Author: hmansfield

Over the past year, the demand for our crisis communications services has been on a considerable rise. Not surprisingly either. With the advances in technology and associated ability to convey issues of consequence through social media, the court of public opinion has become both a ruthless judge and jury within minutes of many issues, grievances and disasters both real and perceived.

If left unattended, perception will always outflank reality and most companies have very little time to respond to a crisis. Every day that passes by without acting to resolve a crisis will negatively impact your brand and often results in significant losses. More often than not the public trust is weakened and, in some cases, irreparable. Sadly, we are seeing these situations in social and earned media on a regular basis.

Most glaring is the amount of time required for companies to respond to a perceived crisis. It is inexcusable. There is no longer room for “no comment” or “next day” strategies. Today, the public expects an immediate response. Failure to do so is usually dealt with a swift blow to the company’s brand.

Given this regular occurrence, more companies are now beginning to evaluate their crisis management plan preparedness for such an event. Moreover, shareholders of publicly traded companies are asking management and board members alike if such plans exist. And yet in a recent Nasdaq poll close to 50% of organizations do not have a crisis communications plan and only 50% felt their companies were “adequately prepared to manage crises effectively” exposing them to serious risk.

While this number is staggering, risk exposure rises even further when one considers the last time many of these companies with a plan in place have had it updated, including vulnerability audits and stress tests to ensure crises readiness.

The harsh reality is that if your company hasn’t updated their plan annually or are not regularly practicing scenarios they are invariably exposed to a wide variety of issues. If you are completely lacking a comprehensive crisis communication management strategy, your level of risk has grown exponentially.

Recently, newer issues have appeared more frequently in the media and public domain and it is probably worthwhile to re-examine the issues that you may be up against. Some of the more frequent issues include:

  • Data breach, identity theft, privacy and security
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Violations of public trust within government
  • Offensive social media transmissions by employees

What can you do to avoid these potential problems?

To begin with, I recommend having an internal team meeting to determine whether or not your company has a current plan in place, and if you do, to carefully evaluate if the plan is sufficient. If there is even the slightest hesitation, bring in an outside expert to review and augment. You may find yourself in the middle of an exercise that requires considerable renovations to your existing plan. If your organization is completely without a strategy you should move quickly to have one built. This is not an exercise that should be taken lightly or handed to someone inexperienced.  Each crisis communications management strategy is unique to each company and while many follow fundamentals, the end strategy can often take between two and three months to assemble.

 What does it cost to hire an outside expert?

 No two plans are alike and therefore careful consideration should be given to the experience and size of undertaking you may be embarking upon. There is no set cost equation or template plan but consider the following to be some numbers to give you a barometer of costs likely to be incurred.

  •  Plan creation – involves multiple meetings with key stakeholders including senior management, legal, tech, frontline staff, etc. Largely depends on size and structure of organization. $25,000 to $50,000+
  • Training – this will include spokesperson training, media training, and mock interview drills to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the routing when a crisis occurs. $3,500 to $15,000+
  • Stress/vulnerability tests to examine potential problems and create routine response mechanisms. Depends on the size and nature of the company. $10,000 to $25,000+

Keep in mind the scope of your costs will be largely dependent upon the size of your organization, the amount of training involved, and the vulnerability audits and program adjustments required. At the end of the process you should have a manual, a crisis ready communications team and a good understanding of the possible scenarios you may experience and what to do when they happen.

Stock Chart for FB

Facebook (FB) stock plunge on Cambridge Analytica data breach

The cost of not having a plan and reacting poorly to a situation can cost you millions and even billions of dollars within hours. At the end of the day, the money you spend now will be considerably less than the money you will have to spend without one.

The likelihood of a company crisis today is not a matter of “if” vs. “when”. Having a crisis communications management strategy in place will undoubtedly help you mitigate your losses and protect your brand.

Hugh Mansfield (hugh@mansfieldinc.com) has over 25 years of crisis communications management experience. Hugh has handled some landmark cases including data theft, privacy, FDA, FTC and State Attorney investigations, Auditor General enquiries, filing issues with SEC, NASDAQ and TSX, along with major labor disputes, public health and safety, consumer product recalls, and numerous environmental disasters.

Whether you are looking to engage an influencer on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or smaller niche sites, influencer marketing is on the rise in 2017. To stay on top of this trend brands must actively change their strategies to capitalize on this seismic marketing shift.

Influencers are paid to sponsor a product or campaign through their blog, social media posts, other video/written content. The benefit is simply that many of their followers will often take the trusted source, in this case the influencer, as being a good motivation to check out a brand, participate in a sale offering and possibly initiate a purchase.

There are five market measurements of Influencers:

  • Micro (<10,000 followers),
  • Mid (10,000- 100,000)
  • Macro (>100,000)
  • Super Macro (100,000+ and some level of celebrity status)
  • Niche (follower counts can vary from 500-1,000,000s depending on category and expertise).

