Volkswagen: a long road to recovery

By Dominic Cockram

220px-Volkswagen_logo_2012.svgIt has certainly been a busy few days for the VW crisis management team. If they had a mature and practiced crisis preparedness capability in place then hopefully they will have been hard at work for some time now. Suggestions are that others did have some foresight that all was not well in the industry from the roadside test reports, so there may have been some early work going on.

But, in facing this potentially overwhelming corporate crisis, how should VW set about managing the crisis, identifying their priorities and ensuring their reputation recovery? Continue reading

Getting ahead in the reputation game

Reputation Management Concept on the Cogwheels.Reputation and the importance of a good reputation is well understood; for businesses reputation is a vital and valuable commercial asset, albeit intangible. But how do organisations actively protect their reputation and manage the risks to it being damaged?

That is a harder question to answer. The 2014 Forbes Insights Survey found that 39 per cent of companies surveyed rated the maturity of their reputation risk programmes as “average” or “below average,” and only 19 per cent gave themselves an “A” grade for their capabilities at managing reputation risk. Clearly there is still much to be done – but what? In this blog, I offer some ideas for consideration and debate.

Influencers of corporate reputation 

External perceptions of quality, transparency and trust are key influencers of corporate reputation, as found by research published in the Edelman Trust Barometer (an annual survey of more than 5,000 informed publics in 23 countries), the Fortune 500 listing of the world’s most admired companies and the Reputation Institute. But herein lie the first two problems for reputation risk management.  Reputation is an intangible asset and its gift is in the hands of your stakeholders; both factors make it harder to gauge. Continue reading

Joining the crisis dots – How simulation exercising can create a culture of crisis sensitivity

By Dominic Cockram

As a crisis dotscrisis management professional, I have worked with many different crisis teams over the years. What has become apparent is that, in the majority of cases, those conducting the operational response to a crisis (and by that I mean at both the bronze/operational and silver/tactical levels) have little understanding of the strategic drivers, priorities and concerns, and potential challenges of the executive or ‘gold’ level.

This lack of understanding can fail to give those protecting the organisation’s license to operate what they really need to fulfil their role. Resulting in delayed escalation, incorrect assumptions and the transmission of skewed information to the top. Continue reading

The Crisis Management Conference 2014; Planning for Prosperity with a Coherent Crisis Management Capability

CMC2014 logo.jpgThe 2014 Crisis Management Conference (CMC 2014) will take place in London on Thursday 18th September. Delegates will be given a unique opportunity to hear speakers from the BBC, Network Rail, John Lewis, UBS, O2, UK Cabinet Office and the University of Liverpool discuss their first-hand experiences in preparing, responding and communicating in crisis. Click here to see the full programme.

Crisis management was long associated with failure and a desire to “keep covert” any crisis plans and preparations. Today, however, it is a topic of success, heralding responsible guardianship for the future well-being of an organisation’s people, performance, assets and reputation. It signals excellence in governance and leadership and is seen as an integral part of an organisation’s resilience, enabling it to thrive, survive and seize opportunity. Continue reading

When the Heat is On – Social Media Fails

twitterbirdThe advent of social media has radically altered the context in which the reputation of an organisation is managed. Social media can be friend and foe. On the one hand, social media platforms are immensely powerful channels to reach stakeholders with your planned message but on the other, the same characteristics that enable this, namely speed of communication, prevalence and pervasiveness, can also precipitate and catapult an organisation into crisis.

The way that events transpire online and, more specifically, on social media platforms are now intimately linked to how organisations fare once times get tough. With 72% of all Internet users active on social media and over 500 million users on Twitter alone businesses can no longer afford to endure the potential for either reputational or financial damages that come hand in hand with todays social media crisis if poorly managed.

So, in the spirit of learning from the mistakes of others, we outline three top social media crises of last year and examine the lessons we can learn from them.

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GM Recall: History Need Not Repeat Itself

toyotaGMlogoAs the US Department of Justice (DoJ) concludes a 4-year, billion dollar investigation into Toyota, Mary Barra, recently appointed CEO of General Motors (GM), has stepped into the firing line.

While Toyota is set to pay out a staggering $1.2Bn fine to the DoJ for covering-up fatal mechanical defects that caused their cars to ‘unintentionally accelerate’, GM recently announced a recall of 2.6 million cars with defects linked to 13 deaths. Their own cover-up began back in 2001.

The original intention of this post was a comparison of GM’s crisis leadership with that of Toyota’s during their damaging 2009 recall. However, with Toyota facing the largest criminal penalty ever levied against a car manufacturer, substantial recalls being announced almost daily (over 11 million vehicles so far this year) and GM being fined the maximum daily amount by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it has become clear that this is a much larger issue for the automotive industry as a whole.

Continue reading

Situational Awareness – supporting the CEO’s critical decision-making in a crisis

By Dominic Cockram

Situational awarenessThis blog is the second in a series that looks at the challenges of managing information in a crisis and how to ensure the top team gets the information it needs. The first looked at “Managing the Upward Flow of Information in a Crisis – What Matters Most?” Here managing information to build situational awareness is under the spotlight – how to pull together that cohesive and informative picture that gives the boss just what he needs and no more.

It is a fact that almost all crisis teams find information management one of the greatest challenges in responding to an incident. Why does this matter? It matters because effective information management is the bedrock that allows the critical decision-making by the strategic crisis management team that will lead an organisation out of a crisis.

Continue reading

Managing the upward flow of information in a crisis – what matters most?

By Dominic Cockram

The BriefHaving worked over the last few months with some of the larger organisations in the world, both in the UK and internationally, it has been fascinating to reflect on the unique challenges presented to a “super-corporate” in delivering crisis management and crisis leadership at the top.

Naturally, one of the greatest challenges is in the management and transfer of information about the crisis.  Quite rightly, it is filtered as it percolates up to senior leadership levels but any CEO worth his salt wants to get a feel for the reality “on the ground” and a true sense of what is happening.  This is difficult to achieve from a report which has gone through several levels of review, filter and reduction and which may be given by another executive who is also not on the ground.

So a challenge is presented, not least because any CEO appearing in front of the world’s media is going to want – and need – to be armed not only with his facts and key messages but also to be able to demonstrate he genuinely knows and feels what it is like for those right at the heart of the crisis.  Empathy is a difficult thing to achieve when you have only been presented with the “strategic issues” in a rather colourless fashion.  Yet in crisis communications, it is something the media and public are looking for and can be so judgmental about.  Continue reading

Reflections on BCM World 2013

BCMWorldConference logoSo, the BCM World Conference 2013 is now over and we can all reflect back on the trends it has presented.  Dominic Cockram from Steelhenge  led a presentation on “Achieving Control in a Crisis” on the first day and the stream – Thought Leadership – had an excellent turn-out. Dr Paul Robertson followed on the subject of crisis leadership and both sessions seemed to go down well although it was a quiet audience in terms of questions which was a shame.

Overall the conference felt as though there were slightly less people than last year but still a good turn-out at Olympia; never the most intimate or exciting of venues for conferences and more suited to large exhibitions.

As ever, there was a large turn-out of technology stands at the exhibition and the development of BC software, notification solutions and crisis software suites seems to continue to grow and develop.  We spoke to a number of visitors however and they seemed to want “something simple which just does what it says on the tin” so it still seems that many do not see the tech solution as giving them quite what they need  as yet.

The conference had a good spread of speakers and the case study stream had some excellent sessions looking more closely at how some are actually doing BCM.  The delegates always like to hear the realities from those doing the work at the sharp end. Our own business continuity planning case study of Establishing ISO 22301 in Crossrail: Europe’s Largest Construction Project, presented with Steve Hails, Health & Safety Director for Crossrail was extremely well received and it was a shame that the clock restricted the discussion session at the end.

Overall I would think it goes down as another good conference and well done to the BCI for all the work they always put in.  The trend seem to be moving towards Crisis Management and Resilience as the key areas of focus for the future, and reflected upon by Lyndon Bird in his article recently in Continuity.  Crisis Management is certainly seen now as a key area for businesses and the public sector to get right and there is much more effort heading in that direction now, as well as focus from the senior management teams which always helps.

Resilience continues to grow as a topic and is definitely gaining ground as the new arena for development.  Bringing together all the capabilities in a more integrated and measured fashion to ensure that organisations are ready for whatever is thrown at them.  The Mega Trends of the Future as set out in the PwC Global Review this year give some insights to way the world is heading and some of the issues we all need to face up to in the not so distant future and Resilience could be the approach to face this period of change and disruption to the norms we know now.  We shall see but it definitely offers considerable scope as a concept for such developments.

Other related posts: Resilience: The 21st Century Imperative

Crisis Management Planning 101: Learning from Asiana’s Mistakes

By Isobel Nicholas

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines was roundly criticised in the aftermath of its response to the crash of Flight 214 on Sunday 6th July 2013 at San Francisco airport, inflicting severe damage to its reputation.  The criticism largely stems from its silence in the hours after the crash and the lack of information made available to support victims of the crash and their families as they struggled to find out what had happened and whether their loved ones were involved.

Here we review what happened and look at what lessons in crisis management planning and crisis communications can be learned. Continue reading