The Best Service in Town……..Really?

The importance of being able to back up your advertising claim.

Whether it is radio, TV, or online, business owners spend plenty of time creating advertising messages about their companies.  Often the intent behind these messages is to create awareness, attract new customers, or sell a specific product.  But what is communicated in these advertisements or on a company website is extremely important, and therefore; must be accurate.

If a business claims that their product can cure the common cold, they better have the evidence to support that claim.  And if someone says their business is the only one in the city that offers discounts with service, they better be sure of that.

It’s equally important to ensure postings to company websites and social media also reflect a true and accurate representation of the business or product.

In the very social world that we live in, being authentic is number one in terms of importance.  And if you’re not, there will surely be someone out their to prove you wrong……and share that with the rest of the world.

For more information on accuracy in advertising, check out this link.



Small Business, Big Crisis – What You Say Makes a Difference

“How to communicate in a crisis situation using the 3 R’s.”

It’s a common misconception that only large companies face situations that can have a negative impact on their reputation.  In fact, no business is really immune to the issues that surface in a time of crisis.  And the way in which a company decides how to handle their communication can greatly affect the outcome.

In crisis communication we refer to these as the 3 R’s.   Regret, Reason and Remedy are used to help formulate the key statements to be communicated to stakeholders during these difficult times.

For the sake of discussion, lets say a local restaurant gets shut down over a health inspection report.

The way the restaurant may put the 3 R’s into action might be something like this:

Regret – The business should start by showing regret over the issue itself and communicate their concern to their key stakeholders.  In some situations they may even apologize for the closure since it will likely have an impact on their customers.

“We regret to inform our customers and staff that the restaurant had to be closed due to some concerns brought to our attention by the health department.  We understand that this closure may be an inconvenience to our clients who continue to be our most loyal customers.”

Reason – Most people want to know “why” something has happened.  If a business can provide the reason, or at the very least, some type of explanation, it can help to avoid rumours from spreading, and help to build back trust.

“As a company we take full responsibility for the issues that have been presented to us by the health department.  We are working hard to determine how some of these key areas may have been missed.  We take these concerns very seriously.”

Remedy – Even the best explanation in the world, isn’t going to help restore reputation in a time of crisis.  But what a company chooses to do, and say, in order to rectify the situation can certainly have a huge impact.

“While we determine how these issues came to light in the first place, we intend on making some major changes in our operations to ensure this doesn’t happen again. First, we will be taking this time to initiate a massive store-wide cleaning and inspection.  We will also be providing quarterly staff training sessions to ensure every member of our team, new and old, abides by the health standards set out.”

The best part about the 3 R’s of crisis communication is that they can also be used to help manage customer complaints.  They often help to diffuse a situation, provide context and help to build customer loyalty.

Give them a try the next time you encounter a crisis, whether big or small!



You Want Me to Sponsor What?

How to make the most of your sponsorship initiatives as a small business owner.

As most small business owners know, the number of requests for sponsorship and other forms of support can be endless.  They range from opportunities to sponsor a local bike race or charitable campaign to providing donations for a silent auction event.  You name it…..your business has been asked to support it.

Before I continue I want to make the distinction between a sponsorship and a donation.  Sponsorships are essentially another form of advertising – you provide support, financial or gift-in-kind, and in exchange, receive an opportunity to get in front of event participants through a display of signage or another form of advertising.  A donation, on the other hand, is a contribution (financial or gift-in-kind) to an organization with really no strings attached.  In general, donations that are provided to a registered charity qualify for an income tax credit, while sponsorships do not.

I’m going to address sponsorships.

I do believe that supporting the local community and charitable causes is important. But I really feel business owners have to be more strategic with how they make these sponsorship decisions.

As a business owner, you need to consider if the request for support has a good “F.I.T.”:

Forecast – Know what you hope to achieve on a business level by providing support. Will your involvement in the event help you reach your company objectives?  For example, if one of your business objectives is to create awareness of your business or product, you may consider sponsoring a major event in the community.  If you hope to increase brand recognition in rural communities, you may want to look at sponsoring community “sports days”.  Always consider your own objectives.

Impact – Does the event or organization have a positive image and will your involvement have an impact?  It’s a good idea to align yourself with organizations and events that already have strong support.  It’s equally important to make sure you activate a plan if you do decide to go ahead with the sponsorship.  Often organizations dish out money to sponsor an event, but then never do the follow-up to ensure they receive all of the benefits that come with that investment.  If your company is entitled to a full-page ad in an event program, make sure you get that ad, and take some time to craft a message that will communicate something of value about your business (not just your name).  For even greater impact, look for opportunities that offer exclusivity.  This will help remove your competition from the mix.

Target – Does the event or organization align with your own brand and what your business represents or believes?  Will your participation give you access to current or potential clients?  It’s important to consider sponsoring events that make sense for your business.  For example, if you operate a local dress shop, then sponsoring an event like “Dress for Success” makes complete sense.  Or if your business is a construction company, then “Habitat for Humanity” might be the right initiative to get behind.  Spend some time targeting the right events and right group of people.

So the next time you get asked to sponsor an upcoming event or a worthwhile organization, take a few minutes to consider its “F.I.T.”.