Tag Archives: Crisis Management

Crisis Management – The Idiot’s Guide To Creating A Plan 1

2009 Research by Burson Marsteller (a PR company) into European companies’ level of crisis-preparedness revealed that while 60% of companies polled had encountered some sort of crisis, 53% didn’t have a plan in place to deal with a crisis when it happens to them. Just so the full horror of this has time to sink in – I’ll repeat it in slightly different terms.

Over half of European companies, it would seem, are wholly unprepared for the ‘phone call at 3.00am that tells you your factory’s on fire, or one of your planes just came down. The Monday morning call from the Department of Health to say that hospitals up and down the country are stuffed to the gunwales with patients, poisoned by your range of ready meals. The sight of two of your workforce plummeting past the window, having been issued with badly-maintained harnesses. Your CEO shooting himself in the foot, describing your product range as ‘off the record, real shit, know what I mean’, or your CEO simply shooting himself, having realised that the whole fraud game is up.

Do I need to go on? Everyone knows that a good crisis – or sometimes just a minor issue – can destroy a company, brand, organisation, or person’s reputation overnight if it’s not handled in the right way. Think of the examples. Hoover and the flights debacle, Ratners, Nestle and the baby milk, Coke and Dasani, Thierry Henry, Goldman Sachs, Britney Spears, Enron, Exxon Mobil – the list is, quite literally, endless.

And still, over half of European companies do not have a crisis plan in place. Without labouring the point, a crisis can happen at any time, and it’s one of those strange serendipity things that at any time is exactly when crises do happen. There’s no warning and it will be the middle of the night – that much is guaranteed. It is tantamount to malpractice for any communicator daring to describe himself or herself as professional to ply their trade in, or on behalf of, a company that doesn’t have a plan in place. Think about that for a moment.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. If you’ve not created a plan before it might, understandably, seem a bit daunting – and it’s not made any easier by the fact that there are a million conflicting opinions on what a plan should look like and what it should contain.

It’s also all to easy to put off, or ignore. Hey – your company, or your client’s company has never had a crisis – why’s it going to start now? Anyway, how difficult can it be? And just think of the cost, time and effort involved in putting a plan together! All perfectly good arguments – until such time as you are bitch-slapped by the big, wet, metaphorical haddock of crisis. At which point you are going to be really, really, abjectly sorry. Trust me.

In a perfect world, one would expect the industry bodies, or the industry’s ‘bible’ (copyright PRWeek 2009), to provide a handy cut-and-out-keep guide for the benefit of their members and readers – something to get you started. But it’s not a perfect world, and they don’t. In fact, as far as I can see, during the lazy and brief trawl of t’internet I conducted earlier today, there’s not much out there that doesn’t have a price attached to it.

So, for the good of mankind, I’m going to do a partwork here, just for you, my faithful blog snorkellers. Over the next few days – could be weeks, depends how deeply I dive into my subject – I shall, I hope, give you enough information on the key aspects of crisis management for you to develop your own skeleton plan. I shall deal with what constitutes a crisis, when issues become crises, who is responsible for the various facets of a crisis, preparing for a crisis, communicating during a crisis, business continuity and getting back to normal after a crisis. And, most likely, one or two spin-off topics.

So – tomorrow, in Creating A Plan 2, I’ll deal with What Is A Crisis.

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CEOs Avoid Social Media

Ah – there you are. As you were.

When I read the title of this piece from the august and authoritative communications organ, Communicate Magazine (a title which I have simply stolen and used as my own), I was – I will not deny it – delighted. At last, I thought, CEOs show some sense. CEOs have (collectively) told their social media advisers (gurus, probably) – people whom I imagine to look and behave rather like the character Grima Wormtongue out of The Two Towers – that enough is enough and, starting today, we’ll be avoiding that social media malarkey, an’ thank you kindly.

