Member communication support for CEO’s

Many thanks to all who joined the conference call this afternoon where Peter Mitchell, Business Talk, provided us with helpful advice, best practices and tips. Peter spoke of having key messages, express understanding, important factors around crisis communications, what to do next, how to deal with worries and threats, and finally how to perform in a local Radio Interview. The following is a summary of the points covered by Peter:

Where we’re at

  • This is a human-interest story, not a finance story… the crisis not of your making – so less risk for you to speak out
  • Crisis also not of the member’s making
  • Members are worried, and sensitive – be conscious of both
  • Base holding statements already in all CU offices, websites, Facebook  – now we need more particularly as you’re now an essential service
  • Members currently looking for immediate reassurance rather than immediate solutions – if you defer your communication for a week or so, you’ll be expected to deliver solutions

Crisis communications

  • The importance of knowing when to prioritise speed over perfection – that would be now
  • Being supportive is not enough in a crisis – you must be human and talk about it – this is a real opportunity to remind everyone the role of the Credit Union – someone in your town will come forward to give this reassurance – let that be you

What to do next

  • Speak with local media – print and radio – select most popular shows
  • Be interviewed; be human; be informative – you really don’t have that many threats or secrets
  • Put your best communicator forward – needs to be senior, but not necessarily the CEO
  • Develop your 3-4 key simple messages, plus some supporting messages (CUDA’s press release is a great starting point and went down really well with the media – see copy on www.cuda.ie) – tough times for some members; we’re there to support members; ask that they get in touch; we have a range of options; understanding and supportive…
  • Talk about what is happening, how so members feel, how staff feel, worries / concerns of everyone – we’re in this together…just like the social distancing, we’ll solve this together
  • Don’t slag off the competition – banks, PCP etc. – this is a time to be 100% positive and focus on support for credit union members
  • Reaffirm that we will restructure loans where necessary, work with members who have issues – case by case is best as every circumstance is different….

Worries & threats

  • Difficult questions – most interviewers will simply be trying to extract info from you not to catch you out but be prepared for difficult questions.
  • We’re only a week or so in, so you can’t have all of the answer – get comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know, but we will support…’

A Radio Interview

  • They are short – approach is similar to public speaking except the audience is free to listen to some or all or just listen in at the end etc.
  • Be at the landline number you gave the radio station in a quiet room 10-15 mins ahead – listen into the show so you know what’s going on. When they call switch off the radio as it will interfere. Have some glass [water] with you.
  • Make your 3 main points as soon as you can generally at the first open question, reaffirm them, then make some or all of them at the end.
  • Remember the name of the interviewer and use it occasionally if you can.
  • Don’t waffle or fill the dead space.  Short answers are best, but not abruptly short.
  • Remember, this is a human-interest story, not a finance story.
  • Be open, empathetic, understanding and human.
  • Repeat your messages during the interview. Use different phrases but don’t assume it was heard the first time.
  • Some questions will be stupid – work with the interviewer.
  • Don’t be pushed into a Yes/No answer with a Cliff-jump question e.g.

“So, will you write off everyone debt” – “we are committed to supporting our members …case by case… we’d ask any member worried whose income is reduced or gone and has a loan with us to contact us… we have a variety of ways you can do this our – website …., phone ….. facebook ….. etc”

“Do you think the banks are handling this well? – “it’s early days for everyone, but I’m here to talk about our members….”

Possibly communication strategy/ sequence for COVID-19

  • 1st press release/ interview – tough times for some members; we’re there to support members; ask that they get in touch; we have a range of options; understanding and supportive…
  • 2nd press release/ interview – high level of member enquiries; many members helped; need to also safeguard staff so reduced hours…
  • 3rd press release – reduce demand for services – temporary branch closures, some layoff (temp or otherwise) to safeguard staff and members….

Peter’s contact details are:

Mob: +353 87 2599814

peter.mitchell@businesstalk.ie

Stay safe, regards for now, Kevin