You Survive a Crisis?
Plan On It!
by Neal Yokota, President and CEO
Its a quiet Monday morning. Your distribution center is getting
ready for the daily deliveries when a tire blows out on one of your trucks. The truck tips
over and careens into the loading dock, injuring the driver and starting a fire. Inventory
is destroyed. Deliveries are delayed. And you dont know the condition of your truck
Immediately, television camera crews are on
the scene. Questions fly. "Did you maintain your trucks properly?" "Was
alcohol involved?" "How are your customers going to get deliveries?"
Youre facing a crisis. Youre busy trying to get your operations up and running. You may not have time to deal with the media. But how you communicate can strengthen or destroy the reputation of your company. Sometimes irreparably.
The pervasiveness of the news media has created a new phenomenon. The general public can closely follow emergency situations as they occur and develop. The infamous "O.J. Bronco chase" is only one example. Because of this depth of coverage, companies are no longer judged only by the operational response to an emergency. Companies also can fail because of a poor communications response. Exxon was heavily criticized because several days passed before the president of the company spoke publicly on the Valdez spill. TWA also received criticism because of the perception that the company responded slowly to the crash of flight 800.
Unfortunately, in a crisis situation, perception has little to do with reality. Your company may be conducting an excellent operational response, but if you dont handle communications effectively, the perception can be that your company is unresponsive, uncaring and not in control of the situation.
By its very nature, an emergency situation is unexpected and disruptive. It may seem ironic, but the best way to manage communications during a crisis situation is to plan for it in advance.
A good crisis communications plan does not need to be voluminous. Some of the most effective plans are short, easy to read and easy to implement. What you need in your plan will vary based on the specifics of your business, industry, communities you do business in, etc. But some general guidelines can be followed:
In general, preparation is the key. The better prepared you are, the more quickly and effectively you will be able to respond.
Tips for that first crisis interview:
The following are some quick guidelines for handling interviews during the first moments of a crisis: