Posts Tagged ‘crisis’

Twelve tips of Christmas: #3 A crisis shared is a crisis made a lot more manageable over the holidays

One of the biggest problems crisis managers face is that by definition you’re on call 24/7. Of course, thankfully, that’s not to say most of us actually get the dreaded 2am phone call on a regular basis.

Being on call is a cost of doing business, and if you weren’t prepared to do it you wouldn’t work in crisis management. But, being permanently available is untenable. We talk about the “holiday season” because it’s just that – a time of year where people take scheduled holidays.

So, there are two implications for crisis managers. The first is obvious – make sure you have the people available to manage a crisis if and when one arises, because your usual team will probably be affected by holidays. If you’ve read either of the last two posts on this topic you’ve probably seen quite a lot of reinforcement of that particular message!

But the second implication is easily over-looked by busy crisis managers, and it’s this: take time out for yourself as well. You need to recharge your batteries as much as the next person – probably more, in fact, if you’ve spent most of the last 50 weeks with your phone perpetually on.

You have a crisis management team in place (or should do) specifically designed to take account of scenarios where particular individuals aren’t available. Surely you’ve got a designated alternate for your own position – take advantage of having them there.

Likewise, tap into your agency’s resources. For example, at Hill & Knowlton we have a sufficiently large enough Issues & Crisis team that we rotate availability over the holiday period – specifically so that there’s always someone immediately available in case of a client call.

None of this is to say you should take your hands off the wheel completely and let fate do its worst. Rather, spend an hour mapping out your alternative contact strategy for the next few weeks and ensure that responsibility for managing any crises is suitably delegated. This shouldn’t be an issue – if your crisis management plans are already solid then you’ll have taken into account the possibility that your unavailability is a legitimate issue in its own right.

Likewise, ensure you and your team are clear on how your agency support will be staffed over the period.

(If you’re reading this because you’re looking for immediate crisis support during the holidays, click here to contact us directly or call our switchboard on 020 7413 3000)

Twelve tips of Christmas: #2 Be prepared

It sounds like a no-brainer, but a trip to Swindon this morning reinforced the importance of being prepared to work around your technological limitations. For example, making the very wrong assumption that one can get a decent wi-fi signal on a train network.

This becomes even more critical during the holiday season because in addition to having to contend with the vagaries of technology, we face numerous compounding problems.

Inconveniences such as support personnel being away on holidays en masse, suppliers not necessarily being available, and the occassional snowfall can all conspire against crisis managers at the most inopportune time.

For this reason, it’s essential that crisis managers, your organisations, and your support network (yes, including your PR account team) are all prepared well in advance for the possibility of a Christmas crisis.

Here are five things you can do this week to improve your organisation’s ability to handle a crisis that springs up over the holiday break:

  1. Ensure your escalation procedure stacks up for the holiday period. Your day-today crisis management is (usually) predicated on a best-case scenario, i.e. you have access to the people and resources you need, or their alternatives. However, it’s not practical to work under that assumption at this time of year – check with whoever manages holidays for your crisis team and see if you’re actually going to be covered for “business as usual”.
  2. Provide every member of your crisis management team/network with the must-have materials they’ll need if a crisis happens over the holidays. In most cases this will simply be a copy of your escalation or call-out process and relevant contact details. While it’s really simple, it’s also important because most of us rely on having these things available electronically, and that’s not such a good thing if the crisis is a technical one that means you can’t access this kind of information. Print off a few hard copies and run them through the laminator just to be on the safe side.
  3. Consider whether you need a Virtual Control Room. Most on-the-day crisis management takes place in a central meeting facility, but if your team’s spread across the country then that’s no good to you. Streaming video is great technology, but an old fashioned conference call facility is better – more accessible and more reliable. Include the dial-in details in your printed information pack.
  4. Get your crisis management team to identify their own back-up facilities (and test them on it if you need to). For example, if I’m at home and lose my internet connection, I can connect to a local unsecured network, I can walk 10 minutes to an internet cafe, or at a stretch I can hole up in the hotel that’s two miles up the road and use the hotel business centre (or check into a room if I need to – whatever it takes to get plugged in).
  5. Check whether your team is actually equipped to manage a crisis remotely. The recession has seen many companies cut back on what look like perks, but in actual fact are business-critical insurances. Things like corporate credit cards, travel restrictions, or providing new employees with wi-fi enabled laptops, for example (connection issues notwithstanding). It only takes an event like last winter’s infamous “snow day” to let you know your technical capabilities aren’t what they should be – save yourself the headache and fill the gaps before it becomes a problem.

