FORTY-EIGHT hours. In the world of crisis management, this is roughly the time a company has to address a crisis head-on and instil confidence. Handle the crisis well and affected customers will still remain loyal. Mishandle it and the blocks of trust built over the years will crumble.
When a crisis strikes, the crisis management team should take the lead. In the report, “10 tips for reputation and crisis management in the digital world”, Forbes magazine recommends that the crisis management team should comprise members from public relations, human resource, legal, marketing and other relevant departments.
A multi-disciplinary team will be able to craft a message that covers all the bases. This minimises the probability of future flip-flopping too. If the crisis involves accidents and deaths, then the company should look into hiring grief counsellors and psychologists to help families of victims process their emotions.
What are the key crisis management factors a company has to consider? Let’s find out.
Level 1: Engaging the company
Get everyone on the same page
Bad news will cast a pall over day-to-day operations. As customers fly into a rage, many businesses turn their attention and channel all their resources to pacify them. One group of stakeholders they often neglect, however, is their most important one — the staff. This is a mistake.
The first thing the crisis management team needs to do is set up internal communication channels. Staff must be in the know; they cannot learn of the crisis while reading the news ticker during breakfast. Gather everyone in the same room to ensure that the message is clear and consistent, not diluted and polarising.
What is the company’s official stand? Are there any preliminary findings to report? When media outlets hound staff for comments, what should they say? Are employees allowed to talk about the crisis on their personal social media accounts? Even a retweet of a reporter’s allegations or theories could be taken as an admission.
In the report, “How NOT to handle a crisis: XO Communications’ monumental fail”, Forbes discussed the importance of engaging employees. Their opinions matter and their talents should be tapped to help resolve any pressing issues.
Because they know the ins and outs of the company, employees make great mouthpieces. Those who are not involved in the fix, said contributor Davia Temin, should be roped in to manage phone lines, e-mail and comments on social media platforms.
Crises can generally be attributed to a few causes: human error, a lapse in judgment or non-compliance with regulations. During a crisis, tension swells in the office because eventually someone has to be held accountable.
In the report, “Crisis management: Is your team freaking out?”, the online magazine Inc. identified the four types of negative behavioural patterns displayed by employees, and even managers, in times of adversity:
• There is the panicker, who does not inspire confidence or make rational decisions;
• Then there is the finger pointer, who is quick to play the blame game;
• The retribution seeker is just like the finger pointer, except he wants to file a lawsuit against an outside hire for the oversight; and
• The moral contortionist has the solution to end the crisis but it is one that betrays the company’s core values.
These behaviours do little to help. Trying to find a scapegoat distracts the team from dealing with the problem on hand. Instead, top management should reassure employees that a solution is being sought.
Until an investigation is launched, there is no telling who — be it an employee or vendor — is at fault. In fact, when a problem escalates into a crisis, it is rarely the fault of just one person. When a company is in the thick of a crisis, all available resources should be channelled not to assign blame but to solve it.
Article by Nicholas Goh, founder and chief executive officer of Verztec Consulting, an ISO 9001:2008 global content consulting company. For more information, visit www.verztec.com