SOME COMPANIES GET IT

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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PLANNING FOR POST CRISIS MITIGATION

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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