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Building your business reputation and maintaining comms in a crisis with Liz Willingham #S1E9

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In the thick of a crisis like the coronavirus, your business communications have to change and hiding under a rock is really not going to serve you. As a PR Business Leader, Founder of Liz Lean PR and Director at the British Chamber of Commerce, Liz Willingham is helping businesses daily navigate their way through.

In this podcast she delves into why businesses should maintain communications and customer relationships, the importance of reputation and how to adapt and be creative in business during uncertain times. Away from the coronavirus challenge, we also discuss how to implement a PR strategy, cover the old school question - is there such a thing as bad publicity? Analyse the power of a pet story, the rise of becoming “Tik Tok famous” and share a few examples of sneaky and amusing accidental PR stunts she’s pulled herself in the past!

This episode of The 10th Degree covers:

  • The importance of business reputation

  • Maintaining communications and customer relationships

  • Understanding why your client or customer should buy from you

  • How to implement a PR strategy

  • Building relationships with editors

  • Adapting and being creative in uncertain times.

  • Examples of successful publicity stunts


Liz Willingham: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-willingham-09273a3/

Liz Lean PR: https://lizleanpr.co.uk/

Anthony Story: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anthony-story-4032a63/

Key highlights:

“PR underpins whether your customer wants to buy from you or not. It's really important that at board level, reputation is considered as the most important asset it has. And how you communicate to your audiences should be absolutely in line and mirror image to your brand message and your reputation that sits behind that. It takes a long time to build up a very robust reputation and there's lots of elements of that.”

“We aim to educate business leaders and decision makers that PR shouldn't be used as an emergency service, knee jerk reaction, panic button, “quick we need some comms out there” tool. Yes, it can work but it's nowhere near as effective as being ahead of the game, looking at it strategically, embracing it on a good day, so that when, unfortunately, as we're experiencing the moment bad days come, you are in a really healthy space in terms of your audience communication channels. People are used to hearing from you, you're a trusted voice so that when you have to deliver difficult messages, they're going to be taken on board and in a much more endearing way”

“Hiding under a rock in these challenging times is really not going to serve you. It might feel very uncomfortable, but use your PR teams to do it on your behalf. If you are in a really difficult trading space, don't just disappear. And if you need to, do a little bit of smoke and mirrors, because at the end of the day, when we start to break out of trouble times, you're going to be front of mind, ready to buy into and if you're a trusted voice, and your customers can continue to hear from you in the appropriate way that's true to your brand messaging, they will want to buy into you first.”

“I'm really excited, in a weird way about the adrenaline that has been created by this - yes, it can be fear based, I guess, but people who are innovating, who are being creative, who were turning what they traditionally do on its head. How can you communicate with your audiences when you no longer have that shopfront visible on the high street for example? How can you do it differently? And it's brilliant to see so many businesses diversifying - restaurants that can't trade anymore, are now converting their wholesale suppliers to be able to provide the food boxes to be picked up. We're doing exactly that as a family, today we're buying a veggie box and a fruit box from a local restaurant who can no longer trade through its traditional shopfront. And I absolutely celebrate that I think that more and more of that needs to come through. So I think it's hard to be creative if you're bogged down in the detail of trying to sort out what your staffing is doing and your overheads and trying to minimise the damage. But it really is worth investing a bit of time. Seeing how you can pop out the other end being seen to be creative with your ways of trading.”

“It's a really good excuse to get your “out there” creative head on. No one expects what was done before any more, they're open to new ideas. So grab that opportunity to diversify your products, your services and the way that you communicate it. And thankfully, we've got clients that are letting us do that at the moment.”

“The media still love, the biggest, the brightest, the first - all of these visually impactful stories still go down very well. And the pet stories, everyone loves a pet story, and also data and surveys. Getting a survey out there, representative of your sector and being a real thought leader in your sector by having some data to share with the media is really, really powerful.”

“It's about visibility and who shouts the loudest and who is front of mind, having an audience that's ready to go, and in everything that we do, we always put number one as how are we helping to drive sales into an organisation? And that's about positioning that clients to be the choice. The number one choice when someone is trying to make a decision on what they are buying, why would your client be chosen first and it's because they've got the best visibility, the best reputation, and the best trusted relationship that's extended, as far and wide as we can. It is about repetition, regularity, and reputation”.

“The boardroom will be surrounded by people like the company lawyer, the accountants, these fantastic professional support which we all need for our businesses. But often the comms head isn't included in that dialogue. And yet when things hit the fan, and reputation is in question, all of those individuals have a very, very different role to play in firefighting. And yet the comms person is often the one that can save the day, who was drafted in, “we need a statement, we need to start talking to our audience and our customers to try and salvage anything we can.” Well, maybe if they were brought in ahead of the game alongside those other professionals, it would be a much easier task."