Most campaigns will take on a blend of influencers with each campaign directly involved in achieving a defined goal: Either brand amplification, general awareness, lead generation or a defined sales campaign.

Influencers are keenly aware of their power, and this is likely to increase as more brands continue to invest in them this year and beyond. Some of the things you may want to consider when negotiating with an influencer:

1) Do I possess the skill set to negotiate an influencer contract or should I be outsourcing this to an agency?

If you have no prior experience in negotiating with influencers you should consider the cost benefit of using a company that has knowledge, is process driven and can display results from past campaigns. Don’t get lured into influencer software platforms that will spit out millions of recommendations without a defined strategy. No two tracking software programs are alike and, at the end of the day, a human analysis will be required to legitimize whom you may be pursuing for your campaign. Most companies that have this area of expertise will have the required information and market knowledge to create a strategy that will get you the results you are seeking.

2) Do the influencer’s profile and audience fit with my brand? If not is there a parallel association that might make sense?

Experienced influencers will be very particular about your brand and their core audience. They will need to understand your campaign and how they might fit into their communications schedule without being accused of product pushing. Remember, they got to where they are by carefully curating their personal brand. Not all campaigns will have a direct relationship to your brand. As you build out your campaign look for audiences that may have similar character attributes that would be transferrable to your brand. For instance, could an influencer who has a large following in travel also have an impact in food? Also, look for niche experts in geographic locations. You may be pleasantly surprised by both finite expertise and local loyalty. You will also like the associated cost benefits.

3) How do I determine the Influencer’s track record?

Most influencers will have a media kit with past performances and results. Be sure and ask for it. If not ask for screen shots of Google Analytics or past campaign performances. A quality influencer will want to share this information as most campaigns today can be easily tagged and tracked.

4) Who controls the content?

Content control will largely depend on the influencer you are working with. Most influencers will want to know the campaign direction you are contemplating and make their partnership decision based upon this information. For the most part, they will want to incorporate your product info into their own vernacular that best suits their community. Try and look for longer-term relationships. One-offs don’t create any value at the lower three levels of influencers. Having said that, manage your expectations on what might be the outcome when you first begin the relationship. For this reason, incorporate a few influencers into your campaign and see which ones are the highest performers.

5) What is fair compensation?

Most influencers will be willing to negotiate their compensation. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $100 – $1,000 per post/campaign depending on their past performance and size of their base. Most influencers will prefer to be paid in cash, but some (few) will take product in whole or as part of their compensation. There will be other variables that will influence the cost such as schedule (theirs and yours), the length of campaign and level of endorsement you are seeking.  The greater the track record, the more money you will likely be paying. If you are prepared to engage celebrity or athlete endorsements, your cost multiples will increase substantially. Some influencers may to try and negotiate some value-add for their community. Be prepared to serve up some free product, brand swag or discount to those who ask.

6) Is there a contract?

Yes. Please make sure you have a signed Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before you begin negotiations. This way you are protected from the opportunity being publicly disclosed. From that point on, if you decide to proceed you need to have the terms defined in a written binding contract. A contract is the only way you will be protecting your rights and the content.

7) Should I be concerned about “sponsored” or “paid” labels on the content posted?

Most Influencers’ communities will not be swayed by the tag sponsored or paid. They will consider the merits of the brand and fully understand that the influencer to whom they are following will have made a commitment themselves to your brand.  They must be convinced of your product to take on an endorsement role for it is their community you are trying to penetrate.

8) How do I measure the success of the program?

See point # 1. If you are inexperienced in running these campaigns and seeking help there are a few base ingredients you should be considering such as:

  • What are the business objectives?
  • What portion of the customer journey am I trying to penetrate?
  • Is there a CPA or sales ratio for dollars spent?
  • Are there regional successes that may be transferrable to other geographic areas?
  • Do I have the right mix of influencers in my campaign?
  • Is the audience size right for my brand (Micro, Mid /Niche)?
  • Am I securing the brand affiliations I have identified in my plan?
  • What metrics am I tracking for success?

According to Altimeter’s Traacker report, 71% of marketers rate influencer marketing as a strategic area of their marketing campaign this year. The report also noted that while budgets are currently small, 55% plan to spend more on influencers in 2017.

A survey by IAB in 2016 indicated widespread rise in ad blockers, especially amongst younger demographics. A full 47% of people are using them, and this number will undoubtedly continue to rise, making influencers even a more valuable component of your marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing is big business and bound to increase even more in 2017 and beyond. Be careful with your negotiations and if you are just starting out, manage your program and expectations accordingly.

My grandmother was a unique individual who often remarked on her age as if it were the year you were in not the year that had passed. In many ways, she was logically correct. We celebrate our day of birth as reaching the exact measurement to the exact date of arrival on this great earth. The very next day you are technically living in the next year of your life. Three hundred and sixty-four days away from lighting another candle on the cake.

