by Cindy Rakowitz | May 17, 2012 5:30 pm
What happens when there is a natural disaster? There are injuries, there are hundreds missing and the city is in shambles.
As a business leader, you have to disseminate information immediately. The messages must be succinct and cohesive for multiple constituents to understand and respond quickly. This is why individuals and organizations should make crisis planning a priority. Emergencies are not only limited to physical disasters. Rapid response is also required for crises such as civil disorders, labor unrest, criminal charges, death, illness, system failure, scandals, indictments, convictions, lawsuits, hostile takeovers and bankruptcy.
From Ponzi schemes to Occupy protests; from unpredictable weather patterns to factory explosions; from terrorist attacks to mall melees; from celebrity mishaps to sinking cruise ships, crises happen every day. This is why comprehensive crisis planning is imperative for saving lives as well as saving brands. But where to start? Service professionals and corporate executives from the smallest mom-and-pop to the largest multinational organizations often find it daunting to roll up their sleeves and facilitate a crisis plan.
Crisis planning begins with ethics and trust-building in the community. Identify your organization’s core values reflecting your dedication to serve with honesty and integrity, then you can easily develop your mission statement, defining your organization’s reason for existence. Effective mission statements include purpose, value, contribution and distinction. If a reporter should call a food manufacturer, asking for a comment related to a food-poisoning incident, a well-constructed mission statement serves as the foundation for the company’s response. For example, “We are committed to providing quality product with top-line inspection techniques to guarantee the delivery of healthy, fresh goods.” Without a mission statement, the manufacturer would have to scramble for a response.
Before setting the date for your crisis management planning session, consider viewing Steven Soderbergh’s feature film Contagion about a fictional bat virus pandemic that kills millions. The lesson learned is how quickly the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and medical researchers respond. They begin immediate research of the problem. They are proactive with the media. Public Schools become quarantine centers. FEMA sends food trucks. The National Guard is on the scene. They activate emergency hotlines.
Social media’s influence was not lost on director Soderbergh either. He includes in the film a blogger who might not have been the most credible journalist, but is loved and respected for entertaining his 12 million followers through the darkest days of the outbreak.
Now you are ready to create your plan. Bring together your top executives and agree that your crisis plan will:
The first step is to designate an Emergency Incident Leader to oversee and direct plan creation and later operations and logistics in a crisis. Boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.” Remember that every emergency is unique and the team must be ready to improvise when things go sideways—because they inevitably will.
Alan B. Bernstein included this overview in his Emergency Public Relations Manual published 30 years ago, but the application is still relevant today.
The Overview section of a crisis plan usually includes these items:
These are a few items the basic emergency PR plan will address:
Emergency PR plan communications should include these items:
Now that you have reviewed the components required for a comprehensive crisis plan, you might consider hiring a professional media trainer to master messaging and delivery. Distilling memorable messages from complex ideas made Albert Einstein one of the most popular figures in history. Make sure that your organization has its own website to control the messages and that your PR department has learned to master social networking to monitor and market the brand. Using the Internet and social media, your company can identify and respond to negative press immediately, in real time and while it is happening. In today’s Web 3.0 world, the majority of information about us already is or quickly can become public. Bad news spreads like wildfire, so communication response has to move even faster. Building your own content bank filled with an accurate chronology of events and impressive references can work in your favor when it becomes necessary to diffuse a negative incident. •
Large companies such as Playboy Enterprises have many mission statements written for specific divisions. Playboy magazine developed its mission statements through authoritative editorial guidelines developed by their founder, Hugh Hefner, and adhered to for decades. When Playboy magazine expanded its global reach through 17 international editions of the publication, the U.S. editorial guidelines were clear and concise in every contractual agreement.
In April 2000, Playboy Enterprises learned that major international women’s groups were protesting against the company for violent graphic images in the newly released Romanian edition. The offensive article was entitled “How to Beat Your Wife Without Leaving Marks.” The misguided Romanian editor intended the piece as an April Fools’ satire.
Playboy’s senior management team responded immediately to defuse the situation. This rapid response with a clear and focused message was possible because the company’s editorial policies pertaining to violence toward women was clear and unequivocal:
“There is no place in Playboy for any kind of violence whatsoever, and most particularly violence against women. Playboy Enterprises and Playboy Magazine has zero tolerance for the depiction of violence, or the use of threat or coercion against women in any form. It violates the very essence of our message of the joy of life and freedom between the sexes.”
Additionally, CEO Christie Hefner issued an immediate apology for any anguish this ill-conceived satire caused. She reinforced Playboy’s long-standing history as a powerful corporate proponent of women’s rights and an enterprise that has worked closely with many groups and organizations in support of women’s rights. These swift and clear actions mollified the women’s groups and the media. Indeed, the public and media applauded the fact that the company took punitive action against the editor of the Romanian edition.—C.R.
Source URL: http://www.socalprofessional.com/2012/05/crisis-management-in-a-rapid-fire-communication-world/
Copyright ©2020 Southern California Professional Magazine unless otherwise noted.