Monday, March 3, 2014


Written by FCP Communications on March 3, 2014.

At FCP, we are frequently called upon to help an organization with a leadership transition.  Sometimes this is an orderly and planned affair.  Others, it’s a bit more rapid-fire.  Regardless, putting together a series of documents, in short order, can help you keep your organization and your ambassadors on the same page. Here is a quick check list for your next transition – and if you think it’s too hot to handle, give us a call.
Summary:  A quick 3-4 sentence description of the 5W’s of what is happening. This is an effective early exercise to help get everyone to get on the same page in a clear, concise way before you start communicating.
Timeline:  Often transitions happen in very short order.  A clear list of what will happen when is very important.  This list can include the timing of notification of staff, clients, customers and friends.  It may also include the people who can be notified in advance.  And it should also include a detailed timeline on when media will be informed and social media content unleashed.
The Big Three Things:  In any transition, key messages take on an outsized importance.  Given the emotion or anxiety that transitions can bring, being clear, concise, and rigid in messaging is critical.  That’s why we always emphasize that there are three big things we need to get across in every communications item – whether internal or external.  Then add a section where you flesh it out with detail.
Facts/Figures/Context:  There are likely a few key items you’d like included in every conversation, social media posting, and media story.  It’s critical to identify those in advance and then drive them in each interaction.  Remember, just a few granular facts to help provide needed context.  Think organizational history, milestones, accomplishments, or success metrics.
The Q&A (bonus points for the Tough Q&A):  Work with your team to identify the most likely 5-7 questions and map out answers that are consistent with your key messages.  You get bonus points for helping yourself and your allies prepare for the questions that you pray don’t get asked.  Remember – if you write them down, they get less terrifying and easier to handle.
THEN – Get to the “deliverables”
Phone Script:  Believe it or not, it is very helpful to your Board and allies to have a rough script for calls to friends and stakeholders.  This provides a measure of certainty for what can often be difficult calls.  Short and sweet – and ask for questions from the folks on the other end of the line.  Then ask if they would be willing to help share the news when its time.
The E-blast:  This is perhaps the most important document because it is sent directly to your most important stakeholders – the folks who have volunteered to receive your emails.  These individuals have raised their digital hand and want to hear from you.  This item, therefore, takes on outsized importance.  It’s where you can tell your story, share your granular facts, and map out your vision for the time of transition.  Make it clear – its ok if it’s a bit long…but not too long – just so long that you state your case clearly and in a manner even the most frightened or confused stakeholder will understand.
The Press Release:  The key to the press release is that it reflects your organization’s tone and approach and also positions you credibly as calm in a period of uncertainty.  The news release should clearly state the facts of the transition and provide a roadmap for next steps – even if they remain a bit uncertain.  Quotes in the news release should come from the highest ranking official possible such as a Board Chair or CEO.  Provide sufficient context in the release such that a reporter can get what she needs without too much back and forth – as in these times of transition, less Q&A is often better than more.
Finally – ask yourself if the plan worked. Work internally to analyze how the transition communications succeeded or failed. Were you successful in defining the transition with your Three Big Things? Whatever the outcome, report back to your stakeholders in as much candor as possible – and show them the next steps that remain in the process.

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