CEO Andrew Gilman was quoted in the DMN article, “Bad News Can Move At The Speed Of Light” on the importance of having a crisis communications plan in place.
When the Tylenol crisis hit, “you had three TV networks, print, AP, UPI…you had a small funnel to navigate to get the message out,” said Andrew Gilman, president and CEO of D.C.’s CommCore Consulting Group.
Print and electronic media are still around, but add to this Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, chat forums, affiliated links, and websites. Gilman likened this to a pizza pie with 25 slices, each a channel that can be used to get the message out. There are more players, and the action moves faster.
You Don’t Have Time
Everyone interviewed for this story agreed on one one key foundation: the company must have a PR disaster plan “ready to go.” This is something that cannot be improvised “on the fly”. Company’s should take time out to run “fire drills”, where the plan is tested to see if it works — so they can fix the parts that fail before the plan is needed. Develop a checklist of what to do in a PR crisis, Gilman recommended. Upgrade it periodically. “It’s not rocket science to be prepared for a crisis,” Gilman said.
Gilman sketched out three levels of crisis, each with its own strategic challenges. A “flash” crisis is much like a natural disaster. It can strike out of the blue and must be dealt with immediately. A good example: Uber’s repeated clashes with various mayors over ride sharing versus the local taxi industry. A company in this situation has to respond immediately.
The second level is a predictable crisis, something that is a known risk. Say, for example, the FDA issues a product recall. The owning company has to work fast, but has a couple of days to come up with a response, an FAQ, a web page — the assets needed to explain its side of the story.
Then there is the chronic crisis, which Gilman likened to a forest fire. Again, Uber illustrates this problem well, with controversies surrounding the treatment of drivers, the treatment of women employees, office culture, and ethics generally. Band Aids won’t do here, Gilman said. “You have to do the change.”