popular in schools, places of work – everywhere. Anyone and everyone can join in – if they’re willing to wear a questionable jumper. And in fact, since Christmas jumper day launched the options for more tasteful Christmas jumpers have increased. Incidentally this has been reflected in the marketing. It started as a very tongue in cheek, dodgy jumper day. But its simplicity and popularity mean it has grown to be more middle-of-the-road. Asking people to wear ballgowns, for example, will never become so popular because they are not so easy to get hold off, a good percentage of the population would rather not wear them and many people couldn’t do their job in them.

Four, make it regular. This is the 10th annual Christmas jumper day. Schools, PTAs, hospitals, community groups, local authorities – everyone knows to expect it in early December. This means they can make it part of their plan for the year.

Five, make people feel good. This is the most important part to any successful campaign. People have to feel good for taking part. Save the Children’s Christmas jumper day makes people feel good for donating to a worthy cause. And they can build excitement about the coming celebrations for Christmas. It’s a win-win. How can your organisation leverage this feel good factor? Are you a charity that people can feel good raising money for? Are you an organisation which people can volunteer for and feel good doing so? Are you a small business that can make people feel good for supporting? Find your feel good factor and use it.

What lesson from Christmas jumper day will you be taking into your campaigns in 2022?

Remember We Are Comma can help design, develop and deliver your campaigns and create success for your organisation. Email to find out how we could help you.

Pic showing a Christmas jumper pattern

Photos from Adobe Stock

We are two!

We are two!

We are two!

Today We Are Comma is celebrating our second birthday! Another year has whizzed by so as is our custom, we are taking some time to reflect on the year.

Our biggest take away from this year is the importance of supporting one another. Last year we wrote about the importance of choosing clients carefully. This year we have been so grateful that we did and we want to give an especially big thank you to all our clients.

We have had a number of new clients join us this year including The Gandhi Foundation, Career Innovation Companyand the Disabled Living Foundation among others. We have loved getting to know these organisations and supporting them with new ideas, driving their marketing forward and supporting them.

We have also continued to work with many of our long-standing clients including Blackfen Community Library, Shaw Trust, Inspace Media, 1st Industrial and Commercial Services and Valicity to name a few. We have valued their continued support of We Are Comma and their repeat business over these difficult, COVID-19 pandemic times.

Support goes both ways so as well as the services we always provide for our clients, we try to go above and beyond to add extra value and when we can provide favours. We believe in what our clients are trying to achieve and usually have to rein ourselves in knowing there are only so many hours in a day – so we love it when we get a chance to go overboard for a client and do that bit extra. These are just some of the ways we demonstrate the importance of supporting one another.

So, what does the next year have in store for We Are Comma? We’ve got some exciting potential projects coming up with even more new clients – watch this space. We’ll continue to give our clients the excellent creative service they expect from us. In our last blog post we spoke about how the team has grown over the last year – so maybe we’ll grow the team again this year. We’ll definitely be sharing more on our social media channels so keep an eye out to see what we’re up to on our LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

Who would you like to give a shout out for their support this year?

Pic showing two people discussing some work on a laptop

Photos from Adobe Stock