Posted in Anticipating A Crisis, Corporate Crisis Management, Crisis Communication Implementation, Crisis Management, Crisis Management Planning, Crisis Management Response on March 27th, 2010 by admin

Pre-crisis mitigation doesn’t have a public face. It is comprised of all the efforts and planning necessary to either avoid a crisis or mitigate its consequences when one occurs. Everything from identifying and buying the appropriate insurance to fire drills fall under this umbrella.

Post-crisis mitigation is an entirely different matter. The crisis has hit the fan and there is much work to do. Naturally the first item of business is confronting the crisis head on, dealing with the issue and taking corrective action. Equally as important is taking on the public. This is oftentimes not as easy as one would think. Very talented people can grapple with the identification of and the solutions to a crisis, yet are completely flummoxed by the requirements for dealing with the public. Read more »

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Posted in Crisis Communication Success Stories, Crisis Management Success Stories on March 25th, 2010 by admin
I just received a new credit card in the mail. This is not unusual in itself but it is from my current credit card company – Bank of America, not one of my favorite institutions if truth be told. What is remarkable is that it is a card to replace my existing one that is not nearing expiration.
A very nice letter accompanied the card explaining that since BofA suspected that my card’s security had been compromised, they were cancelling it and substituting this new card. All terms and conditions remained the same.
Here is a company that determined a potential problem and did something about it. Proactive. It had to have cost them to do it. A cynic may say, yes, but it could have cost them more if they hadn’t done anything. True, but oftentimes it is difficult for an organization to bite the bullet, rather than wait it out. Taking no action can be kind of comfortable. So regardless of whether BofA took action that was for its own benefit, kudos for stepping up. But wait, there’s more.
Responsible action must be contagious within BofA. They just announced publicly that they would be forgiving the mortgage debt of some distressed borrowers. Could this actually be? Only time will tell but again BofA has gone on the offensive and is looking good. It would be a mistake if this is nothing more than a hollow PR gambit but time will tell. If it is, the bank takes a huge risk that they will look untruthful undermining its precarious public perception even more.
There have been a couple of other crisis management initiatives that have come to my attention that I think warrant applause. My own hometown was hit by a severe Nor’easter a couple of weeks ago. Trees were down everywhere. Many main and secondary roads were impassable (including mine – I couldn’t drive out of my street due to a fallen tree across the road). And over one-half of all homes in town were without electricity.
I’ve lived in the same house in the same town for over twenty years. Electric power delivery has always been dicey. Early on I lost electricity several times and finally, fed up, I wrote to the local newspaper complaining that I had moved from a third world country that had better electric power delivery than I was now receiving. Over the years some of the transformers and other gizmos have been updated and service has been acceptable, if not perfect. When the storm hit I shuddered to think what we were in for. But Connecticut Light & Power went to work. Crews were imported from other states. Every household was given updated Code Red alerts via the town’s emergency network, CL&P kept information flowing regularly and even went out on a limb and stated that 99% of the power would be restored by a certain date and hour. At the time, this forecast seemed far-fetched given the amount of damage and clean-up necessary just to get access to the wires. Yet, they did it! The company made an extraordinary effort, kept the public informed and, in my eyes at least, achieved a reputation as a first class public utility. I have only one suggestion. It would have been helpful for citizens to know what areas of town were scheduled for work on what days, and times, so homeowners could plan ahead, remove stuff from their freezers, get a hotel room etc. Barring that, nice job CL&P.
I received a rather personal letter from my cable company. Strange. I always get solicitations for the Triple Play – Internet, TV and telephone, but no, this was a kind of apology. The company thanked me for being a customer! They said they were sorry for inconveniencing me while they argued over programming fees with certain networks. They said they were sorry that there were interruptions in providing the Food Network, HGTV, and ABC (for the first 45 minutes of the Oscar presentations). Of course, they blamed everything on the greedy networks for trying to gauge the cable company instead of attempting to reduce costs, but hey, everyone has a different perspective. The thing is that the cable company tried to explain its side and did a credible job of it.
So congratulations to BofA, CL&P, and Cablevision for recognizing a crisis, handling it competently, and communicating to their respective stakeholders in a manner that has been straight-forward and not particularly self-serving, although self-serving communication, when deserved, is just fine.
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Posted in Anticipating A Crisis, Crisis Communication Planning, Crisis Communication Strategy, Crisis Management, Crisis Management Planning, Crisis Management Response, Crisis Management Strategy on March 23rd, 2010 by admin
No one can anticipate exactly what kind of crisis may befall your organization. Nevertheless there are many things that can be done – let’s call them generic – that will extremely helpful if and when the day comes that you need to call out the troops. And that is precisely the first step.
Assemble a team. Naturally, you have to assemble people who are trustworthy, loyal and competent. You may find that certain employees fit the bill while others are doubtful. You are not limited to employees. You most likely have relied on the services of outside people – people who have been your organization’s kitchen cabinet – throughout the years. Lawyers, accountants, marketing and public relations people, former employees who have gone out on their own. Shake the tree and you’ll be surprised who can be helpful.
Next, prioritize your needs. Who are the technical people available to fix the most likely problems? Who are the ones most capable of immediate fact-finding? These are the people who need to be mobilized quickly in order to isolate and address the most immediate concerns. Who are the individuals who can set up a document management system, document the issues, preserve evidence, research and fact-find and make information available to the very top. Finally, who are those who will speak for the organization. A communications strategy is a must. Generally speaking there is one spokesperson, perhaps with a backup individual. Information from the technical people and the document management people have to flow to the communicators who must be fully informed. Legal specialists and public relations personnel round out the communications team.
