Here's How to Prevent Your Company from Exploding into a PR Fire

The key, of course, is prevention. Companies need a robust system that keeps small problems just that. There must be instructions with clear, concrete steps to prevent smoke from becoming fire. Here are tips on how to help prevent your company from getting embroiled in a crisis:

1. Analyze Your Risks

2. Get Every Level Involved

I’m a believer that every employee should be CEO-ready. Similarly, every employee should be crisis-ready, too. Seek input from every level of your company, from the lowest-level employee up to Chairman of the Board. Have them identify the potential risks they see. Also have them consider how they would fix problems identified by others. Sometimes the solution is simple, but you’d never know it because of a lack of communication across teams. Then, take the opportunity to train every employee on your crisis management plan, including how to identify potential crises before they get to that stage.

3. Monitor and Vet Social Media

Social media is a blessing and a curse to business. It’s a wonderful platform to deepen ties with current customers, interact with new consumers, and develop fans of your brand. Businesses need social media, but it comes with risk. One simple tweet can start a firestorm of controversy. If your company is active on social media, you need someone constantly monitoring your feed. If a customer reaches out with a problem, get on it immediately. Importantly, you also need a variety of people to vet what you plan to publish on social media. Many a well-intentioned tweet has opened the door to unexpected criticism.

4. Have Fire Extinguishers at the Ready

No matter the planning and prevention, no business is perfect. There will be small problems that grow into big problems, and you need a failsafe in place to stop the bleeding. This includes a clear path for employees to escalate information when they see a crisis brewing. If the leader is on an extended absence, you need to know who will assume the leader’s crisis management responsibilities. This also requires regular training of all employees on your plan.

5. Ownership

It’s inevitable that bad things will happen. How you deal with them will define your company in the social consciousness. If the cover-up is always worse than the crime, then the denial of a crisis is always worse than the underlying problem. If you messed up, or sometimes even if it wasn’t your fault, own it. Transparency and honesty will buy you credibility with consumers, even if the rest of your response isn’t perfect.

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Will the Mighty Tech Giants Fall and the Upstarts Eat Their Lunch?

Legacy companies like Cisco and Microsoft have dramatically shaped our work lives. Those old enough to remember the electric typewriter will recall the joy of time saved when the word processor graced our desks. When the mighty Cisco introduced video allowing us to see colleagues at another location, we realized how awkward it is to include virtual colleagues in the meeting, a learning curve that helped bring teams together in a new way. Bottom line is this: Cisco and Microsoft gave the workplace the gift we all want more of–time. Until now.

Today, executives are looking for solutions that facilitate rapid progress and giving employees the tools to collaborate, create, and execute quickly. It used to be that Cisco’s Webex conferencing solution was the default standard for group collaboration. The reality is an audio and video solution cannot meet the needs of today’s workers, let alone the upcoming generation’s expectations.

If your company wants to innovate and attract top talent, it is time to carefully evaluate the technology you will need to win in the marketplace. Central to this task is looking ahead and not in your rearview mirror.

The Forces Shaping How We Work

The World Economic Forum identified seven disruptors changing the way you work. “Technology will be everywhere” is one one of the seven the WEF identified. Mix this trend with how Millennials and Gen Z have influenced the way we rely on our devices to communicate with one another.

In a recent Adobe study on the views of technology and work, over 80 percent of the global workforce says technology helps them be more efficient. At the same time, over 70-80 percent look to technology to help them collaborate with their peers.

In a different study by the World Economic Forum, 44 percent of respondents placed work flexibility as their top perk. In a 2017 report from Deloitte, the consulting giant put culture at the top of the list that demands executive attention.

In short, the future of the workplace is driven by technology. To realize the capital investment in new information technology, it requires a culture that helps employees work with ease.

It’s the last two sentences above that should have companies like Cisco and Microsoft worried.

Eating the Legacy Companies’ Lunch

Talking to a phone does not help people connect and collaborate. “A phone call is the best way to collaborate,” said no one ever. Today’s employees are using Slack to communicate across teams. Work is done using Adobe’s suite of creative tools (think Photoshop, InDesign, Audition) and its favored PDF software. 

Though the legacy companies offer video to replace the dreaded phone, it becomes one more app to use. The value of video meeting solutions like Zoom or RingCentral is they are affordable, offer a consistent experience, and are easy to implement across the organization.

This is where a company like Bluescape makes the ecosystem of apps and tools a seamless experience. With Bluescape, you can bring together in one system Slack, Adobe, Zoom, Microsoft documents, Dropbox, Google Apps tools, and more.

