Behind the Team: It’s Not a Crisis If You Know How to Handle It

How Edelman, the world’s largest public relations and marketing consultancy firm, quickly stands up teams to handle crises

  • The most important foundations for project deployment
  • Essential skills for rapid response and accountability

😓 Where most teams fall down

Jason emphasized that having the proper foundations and structure was key to success in handling any project.

We begin with discovery, which means learning about the client and the situation, and then we have a kickoff with the client and dive-in to work out the messages and strategy. Ultimately, it’s about identifying resources and teams that can pitch in — pulling in the right people, activating them, and making sure they have the time and resources they need to carry out the job.

Much of our work is through Microsoft Teams, and we’ll often work with Slack, G-Suite or other remote collaboration tools and platforms based on client preference. These are critical not only for driving deliverables and work product, but also for developing relationships and trust outside of the videoconference meetings. You see people having quick chats for all the kind of critical interaction that normally might happen by the coffee maker or by passing by someone’s office or desk. That’s important information and keeps up rapport when you aren’t — or can’t be — in the same office.

🚀 Three steps to rapid response

During our interview, Jason mentioned tools and culture. In fact, he said that success in rapid response is primarily down to two factors: goals and culture.

🛠 Step 1: Culture and tools

Culture and toolsets aren’t built overnight, and in a moment of crisis, you don’t want to implement a whole new project management suite. Start now in working on the company culture and establishing an effective toolset.

In our domain, there are all sorts of diverse stakeholders who need to weigh in on communications to internal and external audiences. Part of the reason we focus on advanced planning work is to generate buy-in before it’s needed. A lot of enterprises don’t have established processes built around these kinds of complex approvals, but it is an area where you can see a process-based approach driving value for teams.

A basic toolset for your team should include:

  • Communication: Tools for meetings, text, and other interactions such as Slack, Zoom, and other types of single-purpose tools. The team should have an agreement about how to use these tools in order to avoid confusion about where to find what types of communication.
  • Project management: Kanban tools such as Asana, Trello, and Basecamp are popular with traditional organizations, but software development teams often use tools such as Jira or Zendesk for coordination. If you have a software-heavy organization, it’s probably easier to train the marketing and logistics teams to use those than to try to integrate multiple tools.
  • Knowledge sharing: Including file sharing and references, so everyone knows where to find the most relevant and updated information on the projects. Depending on the complexity and nature of the project, this might include shared drives, CRM, wikis, or other types of knowledge sharing tools.

💬 Step 2: Goals and messaging

Similar to other cross-functional teams, Jason emphasized the importance of shared goals, clear objectives, sound strategy, and strong messaging. Not every project is marketing-oriented, but shared goals plus shared guidelines are the perfect combinations.

It starts with setting the goal and the culture around the goal. Everything else flows from there: strategy, roles, responsibilities. The way people think about achieving what needs to be done comes from a common understanding of those two things.

💪 Step 3: Shared responsibility

Having everyone in every role take responsibility for the outcome makes a difference. It’s not uncommon for crisis teams to reflect a relatively flat structure with senior leaders jumping in on the first draft of a FAQ or junior staff providing key client counsel.

Typically on the crisis side, our account teams are small, nimble teams and our project timeframes are often shorter in length. Oftentimes in organizations, project management tools and tactics can be the purview of quote unquote “project managers,” but in the crisis world we all have to have a little bit of a project management tool set.

💻 Closing thoughts on remote

One final note is that Jason mentioned it’s actually become easier to work with remote teams because of the lockdown in many areas. Rather than using the phone, now everyone is using video conferencing.

Growth at Hugo. Previously data science at Squarespace. Writing here now:

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