Our recent blog posts on the crises faced at NatWest, Ulster Bank, O2 and Progressive Insurance highlighted just how important communications can be during and after a crisis. In a crisis, perception can be more powerful than reality and emotions can become facts: no matter how well your company responds to and resolves an issue, if stakeholders and the public don’t hear this (with a healthy slice of humble pie on the side), your reputation can suffer the consequences.
On Friday, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that global security firm G4S should top a ‘blacklist’ of firms who have failed to deliver on government contracts. The company admitted that they would not be able to fulfil their contract to supply 10,400 guards for the London 2012 Olympic Games just two weeks before the opening ceremony. MPs said that G4S were entirely responsible for the “humiliating shambles” (the CEO’s own words) and should waive their £57 million management fee as a result. In addition, staff who were trained but then left without work due to G4S’s poor organisation should be compensated.
Financially and (perhaps more importantly for their long-term survival) reputationally, G4S is still reeling from the impact of their Olympic-sized crisis. As crisis experts, we know that this doesn’t have to be the case – organisations can come out of a crisis stronger and with reputations bolstered if they respond well. So what went wrong for G4S?
Achieving awareness of the situation in the highly confused aftermath of an incident is one of the toughest challenges a board-level crisis response team will face; our second ‘Crisis Lesson’ gives you some tips on how to cope with the inevitable rush – or dearth – of information that follows a crisis.
Firstly, what is situational awareness?
It is a clear understanding of:
- what happened,
- what is happening and
- what is likely to happen next.
To answer these questions, a crisis management team needs timely and reliable information from credible sources. Continue reading
Over the years, Steelhenge has witnessed board-level crisis responses from a large number of organisations in greatly varying sectors and geographic locations. There are certain key issues which come up again and again, and we hope to give an insight into some of these over the coming weeks.
The first key area that top-level teams consistently struggle to manage is the strategic element of a crisis response. The temptation is to dive into the detail, get operational and derive comfort from dealing in the familiar. There will be ‘fires at your feet’ and they will need fighting, but it is the executive team’s role to watch the horizon; the ‘gold’ team should be looking ahead whilst those around them plan (‘silver’) and deliver (‘bronze’) on their decisions and direction.
This is where conceptual thinking models work well; simple approaches designed to capture the core elements of strategic thinking with which a gold-level crisis team should be engaging. Few senior executives know their organisation’s crisis plans well, and many have never even read them. The one tool they need is a very simple, well-structured key activity process to keep them on track.
A good set of crisis procedures is a great start – it provides those critical checklists needed to help staff working under immense pressure. These help focus discussions, give guidance and a sense of structure and provide familiarity in a situation when so much is often unknown.
Part 2 – Yes
After reading Sarah’s response to this question earlier this week, I have to disagree with her conclusions. I think that social media has changed many aspects of a strategic-level response. However, there are many layers of complexity to this and it is never as straightforward as it seems.
Firstly, it depends on your brand and business. If you are in retail and fashion then there is a huge shift in the way the strategic team now responds when driven by a social media storm. Firstly they feel they now need to get decisions out there quickly and show action taking place, they are now listening to what they hear (or they should be) from their detractors and their supporters and using that information to drive and inform their decisions in many cases. For them, crisis response has undergone a significant change as a direct consequence of social media.
By Sarah Nicholas
Part 1 – No
Social media may have changed the nature of crises, and the speed required for a successful crisis response – but has the advent of Twitter and co. really changed the key tenets of crisis management and core roles and requirements of a top-level, strategic crisis response ‘gold’ team.
I don’t think it has. Controversial, perhaps, but let me explain: