Make “Do the right thing” your motto to avoid a crisis

Make “Do the right thing” your motto to avoid a crisis

  posted on   |    written by Jim Walsh

In the latest edition of Public Relations: A Practical Approach, recently published by Macmillan international Higher Education and Red Globe Press, the author Ellen Gunning describes how to prepare for a crisis. She quite rightly says that every organisation should assume that it will be hit with a crisis at some stage. 

Depending on the type of business you are in you should anticipate the type of crisis you could most likely face. That’s fairly straightforward if you’re in the airline business for example. The worst that can happen is a crash with the death of passengers and crew. Less important, but also crucial, is being prepared for a breakdown in your IT system or a myriad of problems with customer service issues which, if not handled correctly, can lead to a crisis.

But what of the thousands of smaller companies and organisations who don’t have to worry about a major accident or catastrophies? Do they have to worry about handling a crisis that will impact on their business? The answer is a resounding Yes! 

In our last Ezine you may have read the five tips for avoiding a crisis. This article expands on the importance of two of those tips:

  1. Have a clear company ethos and best-in-class procedures that are understood by everyone in the organisation as well as by key stakeholders and work to build a solid reputation for providing best-in-class products or services. A good reputation can be invaluable when a crisis strikes.

      2.  Carry out a risk assessment and regularly review it at senior management level.

Key to both of these tips is ensuring that you have good corporate governance and communications policies in place. This is particularly relevant in an age when information about your organisation and customer complaints can circulate within seconds, where phone-in radio programmes welcome listeners and viewers with their complaints and issues and where there are online networks that encourage protest. What might have seemed to be a minor problem for you can quickly escalate into a more serious crisis or issue.

It is not always the individual complaint or issue in itself or the public outcry that can be the problem.  If the public noise reaches a level where a other stakeholders or a statutory body, be it government, legal, financial, data related or a licencing authority, feels that it should investigate - then having corporate governance policies to demonstrate that your organisation seeks to manage its business to the highest standards becomes crucial.

In those circumstances having an independent management or systems standard to demonstrate your adherence to the best possible operational standards and communication policies which have been adhered to are invaluable.

In a time when many leaders across business, politics and many other areas of life make a virtue out of denying the truth, blatantly lie, or hide behind legal barriers, it might seem naïve to suggest that the best way to handle a crisis is to “do what’s right.”

Doing what’s right in our personal life can mean saying sorry when we are in the wrong or just making a call or sending a message when you hear of a friend who is in trouble. For an organisation, if a customer complains - communicate with them, fast and honestly. Don’t prevaricate, hoping that they will go away. If that is your policy, that complaint may seem to go away but when you get the call from a news outlet or the complaints begin to build up on social media - then you are exposing yourself to an avalanche of similar complaints. As Ellen Gunning says “Once you have accepted that crisis is inevitable as death or taxes you can begin to prepare for it.”


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