Marijuana Business Magazine September 2018

your employees – know whom to call and when. If you’re targeting trade publications, social media might not be the most effective tool for communicating with the press; consider drafting a traditional news release or making a phone call. Social media can, however, be an effective tool for communicating with consumers. “If you are going out in the media and talking about a situation that will eventually get to your direct consumer, and you are not mentioning it on your social media channels, I think that is a mistake,” Casey said. “In the industry, we always want to craft the narrative. Social media allows you to go directly to your consumer.” Communicate with your employ- ees through crises, too, Casey said. It’s W hen a crisis warrants an apology, communications experts say you should: • Take responsibility. Do not be defensive or use aggressive or defiant tones. • Be authentic and demonstrate compassion if some- one was hurt or wronged by the company’s actions. • Provide any context or perspective you can share, but keep in mind legal restrictions regarding com- ments on personnel matters. • Say what you learned and how you plan to prevent similar incidents. • Commit to taking achievable action. Say how you’ll right the wrong. Follow-up action may require employee training, additional oversight of operations or removing a leader from a post. It’s important to commit to action so people can see you take the mat- ter seriously, said Mary Patrick, the CEO of Chicago’s Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications. That said, immediately pledging sweeping changes or a large donation may seem disingenuous. So, in your initial statement, say you’re reviewing what actions you need to take. Then, be thoughtful about how and when you act, advised Patrick, a 35-year veteran of strategic communications. “People want to know that you’ve done something about the issue and that they can trust you again,” she said. – Joey Peña THE ART OF APOLOGIZING important they understand how a situa- tion might affect them. There are legal restrictions on what you can advise employees to do, but you can ask that they refer all media to someone in the organization who is equipped to answer their questions. That means you also have to com- municate to leadership that what’s said to employees might be shared outside the organization – but that doesn’t make transparency any less important. “It’s not inconceivable – as a matter of fact, it should be expected – that that information may be passed along, and faster than you anticipate,” Casey said. “However, that does not remove the obligation to communicate with your staff.” Larson echoed the importance of communicating with employees. help you assess the scope of a crisis. It also answers questions you’re likely to be asked by media or consumers – the who, what, when, where, why and how. It’s helpful to assess what the scope of the crisis will be. Among the questions you should ask: Is there a public health risk? How many people have been affected? Is the crisis ongoing? Perhaps most important is having the tools to help others assess what is and isn’t a crisis, and at what level.That will help measure your response. Casey, the communications manager at Native Roots, created a diagram that helps employees understand what constitutes a crisis, and a phone tree so employees at cultivation facilities and retail locations know whom to contact if an issue arises. “Helping (employees) understand that in advance and giving them the resources to evaluate that is part of putting a crisis communications plan in place,” Casey said. “They need to have the confidence to know that they can handle it, and we need to make sure that the appropriate people within the company are notified.” Identify Stakeholders and Communication Channels In crisis communications, communi- cating with your audiences is key. Your key stakeholders include: • C-level executives • Board of directors • Investors • Vendors • Consumers • Employees • Media contacts Share the right message at the right time on the right channel, Casey said. You need to consider internal and external methods of communication. For example, an internal phone tree is helpful so your crisis-response team – or Mary Patrick 46 • Marijuana Business Magazine • September 2018