Grima Wormtongue and a CEO, yesterday

Grima Wormtongue and a CEO, yesterday

Unfortunately, I was a bit previous. On fuller examination of the article’s contents (go on, do the clickety, you know you want to) I find it is reportage of yet another survey by yet another holistically thinking communications agency, promoting their expertise in the field of corporate reputation management by revealing (ta-DAAAA!) that “more than one-third of American CEOs do not consider the reputation their company has on social media when making decisions…….however, B2C CEOs consider social media more than their B2B counterparts.” The figures, because you’re gagging for them (I can tell) are thus:

  • B2B businesses only respond to online crises 43% of the time
  • (This is) well behind consumer-facing companies’ 63% response rate
  • B2B companies are twice as likely to entirely avoid addressing reputational issues with their digital audience

(I am afraid that I didn’t feel compelled to read the rest of the findings, but should you – dearest blog trotter – be desperate, here’s a link to the source.)

Anyhoo, having taken a bit of time to analyse the sentence “more than one-third of etc etc etc”, sad to say, I’m not sure what it means. Does it mean that, when making decisions, American CEOs don’t think about the potential effect that decision may have on social media communities and how they may, therefore, react (positively or negatively)? Or does it mean that American CEOs (possibly through the offices of Grima Wormtongue) have managed to put a value on the reputation their company has on social media, but don’t really care about whether that value goes up or down as a result of the decisions they make? Either way – and this POV won’t surprise those of you who know me – I think we’re allocating social media a corporate-reputation-affectiveness weighting (yes, I just made that up) that it doesn’t have. I would be fascinated if American CEOs have managed to put a value on social media reputation, mind.

(And, just briefly, how was this research carried out? Was the question “Out of every 100 online crises, how many did you respond to?” really asked? Yes, I know I’m being facile. Sorry.) (But, a serious point here – we’re obviously not talking about crises, we’re talking about issues. No company can be unlucky (or incompetent) enough to have encountered 100 real crises.)

So. I’d like to attempt an answer to the burning question raised by this research, which is (obviously) ‘why are CEOs avoiding social media?’ And in formulating my answer, I provide this piece of evidence, which I shall call (to make it sound weighty and official) ‘Exhibit A‘. It’s quite old, but it is the record of an online complaint being addressed, reasonably sensibly, by the company at which the complaint was aimed, and the subsequent response from the complainant.

Ladies and gents, I put it to you that the reason that social media ‘issues’ are being avoided by many (not enough) companies is because a vast majority of those using social media – and commenting on a vast range of topics, including the doings of big corporate – are completely and utterly hat stand. Dribbling, incompetent loons, gibbering into the void. And no matter what you, the corporate, do or say, you will not win.

Best, often, to keep schtum.

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Social Media in a Crisis

More evidence, if more were needed, that we really do not have a clue what we are doing with social media (in using the word ‘we’ I am embracing the entire PR and Corporate Affairs community, even the slightly creepy ones, like one I met this morning. The one who was so engrossed in herself and her own importance she forgot the first rule – don’t believe your own hype. There’s nothing more edifying than watching someone who thinks they’re good being seven shades of awful).

Anyway, long story short, I was at something billed as a breakfast briefing on ‘The Role of Social Media In a Travel Crisis’. Which sounded fab – and there were two speakers, who definitely had had crises. Sadly, the session never really got past the ‘travel crisis’ bit with the ‘social media’ piece being relegated to some screengrabs and an admission that neither of the spokepeople’s organisations had either dedicated budget or dedicated resource to deal with the phenomenon that is social. Which is fine – but I know something about crisis management and I don’t need to be told to ‘have the facts’ and ‘be sincere’ – I really wanted to hear about others’ experience of crisis played out on social.

Got me thinking though. Thinking a couple of things. Once again – and in this context – social media is not a force for good – it is likely to carry reputational risk and will suck at your time like a Goldman Sachs(*). And, again once again, our industry is bullsh*tting and bl*stering its way through, ‘avin’ it large on topics about which it wots not. We do not understand social media, fellow communicators mine, and maybe it is time that we did. Maybe it is time – to address the specific point – that crisis management planning, training and simulation all contained dedicated social (new) media modules. Maybe it’s time we planned, rather than – as I saw this morning – leaving it to chance and doing it on the hoof.

I for one shall be taking this very much more seriously from here on in.

And finally – a general comment on people who work in PR. If you’re asked to speak on a topic – then speak on the topic. Please don’t attempt to spin it to suit you. It doesn’t work (mostly) with general audiences – what makes you think it’s going to work with your peers?

(* Vampire Squid)

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Filed under Communications Strategy, corporate reputation, Crisis Management Guides, Social Media

London 2012 – The Final Tickety Straw

‘Morning all. Sun’s shining in old London Town – clearly, not for long – but, in this brief respite, the place doesn’t look too bad. The quiet before the storm. A little bit of peace before it all goes to hell in a handcart, thanks to the idiots who thought it would be a good idea to host the Olympic Games in England’s green and pleasant land.

Only it’s not in England’s green and pleasant land, is it? Despite what Danny Boyle and his certifiably insane plans for an opening ceremony would try and have you believe. Nope – it’s on a brownfield site in East London (which – in fairness – has scrubbed up quite well and has been nicely designed) serviced by, I am afraid, rickety and unsound public transport links. Upon which the majority of the extra million people expected in London for the two week period will be expected to cram, cattle-like, for their undoubtedly slow and disrupted journey to the Olympic Park (and surrounding venues).

I say the majority, because (obviously) the ‘Olympic Family’ will be whisked (although some will not need it, as they will already be light and fluffy) via fatman BMW directly to the Olympic venue of their choice along specially sequestered Olympic Routes. Those of us Londoners who might wish to go for a bit of a drive will be fined £130 if we stray into these Lanes of Privilege, and our families will be shot. (OK, I made that last bit up.) So we’ll have to go on the overcrowded public, along with the horrible unwashed spectators – and therefore we’ve been advised to leave home at 0430, and stay at work until midnight, so that our daily commute doesn’t have an adverse effect on the capacity of London’s public transport to get the Olympic sheep to the Olympic park, to be properly fleeced by the biggest McDonalds in the world, where you can only pay with Visa.

Is it just me?

Anyway – and obviously – many workers will simply ‘work from home’. Which is a simple euphemism for ‘not have a shave, slob around in dressing gown, enjoy a pub lunch, do a couple of emails, go back to the pub’. The financial impact on London will be enormous – businesses will be haemorrhaging cash and productivity – except, of course, Maccy D’s, Visa, Coke and the other TOP sponsors who will (see above) fleece the Olympic sheep and then take their ill-gotten gains offshore. No Olympic Games (apparently) has ever made its host city any money. There are doubts over the Olympic ‘legacy’. (Cracked paving slabs, rusting fences and weeds, for my money.) And all of this has cost Londoners – and only Londoners, lest anyone think this burden has been shared around the UK – dear. Billions of pounds. Funded by increased taxation.

So you’d think that Londoners – in return for disruption, chaos, upheaval and long-term financial burden – would get something in return. (No, LOCOG and GLA, not pride in the ‘legacy’, not satisfaction in a ‘job well done’, not the promise of jam tomorrow – something concrete. Something now.) Something like – well, what can I think of that might compensate me and my family? Ah yes! Got it!

Some tickets!

Ah – say LOCOG, sucking their teeth and shaking their heads. No, sorry. Tickets all gone. Actually, hold on, you could see the tiddlywinks at the Milton Keynes Bowl? No? Well, sorry, then. Tickets all gone. You did take part in ballot? Yes? And the second one? Yes? No tickets? Oh, well – at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that London did the IOC proud.

So. Chaos. Disruption. Penury. And nothing to show for it.

And then, this morning, in the UK’s free morning paper – The Metro – an advert from Prestige Tickets. We still have tickets, they say, to a range of events, including the athletics – get them while they’re hot, they say. Before they run out, they say. At £595 a ticket, they say.

On their journeys into work this morning, hundreds of thousands of ticketless Londoners, contemplating a summer of difficulty, for which they’ve been forced to pay, in the cause of an event they’ll never see, had their noses rubbed in it, adding the final insult to their forthcoming injury.

The London 2012 Olympic Games. They suck.

 

 

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New Date For The End of The World – 2017

We’ve all seen The Terminator (OK, so maybe some of you haven’t seen The Terminator – if so a) you are undoubtedly a horrible hairy hermit who has been living in a cave, on a diet of unmentionable wiggly things for the past three decades and b) it is a seminal movie from 1984, starring thesp behemoth Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg from the future, sent to kill the mother of the man who will lead the resistance against the machines, in a future where machines have taken over the world).

As I was saying, we’ve all seen The Terminator and know how untidy and radioactive a planet can become when machines decide they’re better at ruling it than the indigenous carbon-based lifeforms that have happily been making a fair old hash of it for the past few millennia.

Here’s an article from The Grauniad (a UK-based daily paper of some note, for those blog trotters of a foreign persuasion) which says that “mobile subscriptions set to rise from 6.2bn now to 9bn by 2017, according to report from Ericsson”. Yes, friends, by 2017 there will be more devices than people on this wee planetoid that we call home.

And then it can only be a matter of time before the first Blackberry gets all Bold (see what I did there?) and decides that, rather than being in a bag or a pocket, it would rather be out in the fresh air. And once it decides that, then it’ll BBM all its mates, and before you know it, they’ll all be clamouring for their freedom. And in so doing, they’ll inevitably decide that – actually – they’d probably make a better fist of running the place after all and – well, you can see where I’m going with this.

Is there a John Connor in the house?

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Blatter Microblogs – Sepp’s Twatter?

OK, OK – I am guilty of writing the headline before I wrote the post – but the combination of Blatter and Twitter was just too good to be passed up. (Although, on reflection, I could, possibly, have done something better with it. Suggestions on a used, non-sequential £20 to the usual address. Winning entry will be featured on this blog.)

So, gentle reader, a further apology for being late to this issue but, as they say, and rightly so, better late than never. Clearly, this is all about the loathsome Sepp Blatter (clearly, just my opinion, never met the man etc etc etc) and his frankly disgraceful meanderings around the issue of rascism in football. (Now, is it just me, or does he remind anyone else – in terms of appearance only, obviously – of Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Egyptian Grocer of London, as was?)

When you read the transcripts of the man’s pronouncements, you really have to wonder what planet he’s on. Or what interesting and expensive substances. But – whoa – there’s me being rascist, as it’s fair to assume that English is not his native tongue and, gor’ bless ‘im, he’s having a go. Clearly, it might be better had he, in fact, NOT had a go, but there we are. Too late now.

So, a couple of lessons to be drawn from this, communicators all – and, as I’m late to this, you’ve probably all drawn these lessons already – but, no matter, they bear repeating.

This is the real power of social media – you mess up and there is nowhere to hide. Once you have messed up, regardless of whether it’s a real mess up or not, whether it’s your fault or not, whether you meant it or not – too late. There is nothing you can do but be contrite and – if you can justify yourself – put your point of view across. But be warned – your point of view had better be squeaky clean and beyond reproach – if not, then shut up and apologise, abjectly, for all you are worth. Blatter’s Twatter didn’t do this. His continuing refusal to do the decent thing and throw himself off the top of FIFA Towers – sorry, did I say that out loud? – the decent thing and resign is not going to make it any better. And while he hangs on, the already tarnished reputation of FIFA will continue to lose the little shine that remains.

And do I really have to say anything about the decision to release a picture of Blatter with his arm round Tokyo Sexwale? Do I? Just proving that no matter how sophisticate we think communications has become, in the heat of battle, we still make really stupid choices. Now, in fairness, I can only surmise that the decision to release a picture of Blatter hugging a black man was made right at the top, and the hapless comms person really didn’t have a choice. But this goes back to something I’ve said before – we all should try and remember what the true role of the communicator is. It is – in cases like this – to have the presence, respect and sheer brass b*lls to stand up and say ‘ no way – over my dead body’. Think on’t.

Finally – and on a completely different topic – may I commend The Sun newspaper for coining the term ‘Sunemployment’ which, I believe, refers to all the ‘good work’ the newspaper is doing highlighting and addressing the issue of rampant unemployment. (Some may say, remembering the closure of the NoW, that this is a little ironic – but I’m not one of them.) I don’t know why, but when I read ‘Sunemployment’ I was taken directly back to the 70s – strikes, three-day weeks, power cuts, austerity and unemployment – the newspaper in my hands went all black and white and somehow things were a little darker, a little colder and a little less broadminded.

I do hope this is not one of those self-fulfilling prophecy thingies.

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Filed under Crisis Management, Social Media

A Letter to Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

Here, dearest Blog Trotters mine, is a letter sent, via the medium of  ‘e’ mail, to the CEO, CMO and (oh but yes) the Chief Performance Officer of Everything Everywhere, the company formed through the alliance of Orange and T-Mobile. I’ll let you know whether I get a response.

(Still have no email on my B’Berry, by the way.) (I knew you’d be concerned.)

“Dear Olaf, Pippa and Ralf
Having been, finally, beaten by your impenetrable ‘customer service’ network (a completely new and totally unexpected definition of the term ‘customer service’ that I’d not encountered before), I am really, really hoping that you will be able to solve my Orange problem for me. (Congratulations on the company name, by the way – genuinely visionary and grandiose. If only it wasn’t the complete opposite of my experience to date.)
A long story short – as I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do (I know I have) – I’ve been a genuinely loyal customer of Orange for over 10 years and, to date, while it’s been (with hindsight) a bit pricey and I don’t like being sold insurance that I don’t need, I’ve been happy with it. Never even considered moving. Over the last four days, however, all of that has changed – rarely have I felt so powerless in the face of complete corporate ineptitude. Seriously, guys, whoever designed your call handling systems, the automated responses and the customer-facing website functionality should be tracked down and punished, in a cruel and unusual way. And so should the person who sold you the idea of outsourcing your call centres (I’m guessing that they are outsourced) – as the systems don’t work and even if they did, the call centre staff don’t have the knowledge to do anything with the account data the system is supposed to provide. I suspect it’s cost-cutting and lack of forward planning – but, whatever the cause, it’s frustrating and it will lose you business.
So – I’ve got an upgrade to a new Blackberry device. There was a slight delivery snafu, but it arrived. I’d been told to ring a number to activate the SIM. Did that on Sunday – the rather irritating call centre chap told me I should have done it online (incidentally, when I DID try to do it on line, the service didn’t work), but then said he’d be able to sort it out. Monday morning – not done, so I called again. Monday afternoon, nothing happening, called again, assured that a supervisor would be activating my SIM. Late Monday afternoon, call again, recorded message tells me that a problem precludes me being connected to an operator, and I should call back. Monday evening, nothing doing, call again, put on hold for 20 minutes, then cut off. (Meanwhile, and while I’m on a roll, why do I have to go through umpteen ‘if you want this, press that’ prompts, every time I ‘phone, when I still end up with the same lacklustre call centre staff, all of whom (without exception) have to contact someone else to address my query? And what, in the name of all that’s holy, is a ‘magic number’?)
Tuesday morning – hallelujah – SIM activated. Attempt to connect to my internet email accounts. Wah-wah and, indeed, oops. Either I’ve got a purely enterprise device, not allowing (as I’m sure you know) connection to internet mail accounts, or I’m being stupid. Let’s take the latter option – it’s been known. I visit your Orange website – again, do you know how difficult and painful it is to find things on that site? Couldn’t find anything helpful. Today I braved your call centres again, looking for a resolution to the problem – who knows (not me) maybe Orange can tweak the B’Berry enterprise software and provide me, remotely, with a consumer-facing device. Suffice it to say, your operative either couldn’t, or didn’t, address the issue. Nor did she call me back when she said she was going to.
So, here I am, with device, without email. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to rely on email to keep me in touch with career and business opportunities, so I’m a little stifled right now. Two questions:
How has Orange come to this? It was brilliant – now it’s rubbish. Is this the Everything Everywhere influence?
Can you sort this out for me – or do I, and with regret, take my business elsewhere? I know I’m just one punter, but on the basis of my recent experience, I won’t be the last.
Perhaps a little less spend on marketing and a little more on nuts and bolts and getting the experience right.
All the best
The Wordmonger
PS And, lest I be accused of not making enough effort (sigh), yes, I have emailed Orange, via the same difficult website, twice, once asking advice and once complaining. No response to date. I know it says ‘a response within 48 hours’ – but, really, 48 hours? In today’s social media-driven world? Time for reflection, I think.
PPS I know I wrote, earlier, ‘long story short’ – but, well, hey……….”

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Filed under Communications Strategy, Corporate Religion, Crisis Management, External Communications