Without giving away all my knowledge for free (Hey – I also need to make money), I referred the prospective client to my Crisis Management & Crisis Communication Response Toolkit, I shared this:
1. Take a close look at all the other plans in the company – Emergency Response, Health & Safety, Disaster Recovery, Security & Business Continuity plans. Each of these have communication components which you may want to incorporate.
2. Take a close look at definitions. The words transparency, disclosure and public opinion needs to be carefully defined and brainstormed. For instance, transparency is affected by close periods(share trading), laws and regulations and stakeholders perceptions. By voluntary, mandatory and involuntary responses like WikiLeaks moments.
3. Compare your Crisis Communication plan to best practice when it comes to strategic communications planning. Some tips:
Who are your target audiences? Writing a Crisis Plan is a Strategic Communications & Stakeholder Management planning exercise.
My advice would be to proceed as follows:
- Diagnose the current state of communication including the key messages and main targets /stakeholder groups. With other words who needs to know what? What do they know already, etc.?
- Identify key stakeholders or your target audience. Segment key stakeholders groupings.
- Identify contact points i.e. best points or places to reach your target audience.
- Develop communication strategy – now only do you decide on the methods and media to use.
- Identify communication objectives for each target audience/stakeholder.
- Select media best positioned to deliver the message. Take a look at both basic methods as well as social media technologies.
- Develop message strategy for each target audience (stakeholder).
- Decide on implementation strategy (Tactics).
- Compile a Communication- Strategy Matrix.
- Do a Budget.
- Implement & Deliver messages
- Monitor, evaluate and adjust communication program as necessary
For me the biggest problem occurs when people immediately think of the tools to communicate with.
By thinking through this process you will include measurement and delivery evaluation techniques, therefore ensuring impact of message and return on investment.
If you haven’t dusted off your plan lately, now’s the time.
The rapid evolution of citizen journalism and the collaborative Web has changed the way companies & countries need to watch for looming crises, assess the reaction to crises, and respond.
Citizen journalism, of course, is nothing particularly new, but the speed with which messages can circulate today – through the use of mobile phones, camera phones, Blackberry, Twitter and the Net-have changed the dynamics of how a crisis unfolds.
In fact, it now even has the power of getting a momentum on its own and assist in revolutions, such as what happened in Tunisia and now Egypt. Take a look at this article Egypt: The camp that toppled a president and click on the word blogger in the photo.
There are two factors at play when a story hits the Net. The first is the number of people influenced by what the person is writing, either in a mail; a tweet, a web forum or in a blog. The second is the attention paid to the spreading story by the media, which is often compelled to pick up the story and mainstream it, which makes it visible to all those people who don’t have access to the internet.
Many crisis communication plans these days don’t include specific strategies for using the Net and other forms of online communication. Have you considered and can you use the technology to use when there is a social media crisis via the Web? Do you know when and how to respond to a particular stance by a blogger or a nasty tweet? Should you even respond?
Unless you have a strategy in place and know how to use various tools and technologies you will be at a disadvantage.
Here are some questions that you have to consider:
- How often do you monitor to determine your organisation’s name in forums, e-mails, online discussions or even in Messenger? Have you considered using online tools like Google Alerts, Cyber alert and SNS Analytics that can assist you with the process?
- Do you participate in online networks like Linkedin and others? Since social media is about being part of a conversation, the building of trust starts long before the issue of a statement.
- Where do you keep your plan? Hopefully you have a copy on your smartphone, in Dropbox, on the web and at home for real-time access.
- Can you update stakeholder (audience) details in real-time? Do you make use of online address books/contact databases? You may want to consider using Gist or Plaxo for this.
- Can you communicate with your audiences directly? How quickly can you get messages to them using social Media tools like Twitter, e-mail and SMS?
- Have you considered using outside 3rd party experts, social media & crisis communication management experts to assist you with an independent analysis before a crisis hits?
With the emphasis today on speed, any strategic crisis communication response plan should include prioritization of audiences (stakeholders), honesty and transparency (levels of disclosure), concern for victims, and avoidance of speculation and selection of appropriate spokespersons.
But the new focus should take into account the era of the 24-hour news cycle or what David Meerman Scott calls the ‘real-time’. A Company has nanoseconds available today to respond to bad news or rumours.
That’s no joke. That’s for real and if your crisis communication response plans are not based on the ‘real-time ‘ principle it is not worth a tweet.
Don’t wait. Dust off that crisis plan before a crisis finds you.
P.S If you want to rewrite or benchmark your crisis plan, these resources can be of assistance:
- Brand Reputation Management – How to Clean Up and Online Crisis
- The newly revised REPUCOMM DIY Crisis Manager Toolkit. A Handy resource that includes checklists, templates and a complete guide to writing a plan, as well as guides on how to use Twitter & other tools in a crisis.
- The PR Coach’s Online Crisis Management Tips
Your choice should depend on the situation, whether you are exchanging information, seeking the solution to a problem, interviewing or counselling.
But before we speak about questions, we need to take a step backward. I believe that we need to first understand the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROBLEM AND A DECISION.
A problem is a "train off a track". Something has not gone the way it was planned or expected to. Problem solving is finding out the reasons why and the possibility of getting things back on track. Decisions are about deciding which alternative is best.
To become adept at solving problems you need to master both analytical and creative problem solving techniques, so that you can ask the relevant questions. For instance there are times when you need to ask objective questions – these are to ask for specific information. "What evidence do you have for that conclusion?" "How have you been handling this process?" "What factors are necessary to raise your Customer Satisfaction Index?"
Problem Solving questions – ask these when you want action ideas. "What should you do next?" "How would you implement the steps we just discussed?"
"Why are we so much better at answering questions than at answering the right questions? Is it because we are trained at school and university to answer questions that others have asked? If so, should we be trained to ask questions?" [Or trained to ask the complete set of right questions in the right way?] Trevor Kletz (Analog Science Fiction, January 1994, p195)
One of the problems with looking for solutions to problems is that we always come to a problem with our years of experience behind us. This can sometimes direct our thinking down certain familiar paths, and we can miss other paths which might lead to better solutions.
When people do this, always tell them this quote – In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few — Shunryu Suzuki
One way to help overcome this tendency is to force yourself to approach a problem from a completely different point of view. Alex Osborn in his pioneering book Applied Imagination talks about "Questions as spurs to ideation", and outlines about 75 idea-spurring questions in his book.
The simplest set of questions comes from the six basic questions:
- Why is it necessary?
- Where should it be done?
- When should it be done?
- Who should do it?
- What should be done?
- How should it be done?
Osborn went on with the following questions:
Adapt? Modify? Substitute? Magnify/Maximise? Minimise/Eliminate? Rearrange? Reversal? Combine?
Start applying these questions to your problems and see what ideas come forth.
In your quest for learning to ask different questions, you should read Michael Michalko’s book Thinkertoys in which he describes the rearrangement of the above questions into the mnemonic SCAMPER (Substitute, Combine Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Reverse)
You should also consider the 7s Mckinsey Framework. My own perspective is that the type of decision isn’t as important, as knowing the questions to consider, or having a good model which shows different considerations to explore.
- What’s the impact on people?
- What’s the impact on process?
- Impact on Technology?
- Impact on the marketplace?
- Impact on the business?
- Impact on Reputation, Trust & Integrity?
The best I believe is a combination of a systematic and creative approach to problem solving and decision-making. Understanding different models of thinking will enable you to look different at every situation or to apply the right question to the right problem.
As someone once said: "Solutions often lies in the question not asked".
They say that when a crisis strikes, how you act in the first few minutes determines the final outcome. With more companies developing crisis or disaster recovery plans they can turn to if the unthinkable ever happens, service providers are not far behind, hoping to offer them the right solutions for the job.
Numerous crises ranging from product Recalls to Oil spills to Social Media crises have again highlighted the importance for companies to be prepared. REPUCOMM has launched a crisis management toolkit that can assist companies to create a workable crisis management and crisis communication response plan for the business.
‘If you have an emergency situation that needs to be dealt with, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about how to deal with it or worry how to keep all your stakeholders informed.’ said Deon Binneman. ‘Being prepared is an ethical responsibility to stakeholders’.
The Crisis Manager Toolkit is a highly effective, low cost solution to assist any company to develop workable crisis management action and communication response plans and is a useful resource that can assist any manager in this phase and during a crisis, and can serve as a benchmarking instrument. It consists of a ZIPPED file format that contains useful information such as the following:
- Detailed questionnaires, articles and checklists to prompt thinking processes whilst planning and preparing response plans;
- Various guidelines and tip sheets ranging from stakeholder communication templates to dealing with the Media tips sheets;
- Handy templates and forms;
- A Copy of a 2 – day course consisting of a PowerPoint presentation that can be customised for internal training and information sharing use with the Board, executives and staff;
- A 40 page Crisis Management & Communication Response Plan Template as well as a copy of an Emergency Response plan template;
- Guidelines on how to respond to Internet Reputation Crises, including Social Media Guidelines on Twitter, Facebook and Blogging crises.
The benefits of the toolkit are numerous including:
1. It allows for preplanning and development of a plan instead of employing outside professionals at the outset of such a project. Whilst having independent input is essential, it can save a lot of costs if the groundwork have been completed.
2. Many organisations do not have the capacity to have a fulltime Crisis Manager position but that does not absolve them of the necessity of planning for dealing with the hand of fate. Today stakeholders of an organisation expect an organisation to be ready to deal with all calamities as well as the unique communication challenges that these situations bring. But in many organisations plans exist in various forms and guises. Plans exist as Disaster Recovery (IT related), Business Continuity, Occupational Health & Safety & Emergency Response plans, and Communication Response plans (PR/Communication). Sometimes these plans are coordinated, sometimes they are not. I believe that all of these plans should be integrated in an overall crisis management response plan for the organisation.
3. Self- Study. The toolkit is a tremendous aid for those who want to bring themselves up to speed with the latest development in crisis management thinking & crisis communication response. The kit contains a complete PowerPoint presentation with leaders guide notes prepared and facilitated by Deon Binneman the past 14 years.
4. Benchmarking – What works? What does not? What does international best practice and experience teach us? The CM Toolkit is a useful product that you can use to see if your plans stand up against best practice. Are you ready?
The rationale behind the toolkit is as follows:
Recent media reports and other business and natural disasters have again just illustrated the need for companies to plan for all eventualities including the communication challenges that is created during these eventualities. The actual process of emergency planning and crises communication management is a vital one if companies want to safeguard their assets, minimise their risks and uphold their hard-earned reputation.
Two thoughts can guide us in this process, the words stated by Benjamin Disraeli “What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least, generally happens”, and the fact that Noah built the Ark days before it rained.
Years and years of experience have proven that the companies who copes the best with crises of all kinds are those who are prepared to deal with the hand of fate. Those companies who have set in motion processes to minimise potential crises. Companies who cope successfully with crises are normally companies who have a predetermined plan of action including communication response plans.
Crises management is defined as the ability of an organisation to deal quickly, efficiently, and effectively with contingency operations with the goal of reducing the threat to human health and safety, the loss of public or corporate property, adverse impact on normal Business continuance, and damage to it’s good name – it’s Reputation.
The toolkit is a useful resource that can assist any manager in this phase and during a crisis, and can serve as a benchmarking instrument.
Here is a quick questionnaire (Based on a very detailed 11 page plus one in the toolkit) that can guide your decision to purchase the toolkit – See my blog post How up to date is your Crisis Management Plan? as well as the post How Reputation Event/ Crisis-Ready is your Organization?
POA – The toolkit is in a PDF and PowerPoint Format can be e-mailed to customers.
To find out more about the Toolkit, contact Deon Binneman.
Is your company prepared to deal with a Product recall?
Product recalls have the potential to seriously damage your reputation and brand name and can cause distrust amongst stakeholders and possible litigation, especially if it involves aspects of health & safety. In fact a shoddy product recall could results in untimely deaths.
The current product recall by Toyota is a prime example of what can happen to a company. Bad things can happen to good companies. In this case it is a removable floor mat that could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash.
Just imagine that you are the manufacturers of a product that could implicate the lives of babies. Just imagine that some dangerous bacteria manages to contaminate this product and you have shipped this contaminated products and they are in use at hospitals and clinics throughout Southern Africa.
