Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2014 Contents SBG6 NEWS
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 21 • 2014
From time to time, the public
is assailed with the details of
a corporate scandal. While this
may make good fodder for the
media, it has the potential to
permanently damage a cor-
porate brand, so badly in fact,
that the business can no longer continue prof-
itably---or continue at all.
This, in turn, may affect employees, share-
holders and even the community within which
the entity is located. Enter Lisa Ann Joseph.
"Crises hit all the time. But how consumers
or the stakeholders relate to you as an organ-
isation, moving forward, depends on how you
manage the situation and how you deal with
it in its initial stage. If your initial response is
defensive, nonchalant, non reactive, or hands
off, that will impact your reputation. It also
determines how much damage control you will
have to do later on."
Joseph would know. For seven years, she has
been the managing director of Reputation Man-
agement Caribbean (RMC), providing corpo-
rations with the training to handle difficult
moments or intervening directly to provide
solutions at those times.
"Reputation management is what builds
credibility and what allows you to able to sell
and market your product and services. If your
organisation doesn t have a good reputation,
people are not going to come and purchase
your products and services."
It is a heavy responsibility for Joseph and
her clients, which include major financial and
Which is why she took the time in her chat
with the Sunday BG to dispel myths, many
aspirants to careers in the communications
industry have. The first is that it is all about
how you look. While Joseph conceded that
members of the public often fixated on the
public spokespeople of companies and that it
was important to be professional in appearance,
it was no less vital to have the accompanying
skills. One of these is getting clear messages
"I have seen many spokespersons, who are
fully capable of delivering the message and
don t have that glitzy look."
Another is having a flair for dealing with
"You have to understand how people think."
The communications professional also said
potential entrants must also be able to think
on their feet and make a lifelong commitment
to learning in an ever-evolving field.
Joseph herself has acquired much of her
training in the trenches, having two decades
Before opening her own firm, Joseph worked
as the corporate communications manager at
energy giant bpTT. She has also held commu-
nications roles at Coca Cola, Trinidad Cement
Ltd, First Citizens Bank and the Family Planning
In all that time, Joseph said she preferred to
work behind the scenes and not at the fore-
front---another communications myth dispelled.
"I have always been a backroom, background
person. The best PR people that you have ever
encountered are people in the background,
because we are there to advise, coach, support
and put the right people in the organisation in
front. Whether this is in front of a camera, in
front of a meeting or in front of a conference."
However, she said behind the scenes does
not mean with sinister purpose.
Joseph observed that the term "public rela-
tions" has been tainted, as people have come
to associate it with spin doctoring and prop-
Among professionals, the term "corporate
communications" is favoured and, under this
umbrella, Joseph said reputation and crisis man-
agement are only now getting the attention
they need among T&T firms.
She said often companies have the attitude
that they will "wing it" whenever serious prob-
Joseph said nine out of ten companies have
what is called a business continuity plan, which
allows operations to continue in the event of
a crisis, but no accompanying crisis commu-
"In a society like ours, they tend to feel, I
know how Trinis think. I know we have a seven-
day wonder, a nine-day wonder. "
She said, however, the lack of clear commu-
nication in a crisis leads to ambiguity which,
in turn, leads the public to speculate, filling in
the blanks themselves.
She said she trains her clients using scenarios
of things that could possibly go wrong and then
assists them in creating contingencies.
Part of this is having consistent messaging.
"Therefore what happens in a crisis situation,
the message I am giving to the media, will be
the same message that human resource is giving
to families that are affected, and it is the same
message that the marketing people will be
giving to suppliers."
Media training is another. Joseph s firm also
helps those in companies, whose job it is to
interface with media.
Those hoping to enter the field better prepare
for long hours and impromptu phone calls.
Joseph said she has had as little as an hour s
notice to attend meetings with clients and has
pulled all-nighters putting together press releas-
es and other documents to facilitate clients
who made the request only the afternoon
The industry is also a competitive one, but
Joseph said she is not worried by this, given
her commitment to improving her skillset and
her considerable background in the arena. Her
decision to focus on a niche area like reputation
and crisis communications, while working across
several industries also gives her an advantage.
"In order to have an agency with companies
over several industries, you have to be able to
have worked with and understand the industries
in order to serve them. I ve worked in the finan-
cial industry. I ve worked in energy, so I can
relate to people who work in energy."
According to Joseph, this was deliberate. She
has an associate degree in journalism, which
she said she took in order to understand media
as a stakeholder better.
She has a bachelor s degree in social science
and a master s in small and medium enterprise
and not, in communications. This, she said,
was to improve her ability to run a business,
something she said she always wanted to do,
coming from a business owning family herself.
She operates another business---The Home
Store---with her husband, Dale Rudder.
Making the contrast between that business
which sells decorative items for the home and
her communications firm, Joseph said the start-
up costs for RMC were significantly lower.
The consultancy was started out of her home
with some of her first clients being some of
the companies she worked for previously. At
this point, she incurred minimal costs to prepare
portfolio materials for the business.
As her client list grew, however, she hired
an administrative person, who also worked from
home initially until she realised the consultancy
had outgrown her home. It moved to the Hotel
Normandie and then to her current Fitt Street,
Her staff has also grown, with a core staff
of three to six who work virtually, through
Skype, telephone and e-mail. These are largely
freelance and contract and she said, the number
can go up or down according to the project.
Calm under fire
at the eye of the storm
LISA ANN JOSEPH
As a publication that delivers on its promise to educate you
on savings, investment and creating wealth, this week we
will be starting a new series, Profiles in Entrepreneurship. It
will include interviews with entrepreneurs who have gone
that extra distance to turn their dreams of owning a
business into reality.
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