There’s a bonus tip for this last point – make sure your team is competent in the use of anything remotely technical. Wireless internet is brilliant, but if your team don’t know how to connect to a wi-fi network then it’s going to make life increasingly difficult.

Floods highlight the importance of business continuity planning

In his second post for Media Insights and Crisis Expertise, Senior Associate Director, Peter Roberts, reflects on the impact of floods currently affecting parts of the UK, and the role business continuity planning can play in minimising the impact of such disasters.

The extreme flooding that has struck England’s North West in recent days has underlined the variable nature of crises. The situation is also a sharp reminder to all businesses, wherever they’re located of the importance of business continuity plans.

Quite simply, business continuity is about anticipating the crises that could affect an organisation and then planning for them. It’s also something we spend a lot of our time doing at Hill & Knowlton.

So, how best to develop a robust plan? Fundamentally, any company is only five steps away from ensuring that they’re in a far better position to withstand a critical situation, with appropriate planning.

  • Step 1: Analyse your business and get an understanding of the processes involved.
  • Step 2: Assess the risks to your business. Threats come in different forms, from power cuts, to staff absenteeism.
  • Step 3: Develop how you’ll combat such risks. Principally, what needs to be done and who will carry out the actions.
  • Step 4: Develop your business continuity plan (BCP). This can be as simple as you want and will contain all relevant contact numbers, resources and procedures.
  • Step 5: Test and update the plan. It’s vital that your plan is tested and that staff are familiar with their roles.

It’s a common misunderstanding that business continuity is only a big organisation issue; this is, quite simply, not the case. The size of any plan will depend on the risks facing a business – it will be as large or small as needed.

Ultimately, experience demonstrates that organisations are more likely to survive a crisis if they have planned for one in advance. – Peter

For help in reviewing or developing your organisation’s business continuity or crisis communication plan, please get in touch with us by clicking here. – Grant

Escalating a crisis, 140 characters at a time

In an article last month published in Communicate, Hill & Knowlton’s own Peter Roberts made the following point:

…social media does two things incredibly well: “The first is creating an environment where people can communicate one-to-many, instantly. The second is the observer’s view of a conversation. Thanks to social media, we can now watch a conversation unfold.”

In his Telegraph.co.uk blog today, Head of Technology (Editorial) for Telegraph Media Group, Shane Richmond, highlights some of the issues that this phenomenon represents – particularly when you or your organisation become the subject of the conversation in the context of Twitter.

This raises an interesting question for communicators, and particularly with respect to crisis management. Do these increasingly transparent (if not voyeuristic) forms of communication mean we’re facing a different type of crisis? Our Canadian colleague, Brendan Hodgson, shares his views. Ultimately, the principles of crisis management should remain the same, but the emphasis on speedy and transparent response is more pronounced than ever.

The importance of stakeholder relationships in a crisis

One of the key points to come out of last week’s Public Health Crisis event was the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with your stakeholders – before you need to call on them.

This is often a challenge for organisations because relationship management takes work. You have to commit time and resources to something that usually doesn’t deliver an immediate benefit. But as we saw in our case study, successfully managing a crisis can often depend on those relationships.

For an organisation that feeds into the consumer supply chain, many of these relationships will be self-evident. For example, our hypothetical farm consortium can easily trace its relationships to its veterinarians, its customers, its shareholders, and consumers of its products. Specifically in the case of our exercise, it should also draw a straight line to the pharmaceutical company trialling its vaccine in the farm’s cows.

However, where things often fall down is in managing those relationships. Public relations is about doing just that, through ongoing communication (ideally that would be two-way, which is PR jargon for listening as well as talking). In our case study, this absence of coherent communication between stakeholders set the company up for failure. It’s a scenario that repeats itself all too often.