How will you withdraw the product from the market and how will you inform all these outlets about the dangerous situation in a way that your integrity and reputation can remain intact and not be questioned?The trick lies in being prepared just in case it happens and then reacting swiftly to deal with it, both from a reality and a perceptual perspective. The difference lies in HOW these companies respond. That difference has its origins in how well prepared the business is to deal with the hand of fate. The companies that manages to weather the storm are normally those that are prepared to deal with the crisis and can communicate quickly and decisively.
But, how many small to medium size businesses even plan for this or even know what to do when such a situation comes around?
Perhaps the following checklist can be helpful as a planning and action guide. (Caveat – This checklist is only a rough guide. You should work with professionals before, during and after a product recall crisis. This checklist should be developed into a particular section of the completed crisis communication plan for the business and should constantly be updated. For an example of a complete crisis management template, you could consider obtaining REPUCOMM’s Crisis Manager Toolkit).
Do the following:
- Define a recall (e.g. an event to effect removal of product from business because as a result of an identified hazard or problem) using your company or industry’s specific language.
- Outline how the Company is to react once a recall is in effect and who/what declares a product recall, and what decides that a recall is over (These actions will be influenced by legislation particular to your industry, Industry association guidelines, bylaws, best practice, and organisations like the SABS – South African Bureau for Standards. Quick tip – The new Consumer Protection Act that is coming into effect in October also deals with this in various means -Consumer Protection Act, 2008 (Act No. 68 of 2008), Chapter 2 : Fundamental Consumer Rights , Part H : Right to fair value, good quality and safety, 60. Safety monitoring and recall.
- Outline the product recall classifications and the Company’s responsibilities in each circumstance.
- Define the process to identify affected product.
- Define the traceback system and record keeping practices and where to find the information about who the product was delivered to and when.
- Ensure that supplier and distribution (brokers, retail, wholesalers, etc.) contact lists are up to date and include as much contact information as possible. These lists should be updated either monthly or in real-time.
- Investigate how you would inform the public. It is essential to plan for recalls so that you could for instance quickly and effectively be able to run an advertising campaign, especially if people’s lives are at stake.
- Determine the required legal and other authority notification procedures for your industry.
- Know what data the authorities or legal practitioners will require from the company in the event of a recall e.g: product(s) recalled (brand names, product names, code number, type of packaging); production codes and dates (sell by date or other identification codes); problem/reason for product recall; how/when hazard was discovered.
- Know who will be the Company contact person and who will be allowed to speak to the Media. Make sure that this person is trained and well-versed with interviewing techniques.
- Define the information necessary to vet the quality of product recalled (i.e. complete info on lots, production dates, distribution and location of product, accounting of all product, etc.).
- Have on hand or get it compiled quickly – Any information on product distribution (i.e a complete breakdown of retail/non-retail distribution and amounts sent to retailers, etc.).
- Prepare beforehand any relevant information on how to handle the product. This may be defined by MSDS (Material Safety Data sheets). For instance if the product is in use, how do you prevent contamination of localities i.e. water or air, etc.
- Ensure that you plan beforehand how you will inform all stakeholders about an incident – the authorities, the Media, the shareholders, staff and customers.
- Determine the procedures to handle the return of the product in a retail setting such as where customers need to hand the product back to a retailer, what the compensation procedures will be and how you will communicate with the consumer.
- Set up procedures at the office to handle incoming calls. Ensure that your staff will be trained on what to say and to record. Will your Call Centre be able to handle the volume of calls?
- Have you had a dry-run of your product recall procedure? Dusty procedures is of no use in a policy manual or on someone’s desktop. Regular training is a must.
- Test your quality feedback monitoring systems. prevention is better than cure. If you can deal with problems before they occur, so much the better.
As you can see a product recall is not a simple exercise. Ideally you should plan beforehand and work with a number of identified experts to plan a potential recall. These experts could include HSE, PR and Legal practitioners.
If in doubt whether you need to go to this extent, remember that Noah built the ark seven days before it started to rain! (But he had access to divine wisdom)
Will you be able to say the same, if the hand of fate strikes? That you had prior wisdom?