It’s a fact that certain industries are more prone to accidents, which lead to crises; depending on how effectively you deal with the situation, there could be long-term reputation damage to companies and brands. Some common examples are delivery trucks that suffer brake failures, oil-spillages, fires at paint factories, consumers being exposed to contaminated food and IT systems being breached to access personal information of customers.
A crisis cannot be delayed nor postponed, and it doesn’t ask when the right time for it to happen. The traditional media – print, radio and TV – were always alert to a crisis, but now, with social media, news of a crisis can be immediate. The public often knows about a crisis before it’s been officially announced.
However, there are many case studies where companies have managed to deal successfully with a crisis. At the other end of the spectrum are those that start by denying they are responsible or accountable for the crises. That denial phase is where the damage occurs: it is most probable that all your efforts after the denial phase are futile and will not be well received by the public and those stakeholders who are directly affected by the crises. In their view “the damage is done”.
A recent crisis captured the imagination of the world and became an unsolved mystery for weeks: a Malaysian airliner disappeared and evaded all available military and other highly developed radar and satellite detections systems. The global sentiment is that the airline did not manage the crisis at the level expected from r countries in the world of aviation. Did they manage to master the basics during their update communication and engagement sessions?
Crises management is all about preparing for the unforeseen eventualities. The high-risk industries generally do have evacuation and emergency procedures that are on par with global standards. However, in cases where there are fatalities, injuries or damage to public assets, many companies struggle to cross the communication and engagement hurdle with their stakeholders. This is when the CEO of the company needs to step up to the plate and own the crisis, fully briefed by the specialists and the people who understand the serious nature of the crises.
Your planning for a crises does not take place on the day it happens. View this as an investment that will pay dividends on the day your company most needs protection. It is crucial to explore and put forward various scenarios, with supporting plans for each of those scenarios. This should be driven, owned and managed from the highest office in your organisation. Review and discuss all issues which might have an impact on the crisis. It is crucial that all employees understand the procedures, the approach and the company’s position during crises, and that there are no unauthorised statements by traumatised employees or their families.
Rather tackle the crisis head-on, manage the situation, communicate the facts, show regret as appropriate, and showcase desired solutions on how you plan to rectify the situation, in an honest and transparent manner.
The golden rule is to have dry-runs once a quarter in high-risk industries or twice a year for other industries. Your effective management of your crises will not only save lives and prevent damage to your reputation, but contribute to enhanced support, trust and respect from your stakeholders.
Make sure you have a statement which encapsulates the company’s position on the matter. This statement must be updated with the latest progress and developments that are integral to the crises. The lack of regular, sustained and transparent communication is fatal. Manage your crises effectively, don’t allow your detractors to manage them on your behalf.