Sunday, September 26, 2010

Key points in handling crisis interviews

After 20 years of orchestrating, rehearsing and attending media interviews at real or rehearsed crises, I am convinced that spokespersons delivering media interviews in times of critical events need to be prepared to deliver concise answers quickly and effectively. They need to show leadership and agenda control. In these days of the instant news grab, long-winded statements are useless.

Here is my hit list for handling crisis interviews and taking the high ground:

• Take time to rehearse your key messages.
• Do the interview sooner rather than later.
• Avoid sit-down interviews. Stand up and deliver.
• Give the right facts before they suggest the wrong ones.
• Start with a statement of sympathy and understanding.
• Link your actions with those of the authorities.
• Stay calm and positive. Show you are in total control.
• Get your main points across at the start - live interviews are fast.
• Be brief in all your answers.
• Correct any introductory misinformation or negative statements.
• Don’t respond to rumour or innuendo.
• Finish the interview before it finishes you.
• Tell them you will return soon and give them more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Managing crises overseas

The growing interest in investment abroad means that many of the world’s largest companies are continually moving into new areas offering a broad range of opportunities.

Growth for US and UK companies in oil, gas, mining and construction continues, as do the areas of manufacturing, telecommunication, retail and financial services. The fastest growing new development areas are China, South America and Eastern Europe.

As companies go global, the threat to the security of people, technology, information and assets gains in impact. Doing business in foreign countries does have crisis connotations and can mean a life or death difference for an organisation.

Dealing with the problems of a changing political arena, threats of bribery, sabotage, vandalism, theft, having to deal and negotiate with irrational customers in distant locations, being faced with problems of armed intrusion or trespassers and the growing international problem of drug abuse, are all threats that need to be recognised and planned for.

A crisis in another country often does not fit into any known framework. The organisational response, therefore, has to deal with the problem of finding people to manage the problem at the same time as anticipating the escalation factor and providing support for the most exposed aspects of the business.

There is simply little time for planning, organising, equipping or training once the crisis is imminent.

Importantly, the crisis management approach needs to ensure that the various operations and projects of an international operation are in a constant state of readiness and that crisis teams know what to do and how to do it.

Basically, the objectives of any plan should be to protect the company’s people and assets. International operations crisis management objectives:

1. Protect the life of employees and their families.
2. Protect assets and earnings by restoring normal operations rapidly.
3. Protect the local community and environment.
4. Minimise damage to corporate reputation.
5. Retain effective relationships with government of the country

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Product recall crisis fatalities

Not planning for a product recall escalating to crisis leaves a corporation, its brand and reputation extremely vulnerable. We have seen this in massive pharmaceutical, automotive, food, children’s toys and even pet food recalls.

No-one can forget the shockwaves that came out of the Tylenol Paracetamol cyanide poisoning in Chicago back in the 1980s when two mothers, two sisters, a bride, a 12 year-old girl and a stewardess all died from deliberate poisoning. The product crisis was immediate and tragic. Johnson & Johnson recalled Tylenol and, working with the Federal Drug Administration, developed a tamper-proof package for redistribution at a cost of $150 million.

Globally, there is a tightening of product safety controls. Regulators are looking for thorough, fast response to recalling a faulty or contaminated product in terms of consumer contact and recovery of products. The fact is, incidents of product recalls escalating to crisis are occurring with greater frequency than ever before.

Corporations need to establish crisis teams that can respond fast to a critical product recall. Threats need to be identified in advance. Product recall processes need to include a crisis trigger.

Deliberate contamination or threats to a product that might kill or injure are crises that require the immediate involvement of law enforcement agencies.

Running regular product recall and integrated crisis exercises will anticipate and deflect or reduce the impact of the worst case scenario.