Planning for a Crisis?

As a spokesperson, facing down the camera lens during a crisis, is unlikely to be an experience you will enjoy but showing control and a degree of authority in the situation is the right attitude to take into an interview.

No one, least of all those who are affected by the crisis, wants to see a CEO looking nervous and unsure when they are discussing a critical situation. In fact the only thing worse is to not show up and refuse to engage with the media at all – there have been some very famous situations in years gone by where executives refused to undertake media interviews (the individuals have even been ‘empty-chaired’ i.e. the TV studio showed a chair where they ‘should’ have been during a panel interview) and the damage lasted a lot longer than the 3 minute interview would have.

The very nature of crises is that they are unexpected, but of course, by working with your team and, if necessary, external advisors, you can ensure you have plans in place to try and foresee the most likely types of problem your organisation might face. People won’t go on holiday without travel insurance these days, but some organisations still seem to think they can risk the chance of facing a crisis without preparing for the potential fall-out.

So what can you do to help prepare for a crisis? The first step is to examine what could go wrong, and we often run a number of different scenarios with organisations because they know they could face various issues. Secondly, you have to think about what you are going to say; explaining what happened, what you are doing to fix it, and being prepared to ‘make good’ with compensation is a good starting point. Thirdly, is deciding who will speak for you – this part is likely to involve media training and plenty of practice – and the chances are that the media will demand your senior team are the ones on camera. Finally it’s ensuring that this planning is formalised and that all those who will be involved know what will happen should a crisis occur.

To borrow a much used quote by John F. Kennedy; “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.

Ultimately, unless organisations put in place the right planning and preparation to try and deal with the danger from a crisis, they’ll never be able to capitalise on the possible opportunities that may arise from one that’s handled well.

Written by Will Edwards – – June 2012

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