Crisis Communication: If a crisis hits, do you have a plan?

February 25, 2015

Today we have a guest blog post from Nancy Valent of NMV Strategies on crisis communication.

Your phone rings.

It’s a CNN reporter wanting to know why your facility had an explosion, which injured five of your employees.

What is your response?

Probably the first reaction you have is to say: “No comment.” It seems harmless and a good safety net to buy you some time. In reality, your “no comment” starts a snowball reaction of assumptions that you are trying to hide something or go on the defensive.

Spokespeople who use this phrase are subliminally communicating that they are not being proactive or stepping out to really tell the truth. This type of response drives both consumers and business clients away and starts to degrade your brand and corporate identity faster than just saying in a very truthful tone: “I will get back to you in an hour with the facts and information, which I can confirm.”

Too many large, medium and even small manufacturing businesses operate under the philosophy that a company crisis will never happen to them. But, if it does it won’t get media attention and somehow they will ultimately handle it. If you research any of the past company crises that get national attention and talk to the manufacturing operations people who have lived through it, they will tell you everyone should be prepared for the sudden and the smoldering crisis…it can happen to you.

Preparation is relatively easy if you have created a plan before a crisis hits. Here are some questions to ask the management team and/or your communications department:

  • If we had a crisis, who would be the spokesperson?
  • How would we communicate with our employees and our customers?
  • What are three key message points we would want to share about the history or background of our company to illustrate that we were good corporate citizens in safety and other aspects of business?
  • Do we have a hard copy of key phone numbers for organizations and people who would need to be contacted? (Having it your smart phone doesn’t count if it was left behind on your desk in the burning building.)
  • Do you have a good relationship with one reporter in the local media who knows your company and can accurately report the facts?

Manufacturing companies have Risk Management Plans and Emergency Preparedness Plans, which address business continuity, etc. In most cases, these plans usually do not go the extra mile to detail all the nuances of effective internal and external communications when a crisis hits.

Being proactive and prepared with a Crisis Communications Plan also works in tandem with these plans so that you have designated teams handling your target audiences; be it the communications with the media, your customers/clients, shareholders, employees and even your competition.

Knowing how to communicate effectively while a crisis is occurring and knowing how to handle your emotions on-camera are skills that can be developed before a crisis hits. Being prepared helps to safeguard your brand and positioning of your company. It is something to think about doing for your company sooner than later.

Nancy has experience in the communications handling of plant explosions, chemical spills, gas leaks, company espionage and disgruntled employees. Her background in media relations with the national and international press is well established, having directed media opportunities throughout the United States and Latin America. Visit nmvstrategies.com for more information.


Are Independent Industrial Distributors Helping Amazon to Succeed?

February 24, 2015

I recently read a great article in Industrial Supply magazine on how independent distributors are helping Amazon take business away from them. The article was written by Jack Bailey, CEO of IDC-USA, an independent distributor cooperative.

The article is interesting because it not only affects distribution, but ultimately the manufacturers who supply them. From a distributor’s point of view, they are either scared to death of them or they think it’s a passing fancy and this too will go away.

The problem is that most items that have part numbers and can be ordered online or through a PO are prime game for Amazon. Amazon has convinced many distributors to join their third party selling agreement to sell their products on the Amazon e-commerce site. Short term for many of them, it means more sales, but long-term, it will mean disaster. Amazon is a great collector of data and once they have enough profile info on who buys what, they can and will cut out the independents.

What does it mean to manufacturers who have resisted selling to Amazon is they run the risk of being replaced by a competitive product and literally lose millions in sales when Amazon comes to them with all this data of who bought what from whom.

This has always been one of manufacturers biggest challenges with traditional distribution of getting the names of their customers and what they buy. Now the distributors are willing to give that up freely to their biggest potential competitor that could put them out of business and they will!

How ironic!


Are Field Salesmen Dead?

February 18, 2015

I recently read an article in Industrial Distribution Magazine by Justin Roff-Marsh that basically said that the industrial distributor field salesman, as we know it, is DOA.

I don’t know what planet he was born on, but it wasn’t this one! If he was, he would realize that to survive against the big national brands, they must have a unique selling proposition and a strong brand promise.

Granted, if you’re a general line house, your survival rate isn’t good. But most distributors today focus on either a market (Electrical, Plumbing, Construction, etc.) or in specific disciplines like power transmission, cutting tools or industrial hose and fittings. They become experts in that field and customers depend on them for not only product, but advice. This is how they can compete with the Biggies like Grainger and Fastenal.

Speaking of the big boys, who’s going to tell them to stop opening more brick and mortar stores and by all means don’t hire any salesmen!

If this guy did his homework, he’d know that in these models, a lot of their customers come to them. I bet he’d be surprised if he were to walk into a STAFDA, electrical or plumbing wholesaler between 6:30 and 9 any morning, that he’d have a pretty good chance of being run over by customers picking up stuff. And they’re not just picking up an order, they’re talking with counter people on how to solve a particular problem. What’s that worth?

