So there you are, sat in front of the TV of an evening, having just enjoyed your dinner, swirling the last dregs of your fine burgundy ‘round the bottom of the glass when your eye is taken by something on the news. It’s your factory on fire. Or your plane nose down in a field. Or your guests being stretchered out of one of your hotels/restaurants/health clubs. Or a special report from the City. Or any one of the potential nightmares that you’ve spent hours imagining and planning for. And you didn’t know it was happening.
Rewind, quick. OK – there’s you, taking a copy of your crisis management plan, with the contact numbers and the rota lists and – with the blessing (and authority) of the plan’s owner – running a training session with whoever your front line people are. Making sure that they know that, in amongst all the chaos that they might be dealing with, they MUST call you (or a member of your team) and they MUST NOT attempt to deal with external comms themselves.
So there you are, sat in front of the TV of an evening etc etc etc having just taken the ‘phone call that lets you know it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped up at t’mill. What to expect, what to do and what decisions to make?
- Not all crises are the same and not all require an instant response – and not all are crises. Some are just issues. Which is yours and what do you really need to do? Take some time out to think about it and bear in mind that there are always people who like a nice bit of drama and who will happily create a crisis where there wasn’t one before
- A product recall, for example, may take some evaluation before it’s actioned. The product may not be dangerous or risky in any way – simply faulty. In this case you’ve got time to think, and the knowledge that no-one’s going to hear about it (if you’re lucky) until you decide to make it public
- On the other hand, a product recall may be occasioned by truly dangerous products, which pose a danger to life and limb – in which case you’ve got no time at all, and it is going to be a big story, very quickly, over which you will have no control
- Where is your crisis, supposing it’s serious enough to warrant your presence? Can you get there? Can your team get there? Can your spokesperson/people get there? If not – who are you going to use ‘on the ground’ to champion communications?
- What has actually happened, and what might happen next? What are your audiences going to need to know? Who needs to know within your organisation? Does the whole organisation need to know?
- Are there factors outside your control – which change your status from ‘driver’ to ‘passenger’ – these might include terrorism, or Act of God. If so, who do you need to deal with to ensure that you are aligned and ‘on-message’?
- If there’s a crisis ‘scene’ – who’s there? Have the emergency services, or the media, or the public turned up? Who’s dealing with them, or is it a free-for-all?
- What’s the potential impact of this – short and long-term? What needs to happen to minimise the impact?
By asking these questions (and others like them) and considering these issues (and other like them) – exercise your own judgement here – you’ll begin to get a picture of what you’re facing, and can start to react.
Next time, no waffle, just real examples.