3 Communications Lessons from the IABC’s Western Conference

The International Association Business Communicators Western Canada Conference, High Octane, wrapped up on Saturday in Calgary after three days of inspiring communications content. Here are the biggest takeaways from the conference about becoming a world class leader in your organization, communicating with the media, and planning for a crisis.

CRcpJ7sVAAAKfGN1. Inspiration is a choice.

In the conference’s opening keynote, the author of Lead Yourself First Michelle Ray shared her story of adopting an inspirational persona to overcome rejection while promoting one of Australia’s largest movie theatres on behalf of her agency. That persona happened to be Catwoman and gave Ray new confidence that allowed her to step outside her normal boundaries resulting in six new contracts signed in a single day.

The lesson for communicators is this: get excited about your ideas and it’ll be infectious to your audience, whether internally or externally.

Even if you have to dress up in a leather jumpsuit to get their attention, make yourself heard and be valued,” said Ray.

2. Prepare for the unexpected.

What do you do when your spokesperson is late for an interview and the media is waiting? Stay calm and be transparent. Maureen Douglas, Director of Community Relations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, faced this exact situation while waiting for the delivery of the Olympic Flame and its executives, which hit a 30 minute delay on the flight from Greece to Canada. After fielding the same questions from various media outlets, Douglas turned a frustrating situation into a moment of light heartedness.

“I announced to the reporters waiting, ‘The plane is still in the air and will be until it lands’,” said Douglas to the receipt of laughter from the reporters. “I didn’t have any more information than they did and the statement helped release a pressure valve [at the conference].”

Douglas worked with the local broadcast stations to rework the schedule for the day so they could still get their on-air segments despite the delay.

“You can plan for the perfect event, but don’t plan for the event to go perfectly,” said Douglas.

Her advice: use humour where possible and diffuse the situation by being transparent about the information you have.

Gerard3. Crisis prevention can be planned.

At the conference’s final keynote, Braud Communications CEO Gerad Braud, shared his process to preventing communications crises. To clearly illustrate a time when crisis communication took center stage, Braud shared the story of when LuluLemon’s founder Chip Wilson made controversial statements about the bodies of the brand’s female customers in an interview. Wilson blamed customers’ bodies for the yoga pants pilling issue rather than a potential fault of the fabric.

When the interview with BNN went viral, he issued a video response on social media but failed to directly apologize concretely. Social media criticism increased and a month later Wilson resigned under public pressure.

“Today everything we say and do can go viral,” said Braud. “We do media training so you can mess up in private and not in public.”

Braud’s advice is to media train like it is a sport, do it repeatedly and work toward perfection — it is not a bucket list item.

In a pair of destroyed yoga paints Braud got everyone’s attention comically, but his message remained serious. A lack of discipline and planning in the brand’s media response caused LuLuLemon’s public relations disaster. Communications failures can be prevented.

We will be sharing Braud’s Five Steps to Sunny Day Crisis Planning later this week. In the meantime, download our Crisis Communications white paper for great advice.



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