Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Will They Ever Serve Again? – Managing the Chipotle Crisis

By Rose Strong

With the rush of the holiday season upon us, it’s highly likely we’re going have at least one meal this month from a fast food chain restaurant.

However, if you’ve been paying attention to the news, you may have heard about a recent outbreak of norovirus at Chipotle. A food-borne illness struck more than 140 people near Boston College; all had eaten at the restaurant in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood.

The fast food chain that has marketed itself as the healthier option, with non-GMO and organic ingredients sourced from local farms, has been struggling lately as several hundred customers across the country have contracted food-borne illness.

Food-borne illness can happen anywhere: a restaurant, a school cafeteria, even your own home. It can happen at any point along the supply chain, from the location where food is grown and harvested to where it is stored, processed, packaged, transported, unloaded, displayed, purchased, and cooked - and even after cooking. A simple, human error in any part of that chain can cause people to fall ill.

On the West Coast, Chipotle voluntarily closed 43 stores in November due to E. coli infections, after 17 stores were cited. The restaurant chain also has had an outbreak in Pennsylvania and several other eastern states.

How does a restaurant or food company bounce back after an outbreak of food poisoning? Some do and some don’t. Much depends on how they manage the crisis.

For the food service industry, there are four phases to responding to a crisis, according to the industry publication, Food Safety magazine. Prevention, preparation, management, and recovery are all a part of preventing food safety issues, and communicating effectively with all stakeholders if a crisis does occur.

1.    Prevention: Employing a good food safety culture, including staying current on risk factors
2.    Preparation: Proactively planning for a problem and monitoring public discussion of risk
3.    Management: Implementing the plan using multiple messages and media
4.    Recovery: Reassessing risk exposure and telling the story of changes

Clear, transparent, timely communication with all audiences is an essential part of every crisis plan for any type of business. Does your business have a crisis communications plan? If not, your first resolution for 2016 should be to draft one.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2 Social Media Tools You Need to Start Using in 2016

By Megan Quinn

Managing social media is a time-consuming process. Let’s say you have four, five or more social media channels to manage. Even the best multi-taskers can have trouble managing multiple social media profiles. And if you’re a solo business owner or start-up, finding time to manage your company profiles and run the business itself can be difficult.

Below are two social media tools we recommend using to make your life easier. Business owners, I’m talking to you.

Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to worry about posting one Instagram message that could also be linked, for example, to your Facebook business page? Check out IFTTT, which stands for “If This…Then That.” This Jack-of-all trades tool is great for social media marketers because it can post, email, and do all sorts of things with almost all major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr and even Slack.

Each posting combination is called a “recipe.” For example, if you post a picture to Instagram and then want to post it as a pin on Pinterest, this is a recipe. One other easy trick with IFTTT is that you can add your social media profiles using recipes already created by other people. While customization is key, sometimes the perfect recipes are already set up so there’s less work for you.

If you have trouble finding copyright-free images for your blog posts, check out Canva. Social media has become increasing visual over time and people have shorter attention spans than goldfish these days according to an article from Time Magazine. If paragraphs of text can be broken up by images, it’s easier to keep your readers’ eyes on your blog post.

Canva is perfect for creating images that you need right away and on a tight budget. You can create many images for free and design them to your liking, but the tool also includes additional budget-friendly options, so if something else catches your eye, paying a couple bucks isn’t so bad.

Even if you aren’t great with design, Canva has easy-to-follow instructions and will set you up with a tutorial when you sign up. Choose from templates, symbols, backgrounds or headers and then edit them to your preferences. Once your new design skills kick in, you’ll be able to create an attention-grabbing social media or blog image in just minutes.

If restructuring can help your social media profiles improve, why not give it a try? Don’t streamline processes just because you can. Test out new tools* and make sure they work for you, while keeping the quality of your content high.

*These brands did not pay us in any way to promote them.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Easiest Marketing Tactic You Can Implement Right Now, For Free

By Sarah Larson

When clients rely on us to create and implement their integrated marketing and public relations plans, the strategy and tactics are often long and detailed, supported by data, and taking months and sometimes years to implement.

However, there is one recommendation that we typically have to make to every client, and it also holds true for most other businesses, maybe even yours.

The easiest, fastest marketing tool you can implement right now, with no cost to you, is also one of the most overlooked – your email signature.

Every initial email you send for business should include a full, branded signature. It should populate automatically, so you don’t have to remember (and then eventually forget) to add it manually. And it should include all the information your business contacts need to identify and reach you.

That information should include:
  • Your name
  • Your title
  • Company name
  • Company address
  • Company main line phone
  • Your direct phone line, if applicable
  • Your mobile number, if it’s used for business
  • Your email address – yes, even though the signature is FOR your email
  • Link to company website and blog, if applicable
  • Links to relevant social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn
  • Any legal disclosure your company or industry requires
For subsequent messages in a thread or long conversation, the signature can be truncated to include just basic information or can be left off all together. With so much business being done almost exclusively by email, no one wants to have to scroll through the same long information more than once. Some companies create two signatures, one for the initial email and a second abbreviated version for subsequent responses.

It sounds simple, and it is. But as with many things in life, sometimes the simplest ones are the most overlooked. The number of emails that we receive every day with no signatures at all – and therefore no easy contact information – is still surprisingly high, even though most business professionals would say, if asked, that email signatures are important.

Adding a signature to email isn’t just a good marketing tool. It is a courtesy to the message recipient. It saves them the time and trouble of having to find your contact information elsewhere. And making business interaction easier and more efficient is always a good thing.