Communications is the key to effective crisis management. Of course, an organization’s problems need to be solved. But just as important, the public needs to know what the problems are, and what you are doing about them. The day of “no comment” is over. In fact it is long gone. Whether it’s Toyota or the local public utility, communications strategy is largely the same. An organization must be quick or else others will set the agenda and you will always be on the defensive. An organization must be proactive otherwise it will always be reactive. Openness and honesty coupled with the most up-to-date facts constitute good communications strategy. Staying on message, taking bold action to protect the public or making its needs paramount generally rule the day, regardless of whether you have been totally successful. Best intentions and extraordinary efforts are very often held in high regard by the public, especially when communicated regularly, clearly and openly.
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Posted in Anticipating A Crisis, Crisis Communication Strategy, Crisis Management, Crisis Management Planning on March 9th, 2010 by admin
A crisis is anything that creates an impediment to the success and perceived value of your organization.
We are all aware of certain obvious and well-known crises involving tainted, shoddy or defective products. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Your organization may be confronted with high profile litigation, an industry-wide government investigation, the resignation of a well-known executive, an environmental or natural disaster or a major internet failure. The list goes on – illegal employee activities, computer data loss, a walkout or a strike.
You and your colleagues can brainstorm the vulnerabilities of your organization and take steps to protect yourselves before the fact. Protection takes many forms and these are the nuts and bolts aspect of mitigation – taking steps to reduce physical loss; taking steps to anticipate and mitigate crises that have not yet ocurred. First, insurance: flood, fire, catastrophic, third party liability, product liability, key man insurance, officers and directors’ liability insurance. There is insurance for practically everything if you can afford it. Next, there are internal measures such as laboratory testing, and computer backup and file storage. An organization, whether a business, or a not-for-profit, must anticipate its soft spots and plan ahead. This is mitigation before the fact and lessens the impact of a crisis
Mitigation after the fact is a whole different animal. Yes, you will have to ramp up the IT people or your lab technicians, make alternate plans for business continuation. There may be alot of mop-up. But now you are faced with an additional problem: public perception. Are you a deer caught in headlights or are you in full charge and control. do you have a plan in place? Do you have a spokesperson? Do you know how to take responsibility and avoid legal pitfalls?
Post-crisis mitigation is essential to the long-term survival of your organization. Without well planned and well executed post-crisis mitigation some organizations have found that they cannot recoup lost ground and cannot reclaim their previous stature or standing, whether it be worldwide or local. It must be taken seriously. When executed well, post crisis mitigation can even enhance reputation and standing.
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Posted in Anticipating A Crisis, Business Crisis Management, Crisis Management, Crisis Management Planning on March 8th, 2010 by admin
Every business or organization has a choice. Anticipate what problems or crises may befall you in the future and have a ready plan – or punt. Oftentimes punting is the option chosen – either because the principals are clueless, or consciously because of time constraints or because the odds are so against lightning striking.
But lightning does strike, many times without warning. The most obvious example is a natural disaster. Speculate what may be the most likely cause of a natural disaster where you are located. Hurricanes, floods, avalanches, twisters. Are you potentially vulnerable? None are exactly your fault but you have to play the hand you are dealt. The first rule of crisis management is anticipate.
You don’t have to be the manufacture of Oxycontin, or Perrier or Tylenol. You could be a retailer on Main Street. Do you sell peanuts, or tomatoes, or asparagus, all of which have hit the headlines within the last two years because of contamination. Do you sell toys from China that are finished with beautiful lead paint? Anticipate. Are you selling perishable commodities? Are you importing product from third world countries? Do you have alternative sources of product?
A little anticipation can go a long way towards protecting your best interests. Conversely ignoring this step can leave you vulnerable. If you have a plan for a crisis that may never occur the worst and the best that may happen is that you will never need to implement it.
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Posted in Uncategorized on March 5th, 2010 by admin
Not much in common you think? Very wrong. Both are “people” you know, according to the law. The only difference is one has a single brain and the other has multiple ones directing its course. Each has recently had a crisis de jour (which has kept us preoccupied) and hopes it to be the last. More importantly, each hopes that it can navigate through perilous waters to the safe harbour it used to enjoy.
How did they get to their dismal current states? Easy. Both thought they were big enough and strong enough to control their environments. A little like the tail wagging the dog, the dog being the public – the American public specifically and the world in general. But what exactly brought them down? Was it, in fact, the extracurricular activities of Mr. Woods or the sloppy safety operations of Toyota. No not really, in either case.
We think the saying “Too Big To Fail” applies to the banking industry, but it is an excellent mantra for those in any industry or in any walk of life to repeat in order to get into dangerously hot water. Did Tiger think he was too big to fail? Did Toyota? Of course they did. That mentality has always brought men (and women) and institutions to their knees. It is especially prevelant in politics (see R. Nixon and W. J. Clinton); and the entertainment industry (too many to name). Of course, some do get away with it with brash denial, bullying and whatever other ammunition is available and therein lies the temptation. If 1000 people or institutions die by their own sword and one survives, that’s the one to follow.
It is impossible to convince some that honesty and short-term pain endurance is better than bobbing and weaving and eventually getting caught in the cross hairs. Deal with a crisis head-on. Deal with it expeditiously and constructively. The public has an enormous capacity for forgiveness for those who are up front. What’s the sense of prolonging the agony? Invariably, it catches up with you and the mea culpas begin anew.