So, instead of shuffling through a bunch of screens or struggling with wonky cameras, imagine a collaboration command center. Perhaps this flexibility is why Fortune 50 companies and movie makers are now using Bluescape and Slack. Alternatively, perhaps this is why the two companies are teaming up to support the dynamic needs of today’s modern workplace?

Yeah, We’ve Got That

A significant limitation to Microsoft and Cisco’s collaboration technology is it limits companies to only their solution. If employees prefer Zoom over Skype, they cannot use it. It doesn’t integrate seamlessly into the legacy companies’ products. Slack? Nope.

The future of collaboration is one-part technology and one-part human dynamics. When a preferred tool can better facilitate progress, but it falls outside a complete solution, user adoption suffers. 

Replace the boneyard of apps no one uses with a philosophy of “yeah, we’ve got that app, too.” A secure, open architecture solution eases IT’s security concerns and offers your employees access to the tools that fit the way they work best.

The Collaboration of Collaboration Solutions

Yes, collaboration is more than technology. It is also humans working together in a manner that adds to the employee experience.

Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, a software development company, says technology needs to do what it promises. He believes this brings people joy. There is something to his philosophy.

Companies like Bluescape, Slack, and Adobe are replacing the frustrations and disappointments that come with technology that does not deliver a predictable, joyful experience for your employees.

I’ll leave you with this thought. The one-to-one nature of a Webex meeting or listening passively to a PowerPoint presentation is passé and not collaboration. The future of work is centered on collaborative work environments. This includes offering flexibility and choice in the tools employees can use to collaborate and connect with one another.

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Reuters Top 100: The World's Most Innovative Universities – 2018

(Reuters) – For the fourth year running, Stanford University tops Reuters’ ranking of the World’s Most Innovative Universities, a list that identifies and ranks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries.

1. Stanford University. The Hoover Tower rises above Stanford University in Palo Alto, California REUTERS/Noah Berger

Contributing to its solid foothold at No. 1 is Stanford’s steady stream of patents and research, which are frequently cited by other academics around the world. Those citations play a key role in the ranking of the world’s most innovative universities, which was compiled in partnership with Clarivate Analytics, and is based on proprietary data and analysis of numerous indicators including patent filings and research paper citations.

Recent Stanford research highlights include several developments in the field of artificial intelligence, including the next generation of camera systems to guide self-driving cars and simulators that can predict potential drug interactions before new pharmaceuticals are ever tested on humans.

2. MIT. A man walks through Killian Court at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

While a few UK and Asian schools have ascended, American universities continue to dominate the top of Reuters’ ranking. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, places second on the list, and Harvard University comes in third, making 2018 the fourth consecutive year that those universities have held those exact spots. The University of Pennsylvania came in fourth place for the second consecutive year, and the University of Washington is up two spots to round out the top five. The University of Texas System placed sixth. Belgium’s KU Leuven, ranked No. 7, is the highest ranked university outside the U.S., followed by Imperial College London (No. 8), the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (No. 9) and Vanderbilt University (No. 10). Overall, eight of last year’s 10 highest-ranked universities remained in the top 10.

Other universities on Reuters’ ranking have broken out of the pack because of new, groundbreaking research. The biggest mover on this year’s list is the University of Manchester, which surged 27 places from No. 80 to No. 53, largely because of research into the supermaterial graphene. Graphene is one of the strongest materials on Earth, yet also extremely light, flexible and highly conductive; it could prove a hugely important ingredient for future innovations in electronics, energy, transportation and other industries. Physicists theorized the existence of graphene in the 1940s, but it was first produced in 2004 by two University of Manchester scientists. Ever since then the university has dominated the world’s research into the cutting-edge material. Manchester is home to the UK’s National Graphene Institute, and patents related to graphene account for about a quarter of all filings from the university over the five-year period examined for this list.

Geopolitical trends are also a factor in this year’s rankings. In Europe, uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” from the European Union may already be pushing research out of the country: Germany added two universities to the Global Top 100 in 2018, and Reuters’ regional ranking of Europe’s Most Innovative Universities showed German universities gaining more than any other country. In Asia, Chinese universities are increasing their presence among the top 100 thanks to a new government push for innovation, and a focus on filing more patent applications.

Overall, the United States continues to dominate the list, with 46 universities in the top 100; Germany and Japan are tied for second best performing country, with nine universities each. South Korea has eight universities on the list; China, France and the United Kingdom each have 5; Switzerland has 3; Belgium, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands have 2, and Denmark and Singapore each have 1. Considered on a regional basis, North America has 48 universities in the top 100, Europe has 27, Asia has 23, and the Middle East has 2. There are no universities in the top 100 located in Africa, South America or Oceania.