Truthfully, my grandmother’s logic drove most of my relatives crazy. For whatever reason, I took a particular fondness to her approach. It was both sensible and practical to me. It was a true and exact measurement. It was clever too. As a young boy, it gave me leverage in suggesting that I was technically one year older than my actual age. Not that this resonated with my mother (she was a detractor of grandmother’s theory) but it certainly brought an inquisitive look or two over the years and quite often a smile.

I often thought that as ardent as my grandmother was on her theory of birthdays, she was also half humoring us or instilling some sort of life lesson. It was perhaps her secret way of challenging us to think differently about a common celebration and maybe explore alternatives in the prevailing logic. Or perhaps it was her way of just being memorable.

It many ways, I look at life here at Mansfield Inc. as the year we are in. So much has evolved this past year as our industry continues to grapple with the velocity of the new technologies and information consumption habits of the audiences we are now catering to. We have new tools for campaign measurement, new methods of building client strategy frameworks while at the same time being committed to ensure the creative process is alive and well within these new boundaries. As we enter the third decade of Internet history we are facing a world of massive changes in the midst of a historical technological industrial revolution.

Another year has passed, and another candle has been placed on the agency cake. I am proud to say we just chiseled another notch in the doorframe as we enter our 23rd year.

Many clients and colleagues past and present have left their mark here. While my name remains on the door, it has been a collaborative team effort every step of the way. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities, challenges, and friendships and I look forward to many, many more in the years ahead.

HM

Hugh Mansfield is President & CEO of Mansfield Inc.

 Say goodbye to digital marketing in the dark.

Have you ever had a “great feeling” about a marketing strategy, but aren’t quite sure what the results will look like? Say goodbye to shooting in the dark, and say hello to the world of digital marketing where everything is measurable and accountable.

Digital marketing makes up 52% of overall marketing spending. CMOs expect to spend $228 billion on digital marketing in the US market alone this year. Digital marketing budgets are expected to outgrow TV in 2017. Considering your audience will be obtaining most of their knowledge online about your product offering, you should be creating a digital strategy for this year and next.

What are the basic ingredients of a digital marketing plan? Your plan should have a seamless transition from one media channel to the next- including mobile. Here’s 5 tips you should always think about when measuring your digital marketing success. The following list of simple components should be considered in your plan: more

Don’t be Overwhelmed by Big Data.

Recently I wrote a blog post celebrating the change of our name (A New Direction, 2015) and our company’s new direction into data analytics and digital marketing. In that blog I suggested that science is forevermore linked to marketing and communications. The reality of marketing today is that if you are not generating meaningful, measurable results than you are still working in the past and risk being left behind.

Many Chief Marketing Officers are fearful of changing direction to campaigns that are uniquely different. Many CMOs are also in the prime of their careers and have earned the right to set the strategy for the brand. Some CMOs may be asking themselves: Why change now when so much of what I have implemented in the past is working today? Why risk my legacy in favour of a trending topic?” Or do I even have the skill set or time to learn such a dense subject matter? more

I Am Truly Blessed.

Today marks 20 years since I first filed my letters of incorporation. I can honestly tell you that on February 1, 1995, I was not envisioning life in 2015. I was thinking more about the next six months – possibly twelve – if things went extremely well. I had little to lose and a very supportive roommate (whom I would eventually marry).

Having a good bloodline of entrepreneurs in the family also bolstered my confidence. My great grandfather had owned a number of companies in British Columbia, and even a brewery; Lucky Lager, which he eventually sold to Labatt. My grandfather Hugh had owned his own furniture store and I had heard many stories from my mother about the trials and tribulations of growing up in a family-owned business. Knowing both the “good” and the “bad” stiffened my resolve to pursue this adventure. more

Mansfield Inc. Forges Ahead

As we enter our twentieth year in business, we have made some major overhauls over the past 24 months that position our agency to forge ahead into the next frontier of integrated communication strategies.

To begin with, we have changed our company name to Mansfield Inc. We feel that it is important to begin the next chapter with a fresh look that represents our new offerings within the agency. Our fully accredited Data Analytics team is onboard, in-house, and ready to process large-batch databases in-house. more

This year, a number of us at Mansfield decided to wear the fur on our upper lip in support of Movember. I am pleased to say that in our very first year our agency MoBros and MoSistas raised over $2,000 towards the national campaign. The Canadian campaign raised over $21 million and counting making us the number one country globally for this year’s campaign. more

When I was entering my third office move in the Spring of 1998, it wasn’t because I disliked my current location (357 Bay St.), nice building owners, great cafe on the street level (now gone) and the front brass doors (still there) are from the old Toronto Star building- kind of fitting reminder of whom I am working with every single day of my career. more