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Three Tips to Plan for Your Next Big Announcement

Announc­ing a change in C‑level lead­er­ship is so much more than pub­lish­ing a quick tweet or blog post – espe­cial­ly when it’s the CEO of one of the nation’s largest hunger relief orga­ni­za­tions. We worked with Sec­ond Har­vest Heart­land for the past six-plus months to devel­op a plan that launched in June when Rob Zeaske announced his per­son­al deci­sion to end his 10-year tenure by the end of 2018 and extend­ed into ear­ly 2019 when Alli­son O’Toole was named the organization’s next CEO.

Social media and your organization’s blog are extreme­ly use­ful plat­forms, but it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that they should be small­er parts of a more com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic process. We col­lab­o­rat­ed through­out each stage, strate­giz­ing with the inter­nal Sec­ond Har­vest Heart­land team about every­thing from an announce­ment time­line to key mes­sages to media rela­tions, ensur­ing all was in place for things to go as smooth­ly as pos­si­ble dur­ing this change.

“A smart, care­ful­ly designed, minute-by-minute game plan was crit­i­cal to the suc­cess­ful roll­out of our new leader,” said Eliz­a­beth Coop­er, Sec­ond Har­vest Heartland’s direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and media rela­tions. “It meant the dif­fer­ence between an excit­ing go week and a fran­tic go week, and the Bell­mont team was our close part­ner every step of the way.”

If you’re plan­ning an announce­ment or tran­si­tion, here are three tips to keep in mind, no mat­ter how large or small the news:

  1. Pri­or­i­tize clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion every step of the way. Mak­ing sure every­one has all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion is key for a suc­cess­ful announce­ment. The pri­ma­ry thing that con­tributed to the suc­cess of this CEO tran­si­tion was the clear client-agency com­mu­ni­ca­tion we had through­out. For the Zeaske announce­ment, our team was embed­ded at the Sec­ond Har­vest Heart­land office to help the team respond in real time. For the O’Toole announce­ment, she worked from our office, which made sched­ul­ing and com­plet­ing four media inter­views – Star Tri­bune, Pio­neer Press, Minneapolis/St. Paul Busi­ness Jour­nal and Twin Cities Busi­ness – with­in an hour of the announce­ment a seam­less process. Along those lines, every audi­ence received clear, con­sis­tent and time­ly com­mu­ni­ca­tion by imple­ment­ing key mes­sages into emails, social media posts, news releas­es and blog posts.
  2. Focus on empa­thy for every audi­ence. Much of what makes a great pub­lic rela­tions prac­ti­tion­er is the abil­i­ty to empathize with var­i­ous audi­ences. In this spe­cif­ic instance, we knew first and fore­most that Sec­ond Har­vest Heartland’s inter­nal audi­ences – specif­i­cal­ly employ­ees and donors – deserved to hear the news first and in a per­son­al way. We helped plan for Zeaske to share his news in meet­ings with every­one from dri­vers to ware­house staff to exec­u­tives and make as many per­son­al calls to part­ners and major donors as pos­si­ble before media was informed. The same was the case with the announce­ment of O’Toole.
  3. Remain flex­i­ble with­in the plan. Plans are impor­tant, but look­ing at them as guid­ing roadmaps rather than set-in-stone agen­das helps every­one stay nim­ble through­out the process. This ties back to the above points, because chan­nel­ing empa­thy helps you antic­i­pate and plan for mul­ti­ple sce­nar­ios ahead of time, and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion allows for bob­bing and weav­ing as need­ed.

We’re hon­ored to have worked with Sec­ond Har­vest Heart­land under Zeaske’s inspir­ing lead­er­ship, and we’re thrilled to con­tin­ue shar­ing the impact­ful sto­ries of this orga­ni­za­tion and the work its team does with O’Toole at the helm.

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