Crisis Management – It’s about people not process

Over the past week we have seen how quickly a crisis can impact on a business if not managed correctly by placing people at the heart of a crisis response.

The appalling treatment of a United Airlines passenger and the subsequent response from the company, showed a complete disregard for the very people who pay the wages, it’s customers.

As crisis managers we all advocate the importance of plans and procedures to ensure that in the event of something going wrong, the crisis management teams responsible have a framework to guide them, however, at the heart of this has to be the right culture.

The power of the internet is immense and you only have one opportunity to set the tone of your response when something does go wrong. You should have clear processes, procedures and ways of working that staff fully understand, but most importantly you must have a culture that ensures that people are at the heart of what you do.

If your customers are your number one priority, regardless of the nature of the incident, it is very likely your crisis managers will respond with that in mind.

I was reading an article during the past week written by Michael Balboni of Redland Strategies, where he highlighted the four key points to consider in your crisis communications which I have summarised below:

  1. Try to get out ahead of the story with statements like, "We are also concerned about the events as reported and are conducting an investigation."
  1. Whatever the message, be consistent. Changing statements leaves room for doubt on a whole bunch of aspects.
  1. Never attack the victim! Ever! The customer is the only reason that a business is in business and a government official is in office.
  1. Respond to the Internet firestorm with facts and apologies and a description of how you will try to prevent this situation from ever repeating. Never try to block people from commenting.

When you are next reviewing your ways of working and approach to crisis communications make sure you keep this in mind. Most importantly though remember:

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” 

Henry Ford

Are you satisfied that your company culture sets the right tone to respond effectively to a major incident or crisis event?

 

About the author - Chris Regan is the Director of Blue Rock Risk Limited a specialist crisis and risk management consultancy. Chris works with both private and public sector clients to help them plan, prepare and respond effectively to a wide range of crisis and risk issues. Chris can be contacted by email at  info@bluerockrisk.com or by telephone 0117 244 0154.