A crisis is defined as a major disaster that may occur as a result of human error, intervention, or by natural forces. A crisis can include both tangible and intangible damage which typically share some common characteristics. These include the element of surprise, insufficient information, rapid escalation, and intense scrutiny. While in many cases these incidents cannot be predicted, they can be planned for. It’s important for companies to prepare for the unpredicted in order to be able to answer with an effective communicational response. For example when Johnson & Johnson Tylenol product was laced with cyanide, they quickly recalled their product. As a result they gained a reputation as a company that cares about public welfare. Without this coordinated response the public perception of Johnson & Johnson could have been negatively impacted, which certainly would’ve have affected their competitiveness.
The modern age of business has created a new dynamic of crisis and crisis communication. The use of the internet and modern technology has created more avenues in which a company’s information could be compromised. For example, many companies use the wireless devices to complete million dollar transaction and wireless transactions are more susceptible outside interference. Once a crisis happens the internet permits information to be spread instantly allowing the world to post their opinions all over the web and the voice of the internet must be managed in order to have a successful communications. Just as technology has made it more difficult to manage the situation, it has also allowed companies to strengthen their crisis communications. Companies now have more conduits to reach their constituents to keep them informed about the crisis and their response.
To prepare for a crisis a company must create a plan. Before a plan is drafted they need to analyze their risk, determine effect on its constituencies, and set objectives. The formal plan should be in writing and include who to notify, media relations, and a location for crisis headquarters. Once the crisis has occurred companies need to get control of the situation, gather information, centralize crisis management, communicate early and often, understand media’s mission, communicate directly with constituents, continue with business, and make plans to avoid another crisis.
While working as a program manager for a non-profit organization, I was part of a team that organized a field trip for participating students. The field trip involved taking a pre-ordered school bus to PNC Park for a tour. The tour began promptly at 11:00 and ended at 1:00 p.m. We were scheduled to board the bus at 10:00 a.m. in order to get there on time. However, the bus never showed up. While this is considered a minor crisis, it was already paid for and we didn’t want to waste the organization’s resources. While there wasn’t plan for this unforeseeable event, there was a coordinated effort to fix the problem. First, we had to call the bus provider to figure out if the bus was coming. Second, once we realized it wasn’t coming we had to quickly figure out how to get there through public transportation. Thirdly, once the route was mapped out we had to contact the Executive Director to get permission to provide each student with bus tickets to get there. Next we called the tour facility and notified them that we were on our way and may be a little late. Finally, once they were notified we organized the students, set ground rules for public transportation, and left for the tour. We separated the task amongst the managers and eventually we were able to participate in the tour on time.
The following 2 link are blueprints and toolkits for crisis communications
This link is an article about crisis communications