You need to be prepared!
We are based in Sydney, Australia but we do travel! Through our partnerships with RQA Inc based in the US and with offices in North and South America; and RQA Group in London, UK with offices and consultants in Europe and Asia, we are able to offer services in many countries around the world with a local, experienced consultant.
Your relationships with your key customers and other key stakeholders is just as critical to your business as the relationships big brands have with consumers. Your ability to maintain those relationships - and keep your contracts, will be tested when an incident occurs. Your ability to manage that incident and support your customer in helping them manage their key relationships with their customers will have a big impact on your business. In fact, they may expect you to have an effective crisis management program in place - and require you to demonstrate you've tested it as it is in their best interests!
Make no mistake, you have a "brand". Your brand is build around your relationships with your customers. It is incorporated in the culture of of your business.
There are many good PR companies but few actually understand crisis management, fewer still understand the dynamics of social media in a crisis.
The standard PR response to a potential crisis is to downplay, deflect, delay or deny. We call this the "deadly D's" and is as likely to get you into a crisis than keep you out of one.
The focus of PR companies is on communications - which is critical, but without robust assessment and good strategy, it is just clever words covering up broader problems which consumers see right through as PR fluff. Social media is the great leveller - you won't get away with comms with no substance or that lack credibility.
Our programs will provide you and your management team with the right tools to assess all risks, including reputation risk, to your business and your stakeholders, develop a response strategy designed to protect your brand, reconnect with customers and strengthen your business; then we show you how to communicate that effectively.
The easiest way to think about the difference is that PR companies try to make bad situations sound better - they are focussed on image. We help you make the bad situation better and then help you communicate it - you need to focussed on restoring your brand promise.
The processes we teach do seem quite intuitive and we do not claim to be teaching rocket science. 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! The most common response is overwhelm and common result is saying or doing things that you later regret. What keeps you out of a crisis when things start escalating is structure - a useful plan to guide you 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.
A 2004 study showed that the average corporate crisis costs $10m, 25% cost over $100m and just over a quarter of companies won't survive. That was in 2004. A recent study by AON showed that the costs of reputation crises has doubled since 2000. Regardless of what that number is, I think we can all agree that a crisis will cost a lot.
When you put that in the context of a few thousand dollars for training or simulation exercises, it's pretty good value. We can give you a specific quote for any customised work as the costs vary depending on the complexity and location. The cost of our public training and online courses are provided on our website.
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!
Likewise, if you are currently doing crisis exercises, you need to make sure you are exercising your engagement with key external stakeholders. We also recommend that even if you are doing them regularly as an internal exercise, you get an external provider 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 a broad range of internal and external stakeholders as well as a heavy media and social media component.
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.
We have seen senior managers from a range of functional areas - HR, Marketing, Quality, Operations, Security, Risk Management even Legal and Finance; become very successful incident coordinators.
The key to facilitating a team in a potential crisis has more to do with being able to follow a structured process (which we give you) and having the right professional and leadership skills (which we help you develop) to keep the team focused on what is important, not so much the functional expertise.
Our programs enable managers to step up when incidents and product recalls are required and demonstrate leadership skills rather than just fulfill their functional responsibilities.
While any company will benefit from good crisis prevention processes, we focus on food and consumer goods because incidents 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.
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 details 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.
Despite all best intentions and good management systems, all companies have incidents and some are major incidents - major business disruptions, extreme weather, product recalls etc. They don't have to become a crisis - that is entirely up to how you manage it.
We define a crisis as a serious incident that has escalated to the point that it is causing significant long term damage to your reputation and your brands.
For food and consumer goods companies, most crises, particularly those that go viral over social media, are caused by customers and consumer believing (whether it is accurate or not doesn't necessarily matter) that the company has failed to live up to the promise it has made whether that promise is expressed or implied, to its key stakeholders. You can have incidents and product recalls caused by mistakes that can be out of your control, but how you manage that incident or recall and restore the promise you made, will determine whether it becomes a crisis.
Good crisis prevention is critical for any size company - in fact it is arguably even more important for small and medium size businesses than large ones as smaller companies may not survive. Larger companies may have a portfolio of brands that must be protected, a small business may only have one, or a few key contracts that must be protected.
We have worked with all size companies from large multi-nationals like Coca-Cola through to small businesses. The process is the same - although larger companies have more resources to bring to the table.
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