Slideshow (13 Images)

Careful observers might note a few differences between how non-U.S. institutions rank on Reuters’ regional innovation lists, Asia’s Most Innovative Universities and Europe’s Most Innovative Universities, and how they rank on the global list. An institution’s relative ranking may change from list to list, since each ranking is dependent on summarizing 10 indicators and comparing that with others in a specific population; when that population changes, individual rankings might change as well. Furthermore, the global list is restricted to institutions that filed 70 or more patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization during the five-year period examined by Thomson Reuters. The cutoff for regional lists is just 50 patents, allowing a more in-depth view of the most active institutions within a limited geographic area.

Of course, the relative ranking of any university – or whether it appears on the list at all – does not provide a complete picture of whether its researchers are doing important, innovative work. Since the ranking measures innovation on an institutional level, it may overlook particularly innovative departments or programs: a university might rank low for overall innovation but still operate one of the world’s best medical schools, for instance. And it’s important to remember that whether a university ranks at the top or the bottom of the list, it’s still within the top 100 on the planet. All of these universities produce original research, create useful technology and stimulate the global economy.

Click here for the full methodology.

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Make the Most of Your 15 Minutes of Fame With These 9 Tips for Media Interviews

Let’s say your story pitch — or that of your public relations professional — worked, and you have an interview with a reporter. Congratulations. Now you must prepare to have a successful conversation and make sure your business, the work you do, and your expertise are all captured in a compelling news story. 

As a former journalist turned PR pro,  I coach clients for media interviews. Here are some of my top tips for print and broadcast interviews.

For Print Interviews

1. Be fully present and engaged. No multi-tasking.

If you are speaking with the reporter by phone, this means turning off email, text messages and instant messaging. Once I was staffing a phone interview and heard my client struggling to find his train of thought while his instant messenger was dinging. I fired off an IM reminding him to turn it off.

If you’re driving, pull off the road so you can concentrate on the questions and your story. If your quotes are a rambling mess the reporter can’t use or you sound distant or disinterested, you might not get another shot to tell your story. Consider this conversation with a reporter to be your number one job for the 15, 30 or 60 minutes it takes.

2. Stick to your areas of expertise.

Be helpful but don’t feel the need to talk about stuff you don’t know. If you can find answers and provide them later, say so. If something is outside your area, say so and perhaps offer up another subject matter expert is you know someone who would be appropriate.

3. Remember it’s a conversation.

This isn’t “Hamlet.” No monologues, please. Leave room for follow-up questions and some back and forth. Expect to be interrupted and roll with it. When reporters have what they need or if you say something that begs a follow-up question, they might stop you to ask another question. I’ve witnessed sources bristle at being interrupted. Don’t feel this way. It likely means you are doing a good job, and the reporter is being efficient with your time and theirs.

On a related note, don’t read your answers off a prepared sheet of paper. It’s OK — and smart — to have some notes, but you don’t want to sound wooden and stiff.

For TV Interviews

1. Prepare talking points.

You or your PR pro should prepare talking points on the topic you are covering in this particular TV interview. Talking points should read like headlines — short and sweet. Using this article as an example, one talking point would be: Two keys to a successful media interview: be engaged and be yourself. 

Prepare talking points even if the TV station doesn’t require them, but most do. This should go without saying, but if your PR pro writes your talking points for you, you really should read them before going on air.

2. Practice out loud and time yourself.

TV moves fast, so you want to practice giving short, succinct answers — essentially delivering your talking points in 10 to 15 seconds. 

Relax and smile. Never let them see you sweat. You got this.

For All Interviews

1. Do some research.

Bone up on the issue you’ll be speaking about, the media outlet and the reporter who will be conducting the interview. Read some of the reporter’s past stories. Watch past news shows and clips featuring the reporter you’ll speak with. Read the reporter’s online bio, Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile.

2. Allow plenty of time.

If you wedge an interview into a busy day, you’ll introduce unnecessary stress to this media interview experience. Make sure you have plenty of time to clear your head and be 100 percent present and engaged.

3. Ensure accurate attribution. 

Make sure to give the reporter and — if going on TV — the producer the correct spelling of your first and last name and your company name and provide your correct job title. You want reporters to refer to you by the right name in print and on air. You also want to make sure that the text for any onscreen graphics is correct.

Remember when you talk with reporters, you are reaching clients, prospects and more. Invest your time and energy accordingly. 

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