Frequently Asked Questions
Whose job is crisis management?
We've seen senior managers from a range of functional areas - HR, Marketing, Quality, Operations, Security, Risk Management, Legal and Finance; become very successful incident coordinators. These are the people that lead the senior team through the successful management of an incident.
The key to facilitating a team in a potential crisis has more to do with leadership skills (which we help you develop) and having a structured process to follow (which we give you) to keep the team focused on what is important, not so much the functional expertise. In fact there are times when you don't really want a functional expert as the incident coordinator. For example, if it's a product recall, the Quality Manager will often have a significant functional role to play so you're better off having someone else facilitate. This is also the reason that we recommend having an alternate, not just one person.
Our programs enable managers to step up when incidents and product recalls are required and demonstrate leadership skills rather than just fulfilling their functional responsibilities.
How do you stop a crisis in an age of social media?
Many companies feel powerless to stop a fast escalating incident, particularly once it hits social media. This is not the case.
Consumers act in surprisingly predictable ways when incidents happen. We humans express a certain level of outrage when incidents happen, particularly if is a safety related incident, and social media can carry that sense of outrage quickly and widely.
When messages are confusing or companies seem to be acting in a way that is in conflict with their brand promise, values or what they say, or don't seem to care, the incident will escalate fast.
Good crisis prevention means responding quickly and thoughtfully to address the concerns and expectations of key stakeholders including consumers, reducing the level of outrage and building a platform to return to business.
A crisis is not only preventable, but a well managed incident or product recall can actually have a positive impact on your business and brands.
What type of companies should have a crisis management program?
While any company will benefit from good crisis prevention processes, we focus on food and consumer goods because major incidents, consumer concerns and issues and product recalls in these industries impact a lot of people and generate the greatest level of interest and concern when an incident happens.
The companies that will get particular value are food, toys, clothing, personal care and cosmetics, consumer electricals, household appliances, building materials and tools, motor vehicles etc
Manufacturers, retailers and distributors of products that consumers use regularly must have effective crisis prevention programs in place whether they supply direct to consumers or supply other businesses that do.
What sorts of incidents are we talking about?
The process we teach you can be applied to any kind of incident - extreme weather, major disruption, workplace accident, product problems, consumer complaints, allegations of impropriety, malicious threats, regulatory changes etc. It is a high level management process designed to keep you out of a crisis and is designed for the senior management team.
What supports this higher level program are the detailed operational plans you may need for emergency response, IT disaster recovery, business process recovery, product recall etc. These plans require functional specialists to go though often very detailed planning and implementation that is part of their functional roles.
We do get into more detail around managing product recalls because we work with food and consumer goods companies and recalls need to be managed really carefully to prevent a crisis. The overall process and the skills required however apply to any type of incident.
Can't I just call in a PR company?
There are many good PR companies but their focus is generally on marketing communications with some experience in crisis communications. Few have a good understanding of social media crisis management.
Crisis communications is not the same thing as crisis management. Communications are an outcome of a good assessment and response strategy, not an end in itself.
We generally explain it by saying that PR companies are good at making a bad situation sound better, but crisis management is about making a bad situation better, then communicating effectively!
The biggest issue with most PR companies is that they are still wedded to an outdated approach to crisis management - they focus on the media statement. This often cold and defensive statement is sent to the media in the hope a journalist will use it, or stuck on your website in teh hoep consumers read it. This approach doesn't work in an age of social media.
We focus on getting the critical assessment and strategy elements right, then we help you create a communications plan, particularly for social media. At that point you may want to call in the PR company to help you get the messages out to stakeholders - but you will have briefed them well first!
Isn't crisis intuitive? We're all smart people. We'll figure it out!
The processes we teach do seem quite intuitive and we do not claim to be teaching rocket science.
However, when the phones start ringing, customers, consumers and regulators start demanding answers you don't have yet, the media are calling and social media is starting to go viral, it doesn't seem as intuitive at all!
Even the most experienced teams can quickly become overwhelmed and that commonly leads to companies saying or doing things that they later regret.
What keeps you out of a crisis when things start escalating is a good process and people that know how to use it.
We see crises happen all the time - Johnson & Johnson, Heinz, Volkwagen, Takata, Australian strawberries, BP, United Airlines, Facebook - it's a long list. The CEO and senior executives of these companies are not stupid nor do they lack resources, yet they got into a preventable crisis.
We already do mock recalls and simulation exercises.
That's great! Many companies do mock recalls and in fact some industries and standards require it. The thing to consider with mock recalls however is that they tend to be focused on traceability and are internally focused. While traceability is really important in a product recall, it is usually not an accurate test of your ability to prevent a major incident or product recall escalating into a crisis.
For that you need to make sure you include role-playing of key external stakeholders such as customers, consumers, regulators, the media, industry associations etc. Even better if you can get them to join in the exercise with you, but certain role-playing them is important.
Likewise, if you are currently doing crisis exercises, you need to make sure you are exercising your engagement with key external stakeholders.
Even if you are doing them regularly as an internal exercise, you should get an external provider (such as us!) to run them occasionally to make sure you are getting a different perspective. You need to know you're doing it right! The middle of a crisis is the wrong time to find out that it's not working!
All of our simulations include us role-playing a broad range of internal and external stakeholders as well as a full social media component - what looks like your products, your social media sites and your stakeholders but all behind our secure server.
We have a crisis management plan already.
Many companies have crisis management plans but unfortunately they are not always helpful in a real crisis. They are often too long, don't include the right guidance and rarely contain an effective social media strategy. The people that need to implement the plan often haven't been trained and haven't practiced in a realistic simulation.
There is really only two ways to find out whether your plan is effective and your people will respond well: 1. In a real crisis (not the recommended strategy) or 2. in a realistic simulation exercise. One that applies enough pressure to get the feel for a real crisis but within a safe learning environment.
All of our simulations include role-playing a broad range of internal and external stakeholders as well as a full social media component - what looks like your products, your social media sites and your customers and consumers but all behind our secure server.
While you might
think you have an effective plan, we urge you to stress test it so you
KNOW you have an effective plan and your people can implement it.
Which countries can you run training simulations in?
We offer crisis management training, coaching and simulation exercises online so geography is not really important to us.
We do offer onsite training and simulations. We are based in Melbourne, Australia but we do travel! Through our consultants in the UK and the United States, we are able to offer services in many countries around the world with a local, experienced consultant.