Christopher Paré is the Director of Communications for Humane Society International/Canada and recently returned from South Korea where the animal welfare organization conducted a rescue operation at a dog meat farm.
Communications strategies should be complex and intricate, constantly adapting to unknown variables while being rolled out with utmost precision and laser-precise timing. Logistically, it’s a tall order to undertake in a controlled environment, let alone out in the field where your focus is elsewhere and home is in another time zone.
But it’s not impossible – nor all that difficult – to execute a plan without necessarily having to pull the trigger yourself. In short, be prepared, and prepare as much as you can in advance. Flanked by your trusty allies, anyone can make it work in virtually any remote situation, Wi-Fi notwithstanding.
Lock down everything that can be locked down NOW
Let’s agree that most advisories, statements, releases, etc. can be drafted in advance with a few blanks left to be filled in later. If you use a paid or subscription-based distribution service, upload and schedule whatever you can as a draft to be updated prior to distribution. Reach out to your sales rep or administrator and explain that you’re heading out into the field; anyone worth their weight in salt will be happy to help. If you’re an indie operator, use a platform that is both uncomplicated and easily accessible.
Draft all your social media in advance
This is a huge oversight and an avoidable waste of time. Let’s say you’re doing a Facebook Live. At the very least, you need a brief description of what’s going on and why people should watch it. Doing this on the fly is doubly problematic in that it exponentially increases the risk of mistakes while taking you away from your primary focus, which is whatever you’re doing in the field.
Google Docs is a godsend. Use spreadsheets to plan your posts, and even consider giving someone else admin status should you not be available. Schedule whatever you can and devote your undivided focus to capturing those ‘aha’ moments – that’s why you’re there.
Enlist reliable officers
Maybe you have an actual salaried assistant, or maybe your department is fluid in crunch situations. If you’re a non-profit, volunteers are a priceless resource. You can’t do this on your own. You can be a capital A-type achiever but it doesn’t matter because there are too many moving parts and you may not be in total control. Find someone who is comfortable with social media, who knows how to write and is willing to be available. If you use a news distribution service, train that person to use the platform in case an advisory has to be rescheduled, tweaked or yanked altogether.
Situational awareness, always
This applies especially to time. If you’re halfway around the world, remember to do the math when scheduling distributions, posting to social media, or calling journalists. For media availabilities, make sure the people you’re offering up are actually awake and available.
If you are typically the primary media contact, consider an alternate that is in the same time zone you’re pitching to. This boils down to logging media requests and transmitting them to you – not a big deal.
Also be aware of your actual environment – literally. Don’t be distracted from what’s happening around you, and how, as a communicator, it is your job to before all else to bear witness. The more you can do to step back from micromanagement, the easier it is to focus on the important, big picture stuff.
Remaining calm is key, particularly while coordinating with frontline workers conducting delicate or risky operations. Be sure to arm yourself with a few stress-reduction tactics (even 30 seconds of meditation will help) and remember that, in the heat of the moment, those pesky endorphins will eat away at the quality of your messages.
Christopher Paré is the Director of Communications for Humane Society International/Canada and a contributor to TNKR.ca