Posts Taged media-relations

The CEO’s role in a brand crisis

brand crisis ceo

In the middle of a crisis for your brand, who do you want facing the public and weathering the storm? The instinctual answer might be your CEO. However, even in the midst of an exceptionally terrible time for your brand, someone other than your CEO could be a better option to help communicate with the public. There are a variety of factors to consider, and the planning for these scenarios should happen long before a crisis occurs.

The debate

As the head of your company, the CEO probably already has a public presence. Whether or not they’re always the best spokesperson for your company, however, is up for debate.

Public perception of business executive duties and roles is one of the strongest arguments for having your CEO step up to the plate in a crisis. As the highest-ranking executive, consumers expect them to know what’s going on, care about finding a solution, and figure out how to implement this quickly. Especially with corporations, where CEOs are often well-paid, consumers assume CEOs are adept at managing their businesses and place a high priority on customer experience. In a brand crisis, having the person highest on the executive chain publicly address it can go a long way in quelling public upset. A CEO who appears absent (or worse, isn’t good with the media) can prolong the crisis.

On the other hand, however, certain crisis situations can benefit from having the CEO be present, but not serving as the “mouth-piece.” Interacting professionally with the media and public isn’t a skill that comes naturally, and a CEO not prepared to defend their brand while keeping public perception in mind can create a long-term brand reputation issue. Additionally, a CEO doing rounds of media interviews may appear to be doing nothing more than talking; if they’re always on TV, are they jumping in and doing any of the hard work to solve the problem? In some cases, it makes more sense to have the CEO on the ground, visibly working to solve the issue, and leave the speaking to a lower ranking executive or official spokesperson.

Preparing for a crisis with your CEO

Whether or not they’ll be the spokesperson, a CEO needs know the crisis communications plan inside and out well before an issue arises. Plans to address a crisis and the role top executives will play should be developed to address a wide variety of potential problems, and should be revisited and updated often. Key things to keep in mind:

  • Transparency and authenticity above all else. “No comment” is not an option. Brands and their spokesperson need to be ready to be transparent about how the problem happened and what they’re doing to solve it. The response needs to show concern for the customers affected, authentically – don’t have a Tony Hayward And if your CEO does slip and make a statement like Hayward’s “I want my life back,” make sure they’re not photographed on their yacht a few days later.


tony hayward BP

Tony Hayward, former BP CEO

  • Media training. Even if they won’t be doing the press rounds and will be focusing on being hands on, media will likely still approach and cover the CEO’s activities during the crisis. CEOs should be fully media trained, with refresher courses frequently. Beyond speaking to journalists in person, this should include how to present themselves in public in case of any photos, and how to handle their personal social media channels.
  • Understand the level of response required. Not all crises are 5-alarm fires. Adidas’ recent flub with their Boston Marathon congratulatory email was bad, but the majority of the public understood the intern. It didn’t require a groveling press tour from the CEO, and their response was quick, open, and authentic. United Airline’s recent troubles, however are definitely a serious crisis that requires the visibility of the CEO.


In times of crisis, the CEO certainly has a role – it just might not be that of spokesperson. As United Airlines’ Oscar Munoz has shown recently, this can backfire – and Munoz and the airline are both paying for it. Whether or not the situation calls for the CEO to be the spokesperson, the key thing to remember is that planning for a crisis can often avert one before it starts, and save your brand a lot of trouble.

Five Key Elements of a Successful Funding Announcement

five key elements of a successful funding announcement

Congratulations – your startup has received a mega round of funding. You have just a few weeks until the announcement date and while the planning process will be fast and furious, the strategy must be buttoned up to ensure success. Like any corporate news, a successfully executed funding announcement will take thoughtful planning, a well-designed strategy and collaboration among many stakeholders.

With funding news making headlines every day at publications such as TechCrunch and Fortune Term Sheet, you may wonder how your startup can stand out. While every campaign will look a bit different, here are five key elements of a successful funding announcement.

  • Clear and concise talking points: Early on in the planning process, work with your PR team to develop talking points. Address topics such as investor participation, the company’s plans for using the funding and specific growth figures that can (or cannot) be shared publicly. Ensuring the team is on the same page about specific facts and key FAQs ahead of media outreach will set everyone up for success.


  • Collaboration with leadership: Aside from major personnel announcements or introducing a new product to market, funding is often a startup’s most important piece of news in a year. Engaging with leadership – including the CEO and founders, board members and perhaps the investors as well – and ensuring the key players are all involved in the planning process will help the announcement go off without a hitch. It’s also an opportunity to get the C-suite excited about their PR program, which will promote success for the team beyond the funding news campaign.


  • A targeted media list: While the importance of a media list is critical to any successful PR campaign, it’s worth reiterating that the success of the funding announcement relies on it. Keep the initial list of targets short and targeted to those who have a strong reputation for honoring embargoes. Aside from national business press, remember the importance of engaging local media as well – particularly if the company is in an emerging tech market outside of the Bay Area.


  • Employee communications: It’s the hard work of your employees that has contributed to this exciting moment for the company, so use it as a reason to celebrate. Ensure that employees are looped in on the announcement once it publishes, and share any news articles throughout the company to get everyone excited about the milestone.


  • Ongoing thought leadership: After the funding news has gone live, recognize that it’s just the beginning of an ongoing thought leadership campaign. Use the opportunity to engage with local media through in-person “meet and greets” over coffee, develop a platform for contributed articles and speaking opportunities, and seek out timely topics to reengage with business press who you spoke with through the funding outreach.


five key elements of a successful funding announcement

A funding announcement is an exciting opportunity to engage with national tech and business press (often for the first time), and begin carving a stake in the ground in the industry. The secret behind rapid growth of startups like AirbnbUber and Snapchat can be attributed to a special formula that includes strategic funding, an innovative product, consumer interest and of course, a great PR strategy.

3 Tips to Create an Effective Media List


The creation of an effective media list is an essential component to any PR plan. A media list is a compilation of media outlets including specific reporter contact information. As someone who is just beginning my career in PR, I find myself looking to the below tips when creating media lists from scratch. They have helped to direct my process and break down the task of creating a media list into manageable parts. Here’s hoping it can do the same for you.

Understand Your Audience and Scope

This is a crucial starting point for beginning your media list. Who is your client and who are they trying to reach? What industry are they in and what industries are do they want to engage? What kind of publicity are they looking for? The more specific you can be with these answers, the better. This gathered information should guide the media outlets you target, whether it’s print, online, broadcast, or some other form of media.

Similar to understanding your audience is determining the scope of the publicity you want for your client. Where do they want to be seen? Do they want highly localized media coverage? Regional or national? This will help broaden or narrow your focus on media outlets.

mobile social media


Check Twice and Use Twitter

Finding the perfect media outlet for your client will only be helpful if you pitch to the right reporter. Media databases like MyMediaInfo will have information about reporters and their beats, but they could be out of date. It’s important to cross check this information with other sources. This can be done with media outlet staff directories, such as The Oregonian. However, while some media outlets have detailed staff directories, others do not. You can also look up past articles written by a reporter to ensure they align with the content you hope to pitch.

Social media can also provide additional insight on a reporter. Check out their Twitter or other social media platforms to see the kind of content they consistently post. This can be a helpful indicator of what content interests them. Additionally, interacting with reporters via social media can help them get to know you which is beneficial when pitching.

Have a Little Patience

Sometimes finding the right reporter at the optimal news outlet can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Some clients may be highly specific and have less outlets that are applicable, while others may be broader. Be persistent with your research. Crafting a great media list can take time and that’s okay. Happy hunting!