Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crisis prevention is not enough

In an ideal world, most crises can be prevented and there are many risk-based solutions in place to achieve this. Some crises can be prevented through better warning systems, improved safety standards, regular risk and threat analysis, strategic issues management, best practice emergency and security standards and efficient product recall.

But certainty seldom exists. Crises will erupt to disrupt and destabilise an organisation. Prevention is not the only cure, and one thing is for certain - a strong, tested crisis plan can control the chaos when it happens.

It takes years to build a successful organisation and only minutes to pull it apart. Containment is the key and with a crisis plan, you can.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Product recall crisis

Whether it's a food scare, a design defect, a health problem, a manufacturing error or product tampering, product recall is part of the manufacturing process. There are hundreds of thousands of product recalls worldwide every week and some of these can escalate to crisis.

One of the essential elements in every product problem is the ability of the manufacturer or maker to realise at what point the problem can escalate to crisis status. Is it just a safety check or minor issue, or could it develop into a serious event with the possibility of class action and a critical effect on brand and reputation?

Crisis teams need to work with issues managers, product development managers, marketing managers and product recall teams to determine threats. It is essential to run regular product recall and integrated crisis exercises to test early warnings, identify gaps and confirm roles and responsibilities to manage a product crisis sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reality crisis simulations

Today, crisis simulation training needs to look and feel like the real thing so that the stress and the pressure of time is felt by participants. Importantly, crisis simulations need to test leadership - is the person in charge of the crisis response able to cope with the landscape of threats? Are they cool under pressure? Will they face urgent decisions and make the final call?

Henry Kissinger once said: "In a crisis, only the strongest strive for responsibility; the rest are intimidated by the knowledge that failure will demand a scapegoat".

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrities - managing the unmanageable.

So many entertainment stars and sporting personalities are being positioned as requiring crisis management. In perspective, three immediate criteria define a crisis situation. The first is loss of life or people being critically injured, the second is major damage of assets, and the third is serious loss of reputation. While it can be argued that loss of reputation is a threat to star status, the real purpose of crisis management is to make qualitative decisions to take control of an escalating critical situation and to expedite recovery. Rescuing celebrities from their own bad behaviour is not crisis management, it is issues management.

Managers of high-profile people need to think about threats to their stars' status or image long before the worst-case situation occurs. Good issues management is getting ahead of the agenda by planning to avoid one or many eventualities. Let's keep crisis management out of show business.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crisis first audience

Employees must be told of a crisis first and fast. Effective crisis management means communicating immediately with employees. They are an organisation's best ally. Rumour and innuendo can be controlled if messages about what has happened reach internal audiences rapidly. Not communicating with your people greatly devalues your message strategy to all stakeholders.

These days, social media can broadcast employees' opinions to a wider audience at high-speed. Controlling the agenda means telling employees early.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hockey World Cup terrorism alert

Major crisis management security is currently underway in New Delhi for the Hockey World Cup. Thousands of police and military guarding the stadium and key points throughout the city. This is being hailed as a precursor security event to the Commonwealth Games to be held here in October. Some commentators and participants suggest security is unprecedented. So it should be. It is only 16 months since terrorists attacked major tourist targets in Mumbai after murdering the police chief and two police officials. The view that terrorists tend to keep away from locations where there is heavy security was not relevant at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 and is not relevant now.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tsunami early warning?

The old adage of “why weren’t we told” hit the beaches in Australia last weekend. Following the 8.8 magnitude tragic earthquake in Chile on Saturday, surfers were warned about a possible tsunami affecting the Eastern seaboard. The warning system from the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) worked well but people didn’t listen. Crisis early warnings only work if people understand why. Bushfires have proven that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Response from Sea World

In a world of “no comment” or late comment, it was impressive to see the response from Sea World in Florida, USA, following the awful death of their whale trainer, Dawn Brancheau. They were quick to take the high ground on the background behind the tragic event. Strong positioning under difficult circumstances and a spokesperson who immediately faced his public and delivered answers to critical questions.