WHEN a company is facing a crisis, it has to consider key crisis management factors to handle the situation effectively and instil confidence.

To recap, Part 1 looked at these Level 1 factors:

•  Making sure company staff are thoroughly informed of the crisis and are well briefed about what they need to do; and

•  Managing emotions at a stressful time and avoiding four unhelpful behaviours.

In Part 2 yesterday, the article underscored the importance of the chief executive officer’s role as the “face” of the company and the need to control the dissemination of accurate and timely information on social media platforms.

In the final article in the series, we look at the third level of key crisis management factors an organisation must consider:

 

Level 3: A handle on the global scale

 

Expert communicators

When an organisation has to address a global crisis, as was the case in the Malaysia Airlines MH370 tragedy, certain issues come into play.

Ragan Communications, in the article “5 lessons learned from Malaysia Airlines’ crisis response”, identified culture as a potential problem.

It pointed out that overseas media outlets are not likely to adjust to a country’s culture. For example, a CEO may be used to having journalists report only what he says. Overseas reporters, on the other hand, may ask hard-hitting questions, refusing to acquiesce and accept boilerplate responses.

Ragan suggested putting the key spokesmen through thorough training sessions until they become expert communicators. An example of such training would include intense mock conferences. During these training sessions, the spokesmen must be prepped on identifying the external stakeholders in a scenario, their concerns and sentiments, and how the company should portray itself.

When addressing a multinational customer base, cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivities are pivotal. Ragan urged companies operating in different countries to train spokesmen to speak on their behalf when there is a crisis.

For companies with a global presence, having trained representatives convey the facts in native languages will ensure that the intended message is not lost in translation.

 

Learning curve

On July 17, shock waves rippled through the world as the news broke of flight MH17 being shot down over Ukraine. This news further embattled Malaysia Airlines, which is still reeling from the MH370 tragedy that happened only four months earlier.

In the article, “Inside Malaysia Airlines, tears and shock as tragedy strikes again”, Reuters noted the airline’s more polished crisis management skills. It took the airline less than an hour to confirm via Twitter feed that it had lost contact with the aircraft — a stark contrast to its management of the MH370 tragedy where the airline took six hours to acknowledge that the plane was missing.

Back then, separate statements by government officials and military leaders often contradicted each other. This time round, it was decided that Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Tai would be the only official spokesman. Facts were verified quickly and statements were released in a timely fashion.

Managing a crisis is easier said than done. As a crisis never unfolds in a linear fashion, there is no crisis management plan that is entirely foolproof. One thing, however, is certain: a people-centric approach must be taken.

Employees and customers need two things: facts and assurance. Verify the facts and get them out as soon as possible. In the absence of facts, let them know the company is sparing no expense in tackling the crisis.

 

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