Crisis Preparation: How Would You Cope in a Crisis?
We live in turbulent times, with global levels of uncertainty continuing to rise. Consequently, it has never been more important for companies to have a robust structure in place to cope with a crisis. Just look at several high-profile companies’ recent media experiences and it is clear that even the best-run enterprises struggle when unprepared to deal with negative incidents.
There is a maxim that states: “Before a crisis, time is your friend; during a crisis, time is your foe.” In other words, now is the time to seize the opportunity and make sure you have the messaging, the methods, and the right manner to stand in front of the world’s media, your staff and peers in the industry, and the families affected by a tragedy and provide both cold, hard data and heartfelt condolences. It is no easy task.
A Crisis Unfolds…
Imagine a very difficult but highly plausible potential crisis that puts your organization’s leadership in front
of the cameras:
2:05 P.M. Soon after your flight AD123 has gone missing en route from New York to Los Angeles, major media outlets and social media channels are going crazy with speculation of a crash with many injuries and fatalities. The situation has been unfolding for hours now, but there are few hard facts available.
7:15 A.M. The major TV networks are clamoring for an interview. Your CEO will be live on air soon.
9:45 A.M. Victims’ families are initiating contact at all levels of your organization looking for more details on their loved ones.
1:15 P.M. Federal investigators on site are requesting information and expertise from your company.
3:30 P.M. Attorneys representing the victims have begun contacting your legal department.
6:00 P.M. You learn that members of your aircraft maintenance team have secured their own legal representation.
AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. The demands on your company’s time—especially that of key managers and executives—will be intense. How are you going to respond? The world is, literally, waiting to hear from you. Plus, you still have a business to run.
Strategies for Emergency Communications
Mark Webster (Financial Times, ITN) and Martin Young (BBC Panorama, Newsnight and Rough Justice) hosted a session titled “Managing a Crisis and Dealing with the Media” at our London seminar. This engaging discussion included insights from courses the two offer on the practice of communication and presentation. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from this session and others like it is this: the time to prepare for the crisis you hope never occurs is now.
While every incident faced by aviation professionals is unique, there are basic actions that can be helpful to organizations affected by an emergency. Some of these can even minimize the negative impact on the organization. Fireside Partners Inc., a worldwide aviation emergency response specialist, recommends some immediate actions for communications personnel.
Fireside Partners Recommends These Actions
- In your next ERP drill/exercise, actually develop the internal and external statements in the context of the scenario. Evaluate them afterward, and integrate the approved wording into your pre-approved statements.
- Organizations who have invested in an Emergency Response Program (versus just a plan) say things like, “Right now teams of trained professionals are assisting each family with information, resources, and support.”
- Monitor the pulse of the social spaces for images and video that can be helpful for situational awareness. Communicate tactically, and only counter harmful and egregiously false information.
- An airline serves the public, and therefore communicates compassion and seeks to regain public consumer trust. Business operators do not serve the general public, so communications should target stakeholder audiences like owners, corporate accounts, and those directly affected.
- Modern technology provides numerous vehicles to carry messages forward. Evaluate your program, attend a training course that matches your business model, and incorporate multiple communication options into your program.
- Everyone in the organization has communication responsibilities, not just the PR person or team. All employees should know what to say and to whom inquiries should be directed.
- There should never be any presumption of privacy when on the internet or outside your own home. Always assume someone is recording you and communicate professionally in every engagement.