Crisis management firms play a key role in protecting a brand’s reputation. All organisations – companies and public bodies – can experience a crisis. Unexpected things happen, unwise things are said, and the media can have a feeding frenzy. Reputations and trust are damaged and it takes time, and usually great expense, to rebuild them.
What is a crisis?
A crisis is something that happens that has a major impact on you. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a crisis as “an extremely difficult or dangerous point in a situation.” It can be something you bring on yourself, or something completely out of your control. It can impact you directly, or impact those around you, or who you rely on. It can happen suddenly, like an earthquake. Or it can happen gradually, like economic collapse.
The impact is likely to be major. For example, the number of people affected, the geographical spread, the physical damage, and the cost (in terms of putting things right or lost business).
Who can experience a crisis?
Any organisation can experience a crisis. It could be caused by:
- a natural disaster – eg snow or volcanic ash impacting airports
- a problem with production of a product – eg benzene found in Perrier bottled water
- a problem with a supplier – eg KFC running out of chicken
- the death of a worker or customer – eg firms fined for death of a child
- malicious action of an employee – eg needle contamination of strawberries in Australia
- leaking of sensitive data – eg TalkTalk data breaches
- careless comments by the CEO – eg Elon Musk tweets result in fines.
Avoiding ‘foot shots’
Quite often it’s not the cause of the crisis that damages reputations, but the response of the organisation. Being unavailable for comment, pretending nothing unusual has happened and trying to shift the blame can all make things much worse than they would have been. So can being slow in responding or making too small or inappropriate a response.
Unfolding news stories
Crises tend to unfold and go through various stages, so organisations need to be prepared for how news stories might develop over time. The initial media focus is on what has happened and the immediate impact. Then questions are asked about why it has happened and who was involved. This is followed by the blame game, when damage can really be done.
So what can be done to prepare for a crisis?
Expecting the unexpected
Responsible organisations organise their activities to avoid a crisis, but they also plan what they will do if the unexpected occurs. They ask themselves difficult questions. “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?” “How would the media respond to such an issue?” “What damage would it do to our reputation and our ability to operate?”
They create scenarios to work out how a crisis might occur, how the impact would unfold, and what actions they would take. They may also carry out role playing exercises – desk based or using actual people and equipment – to give employees experience of responding to a crisis.
Or they might employ the expertise of specialist crisis management firms.
How can crisis management firms help?
Crisis management firms can give advice on how to anticipate a crisis. Similarly, they can help produce crisis management strategies, and can assist in role playing exercises. They can also advise on how to manage internal and external communications during the various stages of a crisis.
Managing the flow and release of information is vital, particularly in this age of social media where anyone can make public comments, and speculate on what has happened. To address this, a crisis management firm can ensure that suitable spokespeople are media trained to be able to give difficult press and media interviews.
At Blackstock Consulting, we have experts who have experienced a crisis first hand and have helped organisations cope with the media frenzy that ensued. As a result, we’re ideally placed to help our clients prepare for the worst. We can provide all the necessary training and preparation, and can assist in, and even carry out, our clients’ communications should a crisis occur.