Road explosion

VicRoads waits for the horse to bolt?

By John Kananghinis

The recent tragic accident involving an out-of-control fuel tanker in Sydney and resulting in two deaths appears to have spurred some alarming claims by VicRoads.

Inspections of the remainder of the truck company’s fleet have resulted in over 90 groundings. This raises the question as to why these trucks were on the road in the first place if regular inspections were carried out by VicRoads? There is now an obvious communication issue for VicRoads, as well as for  the company.

As for the trucking company, Cootes, there has been little word from them in any of the media reporting of the tragedy.

This again highlights the need for all types of organisations to have a thorough risk assessment and issues management process, as well as a supporting crisis communication plan. These processes become all the more relevant within organisations with such high levels of exposure.

Even without such extreme risks as this incident has exposed, operating without such disciplines is “brave” indeed where there is any possibility of individual or community harm.


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Crisis Management – Spot & Stop Crises Before They Stop Your Business

Successful crisis management is more than just damage control. One of the critical features is the continual tracking of relevant issues and the ongoing management of an organization’s communication relationships.

Trying to do this when the crisis is in full swing is certainly leaving it too late.

Any organization with significant stakeholder and/or public exposure should have an issues management plan in place, enabling timely and efficient response, should a media crisis ensue.

An issues management plan tracks the development of matters that could develop negatively and puts in place actions to prepare for relevant internal and external engagement. It should be part of the staple operations kit of any Communication operator and, most importantly, the senior management group and Board.

It is the necessary precursor to the crisis management process that rolls into action when an issue ‘blows-up’.

Unless you track issue development and plan to handle communication around your risks, you are always going to scramble to get on top of the information demand in a crisis.

The recent VW case provides a perfect example of this.

The effective use of an issues management plan could have provided the company with the tools and opportunity to talk to staff, suppliers, dealers, customers and media much earlier and could well have defused the whole issue.

An organization’s leadership can reap significant rewards from effective issues management resulting in positive pre-crisis communication.

Handling problems properly can actually result in positive media attention, strong stakeholder advocacy and enhanced relations with governments and industry organizations.

The alternative can be both painful and costly.

Robert Masters

The Price of Silence

The Price of Silence – Crisis Management in Media Engagement

The recent Fairfax vs. VW battle has brought into sharp relief the need for organisations with any public exposure to be well prepared to handle the media in a crisis situation.

The best preparation is, of course, to be fully across an emerging issue, to engage with media at an early stage thus maximising the chances of minimising negative coverage.

Once the issue becomes live in the media there is a need for a clear processes to actively manage the situation; remembering that the modern media encompasses online, where the spread of information may well be consumer-to-consumer.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, in the words of noted British Historian and Scholar C. Northcote Parkinson:  “The vacuum created by a failure to communicate will quickly be filled with rumor, misrepresentation, drivel and poison.”

VW Australia endured two weeks of relentless negativity from Fairfax publications, much of it believed to be unfair and incorrect, but the damage had been done.

Avoiding such an outcome is entirely possible. It requires the development and implementation of sound issues management processes backed by a robust and rapid response media management plan.  Most of all it requires the foresight to put such measures in place and the discipline to use them when the situation demands.

ICG has, for over three decades dealt with the media management of crises, from the most catastrophic natural and industrial events, to international product recalls and major operational incidents.

The consultancy has developed and implemented crisis management plans for Government agencies, major multinational corporations and significant national organisations in a range of industries.

Over that time we have observed the development of major issues and how  corporate response, or lack of,  can act to transform an issue into a full- blown crisis, with strong media involvement.

The result is the crisis escalation model below.

The difference between the dotted line, representing the impact profile of a well managed media issue, and the solid line leading to ‘Peak Outrage” is largely due to the processes and disciplines employed in engagement with stakeholders and media.

The price of poor preparedness and silence is obvious. 

John Kananghinis


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