Here are five things you can do today to start improving your relationships immediately (or if you have a PR agency already then get them to help you do this):

  • Identify the stakeholders your organisation deals with most frequently, and which ones you’d likely need to call on in a crisis
  • Map them out so you can see the connections your stakeholders have between each other, as well as with your organisation. Any line that you’re not connected to has the potential to be part of the rumour mill, so it’s helpful to know just how big a network you’re potentially dealing with
  • Find out (if you don’t already know), who the spokespeople are for each of your stakeholders, as well as who your organisation already has existing relationships with in your stakeholder organisation
  • Get in touch. Every solid relationship has to start somewhere, so make a call or send an email today, and arrange some getting-to-know-you time. The occasional coffee is always a good idea
  • Reciprocate. You’re trying to build a network of people who you can call on in times of crisis – so make sure that you can also fulfil that role for someone else

A crisis might not start with you, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect your organisation down the line. Make stakeholder engagement a habbit, and not a campaign activity, and you’ll build one of your greatest defences against a future crisis.

Issues & crisis event update: a public health case study debate

Hill & Knowlton's Public Health Crisis looked at the whole supply chain from farm gate to table

Hill & Knowlton

Last night we welcomed more than 80 guests to Hill & Knowlton’s Public Health event, hosted by our Issues & Crisis and Healthcare & Wellbeing teams. Hosted by journalist Lois Rogers, the format of the night focused on a hypothetical crisis scenario involving “killer milk”, which stimulated an insightful and often lively. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to our guest panellists:

  • Dr David Heymann, Head of Global Centre on Health Security at Chatham House
  • Dr Rob Drysdale, veterinarian
  • Dr Simon Wheeler, Novartis
  • Mr Bart Dalla Mura
  • Mr John Kelly, Partner, Schillings

Following is a brief overview of the scenario, which is entirely fictitious, designed for simulation purposes only, and any similarity to businesses, individuals or actual scenarios is purely coincidental.

 

For the purpose of the discussion we created a scenario that reached from one end of the consumer supply chain (farm) to the other (consumption), and spread across multiple industries (agriculture, dairy, pharmaceutical, retail). The focus of the scenario was a trial of a new vaccine, developed to treat a common and relatively harmless condition in cows that can cause a major drop in milk yield. As the scenario rolled on over six days, hundreds of patients presented at local hospitals and a number of fatalities were recorded.

 

Key points from the discussion included:

  • The importance of relationships with stakeholders in a public health crisis
  • It’s not enough to have a crisis preparedness plan (you have to train for it as well)
  • Why media training is important – for your organisation, your stakeholders and for journalists
  • How to deal with aggressive journalists
  • The role of experts
  • What you can do in the first four minutes of a crisis

We’ll take a closer look at each of these points – please drop back for updates.

More than 80 people attended Hill & Knowlton's Public Health Crisis discussion forum

More than 80 people attended Hill & Knowlton

Issues & crisis event: a public health case study debate

Our first post from Issues & Crisis MD, Tim Luckett (we’re still setting up his account):

 

Tonight we’re hosting an important event alongside our colleagues from our Healthcare & Wellbeing team. Our team works with a variety of companies, big and small, to develop business continuity plans and communication strategies. With a very recent event still reverberating through the press in the UK, we’ve developed a hypothetical case study to show how to best cope with ‘trial by media’. It doesn’t really matter what business you’re in, this event will provide a solid framework from which to build if you ever find yourself in a position that might harm your reputation. Moreover, tonight our guests will have the opportunity to network with experts from a variety of industries and to ask questions of people who have experienced a crisis and come through it. – Tim

 

Check back tomorrow for a summary of the event. – Grant

Ugly rumours – online reputation management

Online rumour mongering threatens brands every day. This piece in a recent issue of Communicate Magazine provides some insights into managing the threat, including a great response model used by the US Air Force, and commentary by Hill & Knowlton’s own Peter Roberts.

Crisis management and media training in London

Thanks for checking out this first post from Hill & Knowlton London’s Issues & Crisis team. Over the coming days we’ll get the content up and running, and as we familiarise ourselves with the platform we’ll provide a bit more interactivity - so please check back often for the latest updates.

In the meantime, if you’ve already found us then you’re probably looking for people to help you with media training or crisis management, so you’ve come to the right place. Tim Luckett is the Managing Director of our team, and Catherine Cross is our Head Media Trainer.