On February 21, Jennifer C. Van Vleet, CPSM, vice president of corporate marketing, and Leslie White-Hebert, marketing manager, both with Coffman Engineers, Inc., will present the Webinar "Crisis Communication: The Elephant in the Room." SMPS recently interviewed Jennifer and Leslie about their interest and experience in crisis communication planning, the importance of developing a plan and identifying the appropriate resources, program takeaways for Webinar participants, and recent trends including the use of social media. Here's what they shared with us.
SMPS: What unique qualifications do you bring to this program?
Jennifer/Leslie: Jennifer operates as the corporate marketing voice; therefore, she understands the importance of being prepared for various communication issues and situations companywide. Leslie has a master’s in communications from Gonzaga University and is extremely passionate about corporate communication topics and how to achieve the best and most efficient results. We both have attended conferences and workshops addressing corporate communication and crisis planning.
We recognize that a marketer in the A/E/C industry tends to wear many hats. One of those hats is public relations, and under that hat is a plethora of items, including crisis communication. This particular area can be often overlooked until too late. It is important that marketing personnel think about “what if?” and get prepared—it adds value to the position and ultimately the company.
SMPS: In your research and experience with this topic, what is the most effective way you have seen a firm apply the concepts?
Jennifer/Leslie: In preparing the crisis communication plan for Coffman, a related question sent out to the SMPS listserve yielded few results, as did phone calls to numerous colleagues. Firms must think about crisis scenarios beyond safety plans. At Coffman, a plan was formulated and a presentation given to all staff members educating them on crisis management and communication. The presentations have been repeated, and all new employees are made aware of the plan during orientation. This has helped raise awareness of the plan and the reality that crises can happen; when a crisis occurs, staff know where to turn. It also provides some reassurance to employees that management takes a thoughtful approach to business. There have been occasions when the plan was needed, but fortunately, the company did not need to utilize all sections. It was extremely helpful to call the team meeting and have the binder at the ready.
SMPS: What is the most important takeaway participants will gain from this program?
Jennifer/Leslie: After this presentation, the listener can build a plan and essentially apply the crisis elements directly into that plan to fit the needs of his or her firm. Many presentations cover why companies need a plan and best practices, but few presentations give attendees a guide to formulating the elements of an actual plan.
SMPS: What's the most interesting trend you are following? How do you think this trend will impact professional services marketing and business development, especially in the design and building industry?
Jennifer/Leslie: The most interesting trend we have found regarding crisis communication is social media. The landscape has changed drastically since the advent of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). It takes constant research and monitoring to remain current in these arenas, so a company can be well prepared to be proactive in a crisis.
To learn more, register today for "Crisis Communication: The Elephant in the Room," scheduled February 21 at 2 pm EDT, 1 pm CDT, Noon MDT, 11 am PDT.