CAPE TOWN - In light of the recent company scandals South Africa has been facing, we reveal 10 crisis management tips that every business and individual should know.
The economic landscape of South Africa has been trampled on by corruption and racketeering by multinational companies in the past few months.
These company's reputation have taken a huge knock.
Public relations practitioner from The Phoenix Partnership, Wendy Masters provides us with 10 essential crisis management tips.
"Strategic reputation and crisis management" is how she defines her company, which was founded in 2002.
The Phoenix Partnership is accredited by the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA).
The practice provides a range of management, which she has drawn on content marketing, reputation management and strategic communication.
Among the companies the firm has worked with include Petousis Group (Vineyard, Townhouse & Oude Werf Hotels), the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, CTICC, Cape Town Carnival, The One & Only, FEDHASA, and Cape Town Film Studios.
"In my experience, the most effective means of preparing for a crisis is to bring together the key players to determine what crises could strike and to calculate the potential impacts of these crises. If the preparation has been done (risk assessments and scenario planning done, crisis management plans in place, team training and practise runs undertaken) and there has been buy-in from senior management during that phase, it's a matter of following the protocols. Without a plan in place, panic prevails and mistakes are made", says Masters.
Masters does not regard her profession as positioning an unfavourable situation in a favourable light. "Right beats spin every time", she says.
Although there will be noise during the time of a crisis, Masters asserts that sincere transparency is the correct approach.
"People will know straight away if you are fudging things to look good or limit damage, and if you are not sincere. Focus on the things that really matter and that over which you have control. If you get this right, the rest will follow", she adds.
Similarly, social media plays an important role in a crisis. However, instead of worsening the crisis, it should soften the blow.
This should be done by consistently reinforcing the company's brand values.
"During a crisis, your social media statements should echo (and link to) your press statement, and your entire team should know what your position is and how you are addressing the crisis", advises Masters.
When asked what could have been done to lessen the damage of the #Guptaleaks saga and associated companies, Masters refers back to sincere transparency.
"By interrogating the issue from the point of view of their clients, shareholders and employees, these organisations should have anticipated the tough questions they were going to be asked and prepared forthright, honest and complete answers. They should have acknowledged fault immediately, apologised sincerely, and acted fast to make things right. Importantly, they should have paid more attention to what was being said. Listening is at the root of the best public relations – ignoring is ignorant and displays the kind of arrogance that can – and does - kill a business in the court of public opinion".
When in a crisis: The tool kit your business needs
1. Do a risk assessment audit to identify your vulnerabilities.
2. Develop a crisis management plan for the potential scenarios you've identified and create holding statements. (Note: your plan will only succeed if it has the input and buy-in of the whole team involved in activating it, especially senior management.)
3. Assemble and train a great team and keep your approvals chain short.
4. Identify listening tools and those you will use to mobilise and communicate with your team.
5. Drill your team on the plan. Good planning and practice will take much of the panic out of a crisis.
6. When a crisis hits, stop, assess, then act. Brief your crisis communications team first.
7. Formulate long- and short-form statements: acknowledge, apologise, say what you will do and disseminate your response within an hour.
8. Monitor reaction across all media channels.
9. After the crisis, follow words with actions, debrief and dissect the crisis and your response. Importantly, acknowledge your team.
10. Go back to step 1 and start again, adding the new scenarios and vulnerabilities that the crisis exposed.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE