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Hughes blog post: Act before the crisis hits…

16 January 2015    

Australian businesses spend millions of dollars every year marketing their products and services, but in comparison, how much is actually spent on “insuring their reputation” with an issues management plan in case of a crisis?

Businesses need to be proactive in taking preventative measures to avoid a crisis, and be prepared in case one strikes. But that’s the hard part. It’s a bit like writing a will or taking out life insurance. Most of us don’t want to think about it.

However, if a crisis does occur, it need not be fatal. Indeed, if handled well, it can actually enhance the reputation of the organisation.

Businesses often can’t avoid an issue or crisis, but they can plan for it.

The best thing an organisation can do is to honestly examine the way it does business – find the actual weaknesses and potential threats in the organisation and the industry. Once the issues are known, scenarios can be developed. E.g. What if our oil refinery leaked oil into the sea? What if our products were sabotaged and a customer died? What if someone was injured or killed on our manufacturing line?

While the specific responses to each scenario will vary, the strategy should hinge on being as open and honest as possible – ensuring accurate information is disseminated regularly and any incorrect information in the marketplace is corrected quickly.

In a crisis there are a lot of bases to cover – and they need to be covered quickly and effectively. Having a plan, and testing it regularly, ensures that everyone knows what the processes are and when to apply them.

Building a positive brand and protecting it is vitally important for the success and longevity of an organisation. It means doing all that’s expected – by customers, shareholders, staff, regulators and the general public – so that, ideally, no issue or crisis arises. Or if it does, then there is a spotless history and reputation on which to draw for the defence and ultimate survival of the business.

Rules for crisis management communications:

1. Plan for a crisis
2. Listen for the ‘warning signs’
3. Don’t hide if a crisis arises
4. Own up to the issue
5. Offer solutions, not excuses
6. Be honest
7. Talk to employees – they are the best asset in a crisis
8. Be upfront with customers
9. Proactively inform the media before they find out from other sources
10. Create an ongoing and open dialogue with all stakeholders throughout the issue

To develop your crisis management plan, or to assist with an emerging crisis contact Hughes PR.

- Jamie Hershman