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– What should you do when a cri­sis hits?

It is a well-known fact that build­ing a brand’s rep­u­ta­tion takes con­sid­er­able time and ef­fort, yet a cri­sis has the abil­ity to threaten it at any time. Al­though you may not pos­sess di­rect con­trol over a cri­sis when it hits, you can cer­tainly plan care­fully and de­velop your re­sponse strate­gi­cally ahead of time writes Sharon Zeev-Poole.


Al­though many or­gan­i­sa­tions iden­tify that cri­sis man­age­ment is a top pri­or­ity, many fail to de­velop a ro­bust plan that deals with any sud­den or sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive event. A Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu sur­vey, which polled 300 ex­ec­u­tives, re­ported that “only 19% would award their com­pany an ‘A’ for its ca­pa­bil­ity in pro­tect­ing against and re­spond­ing to rep­u­ta­tion risks”, and, “39% ranked their risk-man­age­ment pro­grams as at best ‘av­er­age’, and of­ten ‘be­low av­er­age’”. With this in mind, a cri­sis man­age­ment plan will al­low any busi­ness to de­ter­mine and map out the nec­es­sary tasks or strate­gies, train­ing, laws, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion that will fa­cil­i­tate any cri­sis. In turn, this will in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, the wel­fare of em­ploy­ees and the gen­eral pub­lic, and will assist to pre­vent rep­u­ta­tion dam­age.

Depend­ing on the na­ture of the

busi­ness, each plan will dif­fer but the fol­low­ing com­po­nents should al­ways be con­sid­ered. Al­though ev­ery is­sue must be dealt with promptly, ac­ti­va­tion guide­lines must be es­tab­lished to en­sure that the plan is only fully ex­e­cuted when is­sues es­ca­late to cri­sis level. You must cre­ate de­tailed ac­tion plans to en­sure that each em­ployee is aware of the tasks and ac­tion items that need to be un­der­taken dur­ing the cru­cial stages of the cri­sis. The plan will in­clude al­lo­cated time­frames, des­ig­nated roles and progress re­ports. When a cri­sis hits, it is cru­cial that you com­mu­ni­cate in a timely and ef­fec­tive man­ner to your stake­hold­ers and the gen­eral pub­lic. To achieve this, you need to have pre-ap­proved cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mes­sag­ing which can be used at any time. Fur­ther­more, it is im­per­a­tive that you have com­pre­hen­sive con­tact lists that you can po­ten­tially reach dur­ing a dire time of need.


At­tempt­ing to cover up a mis­take or cri­sis will only be to the detri­ment of your com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion and fu­ture. Al­though a mis­take might be ac­ci­den­tal or made in good faith, all mis­takes must be ac­knowl­edged and dealt with promptly. You might not have the ex­act an­swer or strat­egy, but to re­build pub­lic con­fi­dence and pre­vent any fur­ther is­sues from oc­cur­ring, you need to demon­strate that you are tak­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion im­me­di­ately. Tak­ing the non-ar­gu­men­ta­tive ap­proach to crises will not only fair bet­ter with the gen­eral pub­lic, it will en­cour­age a work en­vi­ron­ment that val­ues truth and in­tegrity, which will en­able em­ploy­ees to han­dle any tough sit­u­a­tions that may arise.


In a world where prob­lems can arise in sec­onds and spread in­stan­ta­neously through so­cial me­dia, com­pa­nies can re­main calm know­ing they have a set team and pro­to­col in place if an is­sue arises. So­cial me­dia can al­low you to gauge cus­tomer feed­back, de­ter­mine brand de­fi­cien­cies and even pre­dict causes of crises. It is im­por­tant that your team are able to ac­tively mon­i­tor and track so­cial me­dia men­tions of your com­pany, clients and even com­peti­tors. Through ac­tive mon­i­tor­ing, you might be able to stop a cri­sis in its tracks by quickly dif­fus­ing a neg­a­tive sit­u­a­tion. If you do how­ever en­ter a form of cri­sis, steady mon­i­tor­ing will al­low your team to ef­fi­ciently brain­storm an ef­fec­tive strat­egy by lis­ten­ing to your com­mu­nity.


In late 2016, Dream­world faced one of its big­gest crises when a hor­rific ac­ci­dent re­sulted in the death of four vis­i­tors. It is widely thought that the man­age­ment and board mis­han­dled the re­sponse in the ini­tial 48 hour cru­cial pe­riod as they adopted a le­gal­is­tic ap­proach and aban­doned any emo­tional re­sponse that the gen­eral pub­lic were re­quir­ing, nom­i­nated the chief ex­ec­u­tive as the spokesper­son, rather than the com­pany chief ex­ec­u­tive and re­opened the theme park for a memo­rial ser­vice whilst it was still a crime scene.

This re­sponse con­trasts to BHP’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, An­drew Mackenzie, fol­low­ing the Sa­marco Dam dis­as­ter in Brazil. He im­me­di­ately flew to the scene to in­spect the dam­age, apol­o­gised to the me­dia and gen­eral pub­lic and ar­ranged wa­ter, food and other re­sources for those af­fected. Al­though it was a dev­as­tat­ing in­ci­dent which re­sulted in en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age and deaths, their re­sponse al­lowed them to take con­trol of their rep­u­ta­tion and learn for other po­ten­tial dis­as­ters.


Once the cru­cial stage of the cri­sis has sub­sided and been over­come, all pro­cesses through­out the cri­sis man­age­ment should be dis­cussed as a team and well doc­u­mented. This will al­low your team as a whole to ef­fec­tively brain­storm the best plan of ac­tion in re­gain­ing lost rep­u­ta­tion and set a plan of ac­tion in case a sim­i­lar cri­sis oc­curs again. Al­though re­flec­tion will al­low you to iden­tify the causes of the ini­tial prob­lem, it can pin­point broader pat­terns which will assist in the plan­ning of your over­all cri­sis man­age­ment plan. This process will aid self-im­prove­ment of in­di­vid­ual team mem­bers which will equip them with the rel­e­vant tools to over­come any cri­sis in the fu­ture. Sharon Zeev Poole, the Di­rec­tor of highly re­garded bou­tique PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency Agent99, has grown the com­pany from a one­man show to a full ser­vice, award­win­ning agency lo­cated in the thriv­ing cre­ative hub of Surry Hills, Syd­ney. The agency spe­cialises in launch­ing or re­launch­ing brands in the food, bev­er­age and lifestyle spa­ces, as well as work­ing with cor­po­rates and in­di­vid­u­als to raise the pro­file of their thought lead­er­ship.

Sharon Zeev-Poole Di­rec­tor of Agent99

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