Granted, the role of field salesman has changed over the years, and I don’t expect anyone makes cold calls anymore. But the seasoned field salesman is worth his weight in gold. He’s aware of his surroundings as he walks through a plant or construction site identifying opportunities for new sales. You can’t do that on a phone call or an email.

Years ago, I was making a sales call with a salesman who was called into a customer who was having some production problems with cutting tools. I was amazed as this salesman walked onto the shop floor and walked directly to the CNC machine that they were having trouble with (without even being told ) by just listening to the sound of the machine. He suggested a few adjustments to the feeds and speeds and the problem was solved. The point is, they don’t teach that in college or anywhere else. It comes from experience.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is people still like to buy from other people. If you have value and can help them do their job better, you can bet they’ll make time for you. Look at independent buying groups like Affiliated Distributors or NetPlus Alliance. Each year, they post strong sales growth despite the growing competition. I’ll bet field salesman come into that equation somewhere.


LinkedIn Still the Top Performer for B-to-B

February 17, 2015

I don’t know about you, but LinkedIn continues to be a top performer for me and my blog posts. The top referrer is search engines, but LinkedIn is a strong second and Twitter is third for getting the right eyes on my blog.

A recent article in eMarketer.com confirms the fact that among top social sites for B-to-B, LinkedIn remains on top for both usage and effectiveness.

I use LinkedIn exclusively to share my posts with not only the folks that linked to me, but to the numerous LinkedIn groups that I belong to. I’ve had clients who have great success in recruiting the right kind of talent using their paid job searches.

Are you using LinkedIn, and if so, are you having similar success?


Want a Way to Attract Young People? Try a Ride and Decide Job Shadowing Program.

February 11, 2015

For those of you who read my posts on a regular basis, you know I’m concerned about the long-term viability of all the trades because the older tradesmen are retiring at a far greater pace than young folks coming in. I recently read an article in Contractor Magazine that said that out of every 4 people who leave the trades, only one is entering the field.

Gordy Noe, president of Pioneer Heating and Air Conditioning  in Knoxville, Tennessee, has come up with a unique program called, “Ride and Decide” where he hires high school students for summer jobs and puts them to work. It gives them a chance to dip their toe in the water and see what opportunities are out their other than a 4-year degree.

It’s a win-win for everyone. Young folks get paid work for the summer break and get to experience a trade that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise do. Contractors get to show them firsthand what they do and what the potential earning power is in the trades. Here’s an interesting stat – only about 10% of those that graduate college actually get a job in the field they studied!

This program is a great model that other contractors across the country might want to try. Talk with local high schools and post jobs both in the schools and online via the social media outlets. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Go to your trade associations like the PHCC or NECA. They certainly should have resources that will help you attract the attention of the younger set.

Who knows, you might be able to start growing talent from within. You could hire these young folks, and as part of their training, offer them educational support by paying for classes at a local trade school or community college.

If you liked this post, you might find these of interest:

Education, Recruiting and the Trades – a Small Step Can Make a Big Difference.

Attracting and Retaining manufacturing talent.


Are You a Strategic or Tactical Thinker?

February 10, 2015

Strategic or Tactical, which is more important? It takes both to ensure a comprehensive marketing program. Most of us have no problem doing tactics since we can list the tasks and check them off.

Strategic thinking is another matter. It really sets the tone from which the tactics are identified and then implemented.

Jason Falls from Social Media Explorer summed it up very simply on what the difference is.

Strategy vs. Tactic Pyramid

Strategic thinking identifies who we are or who we want to be. What do we stand for?

Tactical identifies those things (what we do) in order to support our strategic thinking.

My biggest challenge is that I always tend to fall back on tactics because I can, in my own mind think that by checking off tasks, I’m accomplishing something. I guess I am, but it’s short-term.

The best way for me to make sense of both of them is that strategic is long-term and tactics are more short-term.

Do you have the same struggle with strategies like I do ?

I know we need both and we can’t have meaningful tactics until we have a strategy.


Online Video Training Can Make Contractors Be More Productive

February 4, 2015

From a manufacturing point of view, it’s in your best interest to train contractors on the best way to install your product. It eliminates call backs and helps contractors sell more of your stuff. No surprise there, but with sales forces that are stretched thin, now they can only do so much training. Where do they focus their efforts – on the distributor’s sales force or on the end user?

The answer is use online training for both.

  • You can train distributor sales on new products, not only on features and benefits, but also on where/when they should be used. There are several eLearning options out there that can test them after to make sure they got the point.
  • You can train contractors on new products/processes and installation tips.
  • Online lets them take the course on their timeline, not yours.

Both distributors and contractors want to get the most out of both employees as well as opportunities, so you’re better off arming them with the right info.

  • According to the American Society of Training and Development, companies that spend $1,500 or more per employee average a profit margin 24% higher than those who don’t invest in their employees.
  • Deloitte reports that 18% of all training is now on smartphones.
  • Cisco’s VNI Global IP traffic and service adoption forecasts that by 2018, 79% of all internet traffic will be videos.

If you like this post, you might want to read:

Do You Have a B-to-B Video Strategy?

Manufacturers: Are You Missing out on Video Opportunities?

B-to-B Video is on the Rise: Are You Taking Advantage?


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